Melissa Madian, Founder, TMM Enablement Services, on how innovation companies can drive business through your frontline sales team.
My name is Melissa Madian, and I am the founder of TMM Enablement Services, which is a consultancy that provides organisations revenue-generating functions with the process, tools, and training that their sellers need in order to close more business faster while also creating an amazing customer experience.
Is there a difference in go-to-market models between top-down and bottom-up approaches?
For sales organisations, I actually find it doesn’t really matter whether it’s top down or bottom up, because there are typically only three things that a seller needs to know, regardless of whether it’s bottom up or top down, and that is, what it is I am selling, what’s on the truck for me to sell, and why that’s important to someone who is interested in purchasing my solution. Who I need to sell this product or service or platform to, and how do I go about doing that? So what does the seller’s journey look like? What are all the stages of that journey? What’s the internal sales process that I have to execute in order to close that business and guide the buyer through that journey. So, as long as a sales organisation knows those three things, then they are good to go and it doesn’t matter how the organisation is structured.
When selling top-down to complex organizations, how do you structure your sales team?
Depending on how quickly your organisation is scaling, you probably want to start with a couple of really good, strong senior-ish sales people. That is so that you can just let them loose and have them go out and hunt good business and test out your messaging and determine who your target buyer looks like. Once you have at least one good, strong seller, I would also recommend having one good, strong implementation or customer success person, and that way you’ve got a competed customer life cycle. You’ve got someone who is actually generating business and bringing it in and you’ve got someone who can actually implement and execute to that, whatever the person has sold and create a good customer experience. Once you’ve got sort of those two foundations in place, you can start to think about scaling the business to growing a BDR or an SDR function to try and generate more demand in growing your sales organisation so that you’ve got all the different roles and functions covered, like more hunters, sales management, that sort of thing. Sales engineers if you have a complex product. And then, of course, your customer success organisation, which may include roles like support and professional services and actual account managers trying to expand and upsell your business.
Do you need to have boots on the ground when selling to large organizations?
Traditionally, selling organisations, if they’re territory based, want boots on the ground. So in field, in region, to be able to have those face to face conversations with customers. The interesting thing now that technology has expanded and the ability to have virtual conversations has become a lot easier, you don’t necessarily need to have a physical person in region to have those face to face conversations. A lot of people are very busy. They don’t want to have a sales person come into their office and have those conversations. So I think now, organisations and selling organisations can certainly have a centralised selling function, and have those virtual conversations with customers in those territories and in those regions and then have them go out, say once a quarter, and actually have those face to face conversations. But you can actually run a pretty effective sales team in one location, or in a couple of different locations, and have them interact with customers virtually to create those connections in the field.
What are the technical skills and resources companies need to think about for supporting sales activities?
The skills you need will generally depend on the product that you’ve got to sell. So if you’ve got a highly complex considered purchase type sale, you want sellers with the sales skills that are used to selling a complex and less transactional type of a deal. Someone who can understand why the customer is interested in that particular product, or the problem that they have, and how they can go about solving and being able to run a complex deal. That takes a very different skill set than if your product is highly transactional, it’s simple like selling toothpaste, as an example. It’s a pretty transactional sale. There’s not a lot of thought that has to go behind it, there’s not a lot of positioning or selling that you need to do around that. So if your product is a complex considered purchase, highly technical, then you’ll want a senior-ish sales person with that type of skill set and potentially a sales engineer that can assist with some of the technical scoping. If it’s something a little bit more simple, like a simple B2B software, SAS software type platform, you can probably skill your sales reps, or train your sales reps on the technical aspects of it while also training them on what the process looks like around that and how to process that deal in a slightly more transactional way.
What steps should you think about in a non-linear sales process?
I don’t think there’s any sales process that is entirely linear. I think all sales processes tend to be cyclical and variant. Traditionally, though, if you want to think of sort of the overarching sales stages that you need to consider, my point of view is that it should always be from the buyer’s perspective. So, to force a buyer through a sales process that isn’t natural to how they buy is going to actually cause you hiccups down the line. So, definitely from a seller’s standpoint, it’s discovery, but from a buyer’s standpoint, it’s, “I’m trying to understand the problem that I have, and is it a problem that has to be solved and is it a problem that can be solved by some product or service out there?” So from a seller’s standpoint, they need to be considering their buyers thinking about that and that’s how they have to go about gearing their discovery.
And then the next stage would be, “All right. I know I have a problem, now I need to figure who out here can solve this for me,” and the seller needs to educate the buyer on, “It’s us that can solve that problem for you, and here is all the things you need to know in order to continue down this buying process with us.” And then you get into things like proving, so demos and showing that what you actually have to sell does solve the problem that the buyer has and then your later stages are things like negotiation and legal and sort of the nitty gritty of the transaction, and then finally close and hand off.
It’s really important as far as the buying process goes, or the sales process goes, that the seller knows what’s going on with the buyer so that they can bounce back and forth along the sales cycle because it isn’t linear, and the buyer will be at different stages and different buyers will enter in those stages, too. So the seller needs to understand these are sort of what’s going on in the buyer’s head and when they’ll start to introduce other people so that they can adjust properly. I’ve used selling and the sales process kind of like improv. You need to listen to understand and be able to adapt based on what the buyer is telling you so that you can guide them on that journey to ultimately buying your product.
For companies that are selling something that is innovative, what is the purpose of a sales team?
For companies that are selling something innovative, it is important to think about your sales team as the tip of the spear for the business you’re trying to grow. So they are the folks that are out there on the front lines, representing your brand, representing your innovative product or service or your platform, and they are the ones that are going to help you to grow your business exponentially. With your sales force, they’re the ones that will help you with marketing, because they will be out there talking to folks in the field. They’re the ones that will help position your platform in the marketplace and they are the ones that ultimately will help to drive business into your organisation so that you can scale effectively. They may also be the ones that will help to grow current customer base. A lot of businesses will find that their business, or their products and services, will grow because of how their customers are using it. So your sales team is really critical in representing your brand and actually starting to grow your business at a rate that you want.
This video is part of the Masters of Sales series. The series includes four modules: