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Sales Engine, Part 3: The People

Friday, July 24, 2020
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Last month, for those of you following, I interrupted a three-part blog series on establishing an effective sales engine for a more timely piece about managing through the COVID-19 pandemic, which is high on our radar these days. This post will complete that series, which started with getting clarity on the purpose, or what are you trying to achieve from your sales engine, then moved to the process elements needed for an effective sales organization’s structure from initial prospect contact through customer retention, resulting in growth.

This month the focus is on the specific people roles needed to successfully execute each of those process elements. What kind of experience, expertise, and engagement skills should they possess to optimize the process? Keep in mind the titles offered are only examples, and while they should represent the actual role responsibilities, you decide what they are called.

Lead Development

Lead Development Representative: This person could be relatively young and in their first job out of school or, alternatively, a stay-at-home parent, elder, or semi-retired person new to the industry. They represent the top of the sales funnel, and without their active and successful lead generation, future new sales will not take place. They can be taught a process, measured on activity, and comfortable and savvy with call center-like tools.

  • Experience: minimal either inside or outside the industry; fast-paced roles
  • Expertise: call center–like tools; quick learner
  • Engagement: satisfied with a relatively repetitive job with only intermittent success; can stay focused for long periods of time; goal-oriented, self-motivated, and resilient

Lead Qualification

Senior Lead Development Representative: This person has been in the lead development role for at least six months and has shown the capability to target the right customers and make appointments.

  • Experience: call center–like phone appointment making
  • Expertise: the firm’s offering and how it addresses customer talent development challenges
  • Engagement: interpersonal, questioning, listening and communications skills; organization and planning

Business Close

Account Executive: This person has shown the ability to take qualified high-potential prospects and get them to make a purchase.

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  • Experience: converting customer needs to compelling proposals
  • Expertise: the firm’s offering; customer’s industry, insight, and competitive landscape
  • Engagement: written communications, questioning and listening, interpersonal skills; sales closing capability

Project Implementation

Professional Service Consultant: This person is not likely to be directly in the sales organization but is still an integral part of the sales process in that they are responsible for the effective implementation of the project. As a critical resource to the long-term success of the business, failure at this point in the process could undoubtedly affect the likelihood of repeat business.

  • Experience: managing consulting or talent development projects
  • Expertise: the firm’s content and offering; project management, instructional development, software development, graphics design, and facilitation capabilities
  • Engagement: attention to detail, time management, organization and planning, goal-focused

Customer Management

Customer Success Manager I: Often times this person plays a pivotal role in the organization because they are in constant contact with clients and empowered to continually and consistently satisfy the customers’ needs.

  • Experience: several years of customer-facing interactions in either or both the customer’s and the talent development industry.
  • Expertise: the firm’s business model, how it makes money, and its internal machinations; the customer’s business.
  • Engagement: organized, sensitive to potential customer challenges; able to anticipate problems and head them off before they escalate; compassion and interest in customer’s personal (as appropriate) and professional well-being; conflict resolution; coordination

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Customer Retention

Customer Success Manager II: This could be the same person as above or a slightly higher-level employee tuned in to what is taking place within the entire business and industry. They are responsible for ensuring that customers are satisfied with what has been delivered to them, so much so that they see opportunities for continued business. Their sole job is to quickly solve problems.

  • Experience: highly visible and large-scale projects; trouble shooting
  • Expertise: customer’s competitive landscape and industry trends and how these impact their business; customer retention tools such as surveys, NPS, service recovery models and tools, and difference between satisfaction and loyalty
  • Engagement: problem solving, receiving feedback, data analysis, quick to respond, sense of urgency, nondefensive

Business Growth

Account Executive: Typically, the person most responsible for growing revenue is the account executive originally assigned to the customer. They are expected to be tethered to these customers such that they have an up-to-date assessment of their current and future needs. Having said this, the entire business must come together to feed and nourish all its customers in whatever capacity they serve, whether in the customer facing role or back office operations. Customers may not meet some of the people in the background, but they surely are the recipients of their service from contracting to accounting to systems management.

  • Experience: five or more years selling talent development solutions; long-term client relationships
  • Expertise: the firm’s offer; customer’s industry and business model; solution customization
  • Engagement: consulting skills; communications and interpersonal capability; proactive problem solving

The types of people needed to effectively perform each of these steps can be different regarding their expertise, experience, and skill requirements. The beauty of this process is that it provides for a natural career progression and compatible opportunities in the firm.

What are you doing to provide your staff with sales career opportunities? How are you engaging your sales organization to work together to meet your customers’ needs through their buying cycle? Where are your role gaps, and how do you plan to close them in the sales structure process?

This wraps up the three-part series on the purpose, process, and people necessary to build an effective sales engine that delivers results. I hope it was helpful to driving revenue in your business. Stay tuned for a couple upcoming pieces on what remains in creating a well-tuned sales engine, and that is its leadership.

For more insight, check out my book The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.

About the Author

Steve Cohen is founder and principal of the Strategic Leadership Collaborative, a private consulting practice focused on business strategy and development. A 40+ year veteran of the talent development industry, largely on the supplier side, he has demonstrated a proven track record for building equity by growing top and bottom-line performance for eight different consulting enterprises in the education and training industry he has either founded and/or led. He has been called on to consult with numerous firms needing strategic planning guidance, business coaching, and board advisory services.

His latest book is The Complete Guide to Building and Growing a Talent Development Firm.

He can be reached at: 952.942.7291 or [email protected] or at his website: www.strategicleadershipcollaborative.com.

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