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Don’t Get Stuck on the R in CRO

A modern sales planning environment that allows all your sales leaders to be a part of the planning process, that uses actual data rather than best guesses, that lets you model whatever scenario you can think of, and that puts people at the center of every plan—that’s what CROs like me should be seeking out.

It’s too easy to focus on the R in CRO, an emerging C-suite acronym for chief revenue officer.

Focus on the R, and you’ll think this job is all about maximizing revenue. Yes, that’s a big part of it. But it’s also about taking responsibility for the entire customer life cycle—the end-to-end experience that every customer has with your company and your brand. That means creating a seamless customer journey that delivers more value with every interaction. It means truly understanding customers’ pain—and then working with them to come up with the right solutions. And it means shepherding and nurturing a lasting relationship so your brand is the one they trust and is worthy of their loyalty.

So if you’re a CRO who is focusing on making sure your business hits its revenue target, then you’re mistaking revenue for just a numbers game. It’s not.

Because revenue is about people.

Revenue begins and ends with people

When you run a field organization, you need to invest in your people. And not just money, but your time, energy, and resources. That’s because people are typically the reason a prospect becomes a lead, a lead becomes a customer, and a customer becomes a reference and evangelist for your brand.

This is why people should always be at the center of your revenue strategies and sales plans. Your operation may be well-oiled and efficient, but it’s not a machine. It’s a team of human beings, each working through their own challenges and toward their own goals. And the more you look after them, the happier they are and the better they perform. And the better they perform … well, you get it.

Aiming for 100% success

A big part of that responsibility is making sure everyone on your team is set up to succeed. In real-world sales management terms, that means fair and balanced territories and attainable quotas. It also means a working environment where the path forward for every rep is based in reality and an awareness of what’s truly happening in the marketplace. Give them that, and that other part of your job—hitting your numbers—gets a whole lot easier.

Setting your people up to succeed doesn’t mean sales should run solely on good intentions. After all, revenue is the oxygen of your business, and you must do all you can to keep it flowing. As a CRO, you’d be derelict if you didn’t measure outcomes and assess your people against whatever targets you’ve set for them. So you have to track attainment, productivity, attrition, and the rest.

Take quota attainment. I want every rep to hit quota, every year. One hundred percent. Why wouldn’t I? But that rarely happens. Typically, you have a group of sellers who blow out their quota and another group who don’t quite make it. You still might hit your overall number, but that doesn’t mean this is a healthy sales model. In fact, it represents an unbalanced one. To have a high-performing sales organization that consistently delivers, you need to evenly spread the opportunity for success as much as possible.

Improving sales productivity

Want to hit your numbers? Focus on improving sales productivity. (After all, sales and revenue execs say maximizing sales productivity is one of their top priorities.) For most CROs, this will boil down to making sure your team has both the tools and the opportunities to be successful. First, the tools. These are all the checklist items every well-resourced organization should have at its disposal: a full slate of customer-targeted content, current and relevant references and case studies, comprehensive training and enablement, and solid competitive intelligence.

In a way, that’s the easy part. The next piece is trickier. Allocating the right level of opportunity for each seller will have you looking closely at territory and account assignments. If a territory is too large, you lose efficiency, because your rep has too much to cover and you risk leaving money on the table. If a territory is too small, your goal-driven seller gets hungry and starts looking into opportunities outside of product fit or the target profile. While you almost never want to make wholesale changes to territories as they are disruptive, you definitely can make refinements to optimize lead flow and balance.

Giving everyone a fair shot

One way to improve productivity is to move away from setting targets exclusively at the C-level, and instead coordinate your planning from the top down and the bottom up.

Do the work and validation with your sales team around assumptions to build the right model. Give sales leaders a voice and a hand in planning, and you’ll end up with plans that reflect what’s really happening in the field, across all territories, and in every vertical. Marry top-down and bottom-up planning, and you’ll build the smartest deployment model and the most productive and efficient coverage model. This will give you the ability to set the right quotas, build the right staffing plan, and balance your territories.

Making it easier by modernizing

All this becomes a lot easier with a modern sales planning environment—one built for the marketplace we all compete in. Imagine tapping real-time, real-world data so you can ask questions that help you determine what’s coming. How can I shape this territory so it has the right number of target opportunities and local references? What’s the expected ramp-up for new hires? How do I anticipate attrition and plan for that? How do we adjust territories as we move through a product life cycle? We’re seeing a spike in this particular type of opportunity, so how can we allocate enough of these across reps and territories to make sure they’re balanced?     

This is the kind of intelligent planning most companies just can’t do—or at least, can’t do easily. That’s because the tools they use prevent them from achieving the agility they need.

A modern sales planning environment that allows all your sales leaders to be a part of the planning process, that uses actual data rather than best guesses, that lets you model whatever scenario you can think of, and that puts people at the center of every plan—that’s what CROs like me should be seeking out.

Revenue begins and ends with people. Build your planning environment around that most critical asset, and you’re already halfway home.

Learn more about Adaptive Insights for Sales

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