The Irony of Sales Stack 2015: Get Back to the Basics!

Yesterday, I attended the Sales Stack 2015 conference at Pier 27 in San Francisco. It was a great venue, and quite an event – especially considering it was their first one. Max Altschuler shared with me that there were almost 1000 registrations which is just amazing. Congrats Max!!

Sales Stack 2015The speakers were particularly strong – leaders from Salesforce, Zenefits, Guidespark, Influitive, SalesLoft, LinkedIn, and A really remarkable set of folks up on stage talking about hot topics for any sales organization –how to build out a Sales Development team, how to scale an inside team, how to sell into big enterprises, how to do social selling right, and how to raise capital in today’s environment.

What struck me the most was that in the sessions “The Playbook for High Performing SDR Teams,” “How to Scale Sales Orgs From Hyper Growth Sales VPs,” and “How Massive Enterprise Companies Buy, & Sell in 2015,” as well as a series of one-on-one conversations with some top notch sales leaders, that there is a new interest in getting back to the basics of selling. Not a feeling of throwing your hands in the air on sales tech, but more a sense to stop and make sure we’re not forgetting what’s most important.

The irony of that is comical, considering we were at an event all about sales technology. There are some remarkable new technologies out there that everyone should be aware of as they build out a modern sales organization. But it’s important that folks don’t get lost and miss the fundamentals of sales and sales management.

Here’s some of the “fundamentals” I heard folks talking about:

  • Pick Up the Freaking PhoneToday’s seller needs to adapt to how today’s buyer is buying, which means a combination of email, social media and phone. It’s clear that many SDR leaders are trying to get their SDR folks on the phone more often, because it CONSISTENTLY leads to better results. Those who are on the phone more, succeed more.
  • Training – Understanding that you can’t train a salesperson once and be done. It’s a constant process as the market continues to change, competitors pop-up or get better, and even great salespeople to get lost. I heard several folks say they have firm time carved out every week – some as many as three, one-hour sessions every single week – to pull the team together and talk about improving their pitch, their craft, brainstorm objection handling, etc.
  • Listening and Researching – The best way to help a buyer succeed is to truly understand their business, uncover what their real challenges are, and help them see problems they may not have known existed. And when you’re selling into a big enterprise, don’t even start until you really understand their business and can bring forth a relevant solution.
  • Activity Management – This came up several times, especially when folks were probing for some magic bullet sales tool… that you can’t lose sight of the simple fact that if you want more sales, your salespeople need to be having conversations with people, and they need to create and progress sales opportunities.  This isn’t data science, and predictive technology and deep analytics – this is good old fashioned fundamentals. And you need to set specific goals around it – how many meetings people should be having, how many opportunities they should be creating, how many times they need to achieve key milestones in the sales process, etc. If salespeople don’t spend their time on what matters, and your front line managers aren’t effectively managing their teams, you’re not going to sell stuff. You must manage the activities that lead to sales. This one is music to my ears as it’s what LevelEleven is all about.
  • Comp Plans – I was talking to a sales leader at an incredibly high growth firm about their comp plans. The company was desiring to quickly adjust the comp plan and wanted to roll it out to the entire team immediately. This fast pace is really a key part of growing a startup, however, a seasoned sales executive knows that it’s not quite this simple. When you have a new comp plan idea, there’s a process you need to follow – have the finance team review and do some stress testing, run it by a few salespeople to get their reactions and questions, launch it in a small group to test how it works, and then roll it out across the team. It feels like several steps, but overall – you’ll move way faster in the end.

Several times at the event, and over the last few months, I’ve heard companies say they’re ripping out a lot of the tools they’ve purchased so they can get back to the basics of selling. Don’t get me wrong – there is amazing sales technology that exists today and the industry needs it. Just make sure that it’s enabling the fundamentals. In a world where new technologies are being thrown at us every day, don’t forget the basics.

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