The original version of this article, authored by Scott Albro, was published by TOPO, now Gartner.
Not surprisingly, a lack of standardization exists in most sales organizations, as sales leaders and salespeople alike are strongly incentivized to make decisions around achieving quota.
While sales standards are almost never uniformly applied, they are an extremely useful tool for building and managing a sales organization that’s capable of scaling.
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15 core sales standards
Adopting a set of proven sales standards is actually a simple exercise when you use the right framework. We recommend establishing standards in the following areas for the major roles in your sales organization such as sales development reps, inside sales, field sales and account managers.
- Sales cycle. Develop a standard sales cycle that can be applied to every lead that comes in. A good starting point is to define the stages of the sales cycle. Pay close attention to the requirements that must be met for a lead to move to the next stage, and make sure every rep understands these requirements.
- Process definitions. Make sure you define the critical elements of your sales cycle. Focus on lead/opportunity definitions, sales stages and sales plays that reps use to move leads through the sales cycle.
- Common plays. Establish standard sales plays the sales team should use throughout the sales cycle. Use historical data to identify the tactics that convert leads at a higher rate. Train salespeople on these plays to ensure they understand the daily activities to close business.
- Activity benchmarks. Depending on their role, each rep should achieve a standard daily, weekly or monthly activity benchmark. These should be determined by using historical data showing which activities drive closed business. For example, each inside sales rep could be responsible for delivering five first meetings/presentations each week.
- Lead supply. Every salesperson should receive the same number of leads each month. Moreover, they should receive the same quality of leads. You want to make sure that reps aren’t able to blame their own poor performance based on the quantity or quality of the leads they receive.
- 6. Standard roles. Define a small number of standard roles and then hire salespeople to fill those roles. Common roles include sales development, inside sales, field sales and customer success.
- Quota assignment. Assign the same quota to all salespeople depending on their roles. For example, every sales development representative on the lead qualification team could be responsible for creating 20 meetings a week for the sales organization.
- Compensation. Compensate all salespeople using the same compensation model because reps need to know they are being compensated using the same standards as everyone else on the sales team. For example, if you offer an accelerator, offer it to everyone.
- Territories. Provide all salespeople with territories that are defined in a standard way. Common standards include geography, named accounts, verticals, industries and round robin.
- Candidate profiles. Identify candidate attributes that allow you to hire the same type of person over and over again. For example, you may determine that successful salespeople in your organization have worked in the industry that you sell to or are extremely coachable.
- Employee life cycle. Develop a model that defines how every sales rep will onboard, ramp up to productivity, consistently achieve quota, win promotions and ultimately exit the business. Pay particular attention to how long it takes for a new rep to ramp up to full quota achievement. You should also track attrition rates and make sure you don’t see wild fluctuations in sales rep attrition.
- Training and enablement. Make sure every rep receives the same training and enablement. New hires should be trained the exact same way every time. A two-week training that provides new reps with the information and tools they need to quickly get to quota achievement is key.
- Technology. Adopt a core set of technologies that increase conversion rates and make the sales team more efficient. A standard CRM system is one obvious example, but increasingly, sales teams are using other tools such as sales intelligence applications.
- Per rep reporting. Set a standard for the metrics that reps will report on each week. Every rep should report on the same set of metrics. For example, strategic account executives who own a small number of accounts should always report on their complete list of accounts each week.
- Key metrics/management reporting. Identify the metrics that matter for each major function in the sales organization, and analyze those on a daily or weekly basis. When reporting to other parts of the organization, make sure you consistently present these metrics. This will help the CEO and other executives understand what drives success in the sales organization.