How to turbocharge sales growth: Seven top tips from Revolut, Personio and QuantexaDawn

By Dawn Capital & McKinsey

Even the best products don’t sell themselves. A company can have market-leading tech, but if it can’t find ways to sell that tech effectively, then it’s not a business.

We recently hosted a panel and Q&A discussion where experts from leading companies shared their insights on delivering winning sales strategies through RevOps and Sales Enablement. The conversation featured Andy Frost, SVP of Global Sales Enablement at Quantexa, Ahmed Hameed, Global Head of Enterprise Sales at Revolut, and Tom Richardson, Vice President, International at Personio, and it was moderated by Jennifer Stanley, Partner Sales & Channel at McKinsey.

Our speakers explored everything from prioritising customer retention to making data-driven hiring decisions, and shared insider insights on getting creative with incentives and more.

We were thrilled to welcome start-ups from across the London ecosystem at the event, and are now excited to share our panellists’ brilliant insights with our wider community. Here we have summarised some of the stand-out tips from the evening:

(From left) Andy Frost, SVP of Global Sales Enablement at Quantexa, Ahmed Hameed, Global Head of Enterprise Sales at Revolut, and Tom Richardson, Vice President, International at Personio, and Jennifer Stanley, Partner Sales & Channel at McKinsey.

Talent

1. Standardise your interviews to easily benchmark performance and help make data-driven decisions to hire the best talent

Our panellists unilaterally agreed that the more data you have to benchmark a hire against, the more likely they are to be successful. Their companies collect various different types of data, however. Strategies shared included:

Using Case Study-based assessments to test problem-solving and logical thinking under stress

Pausing the interview to give feedback, which allows interviewers to see whether candidates responses demonstrate defensiveness — or a growth mindset and willingness to learn

Contributors also recommended “The Sales Acceleration Formula” by Mark Roberge (ex-HubSpot CRO) as the go-to guide for frameworks and processes to hire for success.

2. Once you have the talent, set the right KPIs to track their performance

If you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves. Similarly, if you look after the inputs, then the outputs should look after themselves. This is a key philosophy for the KPIs our panellists’ favour.

The experts warned against lagging indicators, like bookings, as north star KPIs, as these do not leave an organisation with enough time to react to changing circumstances. This is especially the case in enterprise sales, where sales cycles can be as long as 18 months — or even more! Looking at what you closed this quarter tells you whether your strategy 18 months ago was working, but it doesn’t say much about today’s strategy.

Having said that, our panellists argued that KPIs like win-rate are still very valuable as they can give teams a sense of whether they’ve found that elusive product-market-fit. If your win rate is better than the industry average, then you must be onto something.

One of our experts also found that unifying the entire business, not just the sales team, around one hero KPI helped ensure that everyone from product to sales to customer success was aligned on what success looks like.

3. Make sure your incentives are aligned with not only your KPIs, but the team culture you want to drive

Sales teams are notoriously competitive, and, for the most part, you wouldn’t want it any other way. However, a question from the audience asked what can be done to foster ‘healthy and positive’ competition. The key here, according to our panellists, lies in the right incentives.

One of the more popular suggestions included implementing a “good vibes” rating. This sees employees given a “good vibes” rating by their peers based on non-financial contributions to the team, such as training themselves and others. It may sound unusual, but companies are using this as a very real KPI that can either boost or reduce compensation. Panellists said that, as a result, the innovation has a meaningful impact in creating a culture of positive competition within a team.

Another key suggestion on this theme was to actively foster a culture of “empathetic selling” within your organisation. This means going beyond traditional value and solution-selling to a place where sales teams put themselves in the customer’s shoes. In an empathetic selling model, it is only after understanding the daily challenges their customers face that teams consider how their product can solve customers’ issues. Reframing culture around this approach has been shown to pay off in sales results. To explore this further, our panellists recommended reading The Unsold Mindset, a recent bestseller that upends traditional ways of thinking about sales.

Adapting to challenging times

4. Ensure your sales team has an incredibly strong ROI case to pitch to CFOs

Our panellists represented a range of businesses and target buyers, and they all agreed that the CFO has recently become a much more important stakeholder in the buying journey. As a result, their sales teams have had to adapt to sell to a persona that used to be a gatekeeper but is now a key stakeholder.

They suggested that the most effective way to adapt to this new reality is to ensure that there are strong return on investment (ROI) cases for the product you are selling, whether it’s HR or a tool for the CFO to use themselves.

5. ‘You can’t outgrow a high churn rate’: Once you have your customers — don’t lose them

‘You can’t outgrow a high churn rate’ is a well-known truism in sales, and our speakers highlighted the importance of building strategies that centre on retaining and growing existing clients.

They said it’s not just about keeping clients happy and engaged: the existing customer base is also the easiest place to look for new growth if you have additional products or modules that you can upsell or cross-sell.

In more challenging economic environments, the panellists suggested it is sensible to ensure that there is enough investment in the existing customer base to avoid companies finding out too late that they have lost their best foundation for growth.

6. To respond to challenges and opportunities make sure you flexibly adapt how you approach your Sales

To be effective in new market conditions, the key point is to adapt your strategy and the approach your Sales team adopts. For example when conversion cycles are long, you may choose to reallocate resources to ‘farming’ to grow existing accounts to be more effective than an equal split hunting : farming. When you achieve an effective motion, you can decide how to build up from there. Your Sales strategy should be flexible over time and always work in tandem with the business goals and the product decisions. As one of the panellists well put it “…in a company we are all on a boat together, with Sales at the forefront”.

Our panellists have certainly seen that work well, and bringing new characteristics and a fresh viewpoint can work wonders. However, although this move can achieve great results, the experts said it is worth remembering personal preferences. They cautioned that hunters that chose to go into hunting chose to do so for a reason — so you might not be able to keep them as farmers forever.

The panellists shared that another helpful approach can be to experiment with hiring into hybrid and digital sales roles. They noted that hybrid reps now make up more than 45 per cent in high tech arenas, and how this can help companies save in person interactions — and associated time and costs — for where they matter most, like meeting new customers, demonstrating your expertise, and finalising a negotiation. You can read more about the hybrid approach in this recent article Jennifer penned with her colleagues at McKinsey.

Ultimately, if you’re asking yourself how you should be splitting up (or indeed bringing together) your sales team then the unfortunate answer is there is no right way. McKinsey’s proprietary data set, which is based on analysis of over 100,000 diverse businesses around the world, shows that ultimately leaders have to figure out what works best for their organisation.

Experimenting with new opportunities

7. ‘Is the juice worth the squeeze?’ Make sure your core business is stable, then get innovative

It’s always tempting to try one more new avenue for growth, but the real question lies in when to really commit to investing in a new product or channel, especially in the early stages.

When it comes to new product innovation, our panellists suggested asking a few key questions before going all in on a new strategy:

Will this new product be distracting to the main product?

Have we already optimised coverage of our desired markets, and reached or exceeded our saturation target?

Our panellists suggested thinking carefully about the value you expect a new product to drive. If coverage hasn’t yet been optimised and a new product might prove distracting, they suggested the best approach could be to double down on getting a great product into more hands, rather than potentially diluting investment capacity.

When it comes to new channel innovation, our panellists suggested leaders ask themselves:

Does this new channel drive revenue to our existing product?

Have we run out of market where we are?

Have we discovered the ‘unlock’ in terms of the right partners in our desired markets?

Is it 100% clear that we have to explore new channels in order to reach desired markets? Or is there a path to more growth with fewer partners?

Our panellists discussed how it is usually easier for earlier-stage companies to manage smaller ecosystems and smaller numbers of channels, and urged thinking carefully before introducing more complexity in the form of multiple channels and channel partners. They recommended checking out this helpful McKinsey blog on channel partner management, if you opt for this pathway.

Sales enablement and RevOps are key functions for tech start-ups and can turbocharge the commercial side of a business. As our experts explored in this wide-ranging and candid session, these functions can be honed through a combination of adaptability, know-how, creativity, and determination. We are grateful for all their insights, and would like to extend our thanks again to everyone who joined us at Dawn HQ for the evening. Please stay tuned for forthcoming events and further thought-provoking discussions.

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26-04-2021

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