Anthony A. Reynolds, CEO, Altify
“Why is it that sales organizations, the very heart of every growth company, are not as well served with technology as their counterparts in Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Manufacturing and Operations?”
I spent a lot of time thinking about this last summer when I had some time off. I think I now know the reason, and I’m pretty sure I’ve also found the answer.
Prior to taking up the helm as CEO of Altify, I spent my career in companies like Business Objects, SAP and Anaplan, delivering impactful solutions to back-office functions. Holding general management positions with P&L responsibility, I’ve always been focused on the top-line, where the key lever for growth is the scale and effectiveness of sales.
As I looked at how my peers in other companies addressed the lack of sales technology problem, the approaches were wildly different and almost always transient. What I mean by that is when a new sales leader joined a company, they almost always implemented the sales methodology they had used in their previous role. Their chosen solution was based entirely on sales training, rather than the implementation of a sales tech solution that could impact performance and sales productivity in the long-term. Even then, shortly after the sales trainer left, having imparted wisdom and knowledge to the sales team, the sellers reverted to prior behaviors and the performance uplift was short-lived.
When a new CFO joins an organization, they rarely rip-out their finance systems. If they do, it is usually a strategic decision, aligned to the company’s long-term vision. Shouldn’t it be the same with the sales function? Do sellers deserve anything less? The sales organization is one half of the growth equation. Surely it makes logical business sense to underpin the sales organization with sales methodology built into the CRM enabling sales to enhance performance and reduce risk to the enterprise.
For product makers, there are great tools like those from Autodesk – for manufacturing and design, or Atlassian or Github – for software developers. These companies have deep domain expertise in the markets they serve. Autodesk has deep knowledge and expertise and understands the world of designers, architects and engineers. Their software reflects that expertise. With Atlassian or Github, the same is true for the world of software developers. At Anaplan, we had deep expertise in financial planning and modeling, and the software is infused with that knowledge..
Embedded expertise is one part of the puzzle. The other is the ability to build enterprise class software, but that is uncommon in the case of most sales methodology or consulting solutions.
• Sales domain knowledge and best practices or methodologies, without software that operationalizes and puts the tools into the hands of the sales force to access daily is always going to be a transient solution. The result is wasted investment and massive opportunity cost.
• Worse, however, is software that purports to be a solution for sales, but is an ‘empty box’. These ‘empty box’ software products do not comprise sales domain expertise, they don’t react intelligently to the context of the deal – because they don't understand how deals work – and they rarely have an AI engine that learns and get smarter with every interaction. The result is failure at scale.
According to Altify’s recently published research in the Business Performance Benchmark Study 2017, the two key strategic imperatives for organizations this year are (1) Customer Retention and (2) Revenue Growth, but many organizations still struggle to operationalize the behaviors in their sellers that will deliver on these imperatives.
Over the past few months, I have discovered what great looks like. I have seen consistent and predictable revenue growth, and increased customer retention. Multi-billion dollar companies (and smaller ones as well) have transformed their businesses, through knowledge, context and insights delivered to their sellers in software that guides sellers to enhance the value they deliver to their customers, while dramatically increasing win rates and deal size with faster sales cycles.
Organizations and their sales leaders, who are investing for growth or increased customer retention, should look for solutions that have both embedded methodology and enterprise class software in order to build a solid foundation of knowledge and best practices that won’t be replaced if there is a change in sales leadership.