Webinar: How to Build Sales Methodology that Supports Company Growth

By: Phil Stern  |  June 23, 2022

It’s hard to believe we are already approaching the mid-point of 2022 — a time when sales organizations reflect and sometimes reset, as they prepare to energize their teams for a strong second half. Whether you’re scrambling to make your numbers, or confident about your current performance, this is an ideal time to revisit your sales strategy and systems.

To provide a framework for building a sales methodology that supports company growth, Mainsail Partners’ Operating Principal, Phil Stern, hosted a webinar with Hilmon Sorey, Co-Founder and Managing Director of ClozeLoop. Both sales leaders drew from their decades of experience selling and leading sales teams to provide actionable advice for bootstrapped software companies.

The full webinar is available to watch HERE. Below are Mainsail’s top takeaways.

An introduction to the “Four S Model”

Early-stage companies with solid product-market fit tend to experience fast organic growth in the beginning. Eventually, there comes a time in the growth trajectory when company leaders need a playbook for scaling — ideas to recruit new salespeople and refine the sales process.

To help companies through this expansionary period, Hilmon presented the “Four S Model”:

  1. Strategy: Your go-to-market (GTM) strategy and market positioning.
  2. Systems: The day-to-day activities, tools, workflows and automation that your company relies on.
  3. Staff: How to recruit, hire and develop the right employees.
  4. Skills: How to develop competencies and capabilities to make you continually competitive in the marketplace.

The Four S model helps organize your business’s sales strategy into four distinct buckets, which can help company leaders prioritize strategic objectives, sales teams understand their Ideal Customer Profile (ICPs), and everyone gain a sense of control over the company’s direction and trajectory.

STRATEGY: Define your positioning to understand your potential

Before executing against anything tactical, Hilmon’s advice is to clearly define your company’s sales strategy and gain buy-in from the team.

Expand your competitive analyses. Because most entrepreneurs have a good understanding of their industry landscape, they too often rely on intuition to define the market. Avoid this pitfall and don’t skimp on proper competitive analyses. Identify who you are losing deals to and who’s competing with you for budget dollars and mindshare. Consider both direct competitors (another similar platform) and free alternatives (Google sheets). Spend time on competitor websites and really think about what they are saying, the language they’re using and the market they’re targeting.

Learn by empathy. Phil Stern recommended “secret shopping” your competitors to better understand your potential buyers’ alternatives. Put yourself in their shoes to empathize with their pain points and clearly define your ICPs. After you close a deal, ask the customer why they selected your company over the competition.

Define your winning zone. There already exists an ideal market segment where your team can win. What messages are your current buyers receptive to? How can you position your product accordingly to both serve and expand that winning zone?

Don’t sell to aspiration. There is a chasm between your current winning zone and your potential future client base. Most young start-ups, for example, do well selling to innovators and early adopters who are forgiving of software bugs, but have a harder time maintaining large accounts with more refined expectations. Your success depends on solving the customer problems of today, not creating new problems by promising a theoretical future state.

“Don’t sell to aspiration! It’s a waste of resources. Many companies get to the danger zone of going out of business by selling to product roadmap aspirations instead of looking at the actual problems they can solve today.” – Hilmon Sorey

Develop success stories. Track specific anecdotes from client success stories. You will always have to prove that your product can help better than any of the competition, and stories sell.

SYSTEMS: Build an effective and dynamic foundation for company operations

Systems will allow your team to execute company strategy. When auditing and defining your systems, consider your tech stack, your sales playbooks and the definitions of who-does-what within your organization.

Keep your tech stack agile. To avoid a needlessly complex tech stack, require your team to produce a 30-, 90- and 180-day use case analysis before purchasing any new tools. This will cut down on costs and hold the team accountable for using the new acquisition. Start simple, purchase carefully and whittle down frequently.

Build sales playbooks with the buyer’s journey in mind. Define which roles interact with your buyers at which points in the sales funnel, and identify which tools and skills each role requires to help customers understand that your product is the best fit. In the playbooks, be sure to include those happy-customer anecdotes that sales can reference for specific personas.

Review your playbooks quarterly. These should be living and iterative documents. To keep them relevant, implement a low-friction form that salespeople can use to indicate what content is outdated or missing. Encourage collaboration by acknowledging members who contribute regularly.

Encourage cross-functional cooperation. Sales, marketing, operations, and product all have key roles in your company’s success. Look out for and break down silos proactively to help unlock continual sources of revenue potential.

STAFF: Make informed and strategic hires

One of the perpetual challenges for entrepreneurs is finding suitable hires at the right time and understanding who to hire as the company grows. Hilmon provided tips for hiring the best salespeople for the job.

Define the roles you need to fill, and when you need them filled. As you scale in size and revenue, understand what positions you need to hire for now, and which roles can evolve for the future.

Avoid “just-in-time” hiring. Whether it’s another “Great Recession” or a “Great Resignation”, your strategic hiring plan should allow new hires some ramp-up time. In essence, says Hilmon, you need to be clear on your hiring goals and needs regardless of what the job market is doing.

Create a competency matrix for your interviews. Define which acquired skills are necessary to be considered for an interview, and which skills could be developed once on the team. Hiring the right staff means knowing the competencies of who you’re hiring, knowing the competencies required for a position, and setting expectations fairly.

SKILLS: Develop your people through consistency and coaching

Assuming your first 3 S’s are solid, you’re ready to develop skills: the ongoing competency and capability development that make your company competitive. Hilmon breaks skills into three components: sales methodology, coaching methodology and marginal gains.

Stick to a single sales methodology. What leaders often fail to understand, says Hilmon, is that (just about) any sales methodology will work if you do it with rigor. The key is getting your methodology beyond a philosophical idea and into a consistent set of actions. Your staff needs to know what to tactically do to move a customer through the sales process. They also need to understand what skills are required of them to succeed within your sales methodology.

Develop your coaching methodology. You should have a plan for how you develop your employees from where they are today, recognize where they need to be, and get them on the path to success. If you don’t have a tool for accountability, a career path blueprint in place, or consistent coaching sessions with and for your employees, you can’t help them develop.

Track your marginal gains – the data points that correlate to incremental progress on a daily and weekly basis. Tracking these gains can help build a sales enablement culture of growth and success and allow you to realize which additional roles you need to hire for.

“Break everything into increments that you can control and impact, and make sure you have visibility so you can build and scale the organization properly.” – Hilmon Sorey

Don’t overthink it; start by solving today’s problems

With so much information available to us, it can be difficult to filter out the noise and know how to get started with scaling an organization. Stop thinking about methodology, says Hilmon. Think instead about the problems you are trying to solve for you and your buyers. Then, work with your management team to nail down your strategies. Build out product demos, start cold outreach, hire the right people at the right levels of qualifications, and work toward landing a deal within 60 days.

And, when scaling challenges arise, use the Four S Model. Think about what factors are most critical to your organization and what you can do to impact them.

“Do this based on what you already know,” says Hilmon. “You’re trying to solve today’s problems, not tomorrows. If you’re thinking ‘How can I afford this?’ I say, ‘How can you afford not to? It’s an investment.’”

Phil is a Operating Principal at Mainsail Partners. He leads the firm’s Center of Excellence for Sales and is responsible for helping Mainsail’s portfolio companies optimize their growth strategies and deploy sales practices.
More by Phil Stern
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