Attack with the best formation: Structuring sales organization! #CRO-PlayBook
Our 'revenue' team used to be arranged into marketing, sales and customer success teams. Each having leaders which reported to me. Each of their performance criteria defined clearly. We couldn't have run the team any more efficiently.
Yet the customers were not as happy as I would have liked them to be.
Once, one of my team members, Sejal Bora (an AE), came close to winning a very large deal from a giant pharmaceutical company. They were evaluating multiple offerings from us. It needed a very complex implementation process and eventual support. If done well, it would have given us a large upside.
That got me thinking. Could I create a different structural design, for even better client experience? I started designing an implementation process as we advanced into our sales cycle. I started with some guiding principles for the new design. First, it should be designed for delivering excellence to the client. Second, it should be based on intrinsic motivation of a team member.
I started with actually storyboarded an ideal client experience. (I got the idea to do this from Airbnb example I have described in my article (Customer) Love is all you need.) Then started putting down the processes to achieve that experience. That was followed up by the structure to follow the processes. For the intrinsic motivation part, I dug deep into my experience. In B2B sales, the dynamics are such that an authentic salesperson always ends up feeling morally responsible for deliver what she has promised during the sales cycle. She feels the ownership of the client success. It also makes sense for her for her to build a great client reference for further sales. So I decided to make Sejal herself in charge of the total process of winning the deal, onboarding the client and eventually working with SDR and MDR to use this experience to create more leads with the pharma industry.
I asked Sejal if she would be interested in taking up this additional responsibility. I expalained to her how this could mean increased possibility of wining and eventually a happier customer which would give her references. She was excited about taking up this. So I asked her for a plan. She thought over it and got back me with the list of things: She needed to talk with an onboarding executive (OE) and with a customer success executive (CSE) to understand their point of view. I got Masani Counntryschol (all names changed) who has done a few pharma projects and understood this space well. Masani has been an OE as well a CSE. Masani and Sejal had a few hour-long meetings to map out a complete customer journey for awesome customer experience. Based on this work, we redrafted our engagement terms. Sejal also got Masani to for a few client calls and a couple of in-person meetings. That helped the customer and us a lot.
Encouraged by this, I thought of extending this cooperation to marketing. Sejal and Masani worked with Amar (SDR) and Prem (MDR) to help them design campaigns and pitch around the real pain points of the clients in the pharma industry. Both, Sejal and Masani, brought in their market knowledge and previous experience to pre-identify the prospects that are most attractive and most likely to convert. As we were closing the deal, we also started a crash-quarter on pharma industry.
Since the team worked in a closed group, the communication happened much more effectively. Every bit of knowledge transfer was way more intentional and contextual than a formal training program. In the process, everyone (The client, AE, MDR, SDR CS team) understood each other far better. The ownership was much higher among our team cause, as they later told me, they had a much better line of sight on how their work would impact the customer. Sejal now understands the downstream impact of all her decisions (engagement terms) made during the sales process. I see that she sounds more credible and in-depth during the meetings. All thanks to the knowledge she picked up along the way from Masani, Amar and Prem. Amar is able to pitch better and Prem is able to design better marketing campaigns.
This Sales Capsule led by Sejal was very successful. They won the pharma company deal and eventually created a very healthy pipeline of other pharma leads that went on to become significant customers for us.
Looking back, I realized that while I was preaching customer centricity to my organization, our sales team was not structured for excellent customer experience. The team was organized around the processes that were built for my convenience. So when I re-organized the team the Sales Capsule way I needed to change a lot of things from the way I led my team to the kind of people I hired (the AE needed to be a good leader now). It wasn't easier for us to manage it. It creates a bit of matrix organization for me. E.g. Amar (an MDR) would now have two bosses, - Sejal who leads the sales capsule and John who heads marketing and is in charge of keeping Amar's marketing skills sharp. That's a bit cumbersome for all of us. But that's our problem to solve. The customers loved the and the results were very encouraging.
So slowly I started reorganized my entire team into smaller sales capsules. Each capsule consisted two Sejals, a Masani and an Amar and a Prem.
I experimented with different team size and propotions, for my business I found that the team and business dynamics work the best with the Capsule of 5: 2 AEs (One of whom is the leader of the pack), an SDR, an MDR and a CSE. This combination together achieves 40 meetings in a month. For every different business that I advised, I suggested a proportion. Even within our business different customer segments would need slight change in the proportion.
Once we made a complete transition to sales capsules, a unit of a sales team became a capsule and not a person. When we want to penetrate a new industry or a different customer segments we plan for a number of sales capsules. This has also helped us going into a new geography. I have seen that employing a single person in a geography to get some traction hasn't worked for us. No matter how good that person is, it has never worked out. Maybe it's the need to have someone to bounce ideas off or motivate when she is going through lean patch. But the Sales Capsule always works well for us.
We base all our calculations on the revenue-structure below. We just proportion it for a Sales Capsule.
I advise some startups. They liked this and implemented this approach. I have seen a tendency amongst some of them to stretch the target of the Sales Capsule. Or add more AEs to it. That doesn't work. I don't change the target to +_ 20% of the targets set per the calculations above.
After about a year post the first ever sales capsule, I needed to launch a new sales capsule for a new geography we wanted to go into a new market segment that looks just ripe for us to attack. Instead of moving the whole capsule or creating totally new one, we got Sejal and Amar to move out of their capsule and start the new capsule. We recruited the rest of the team members. This allowed us to transfer the Sejal's old team's character to the new one. The older one was led by the other AE who worked alongside Sejal and has matured enough to lead the older pod. That capsule didn't lose its character either when two new guys joined. We follow the same method to create a new capsule.