With a best-selling book and fast-growing business all focused on sales productivity, Elay Cohen has a lot to share and some important insights to help sales organizations increase efficiency and results. I highly recommend checking out the book (Saleshood: How Winning Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed) or his site at www.saleshood.com.
I recently had a chance to sit down with Elay to talk more about sales productivity, common obstacles to success, and what’s next for helping sales organizations increase active selling time.
How do you define and measure sales productivity? What does that really mean to you, and what should it mean for world-class sales organizations?
I know now more than ever, sales productivity is a CEO’s #1 priority. CEOs I work with define it as improving the ramp, velocity, and consistency of sales team performance. It’s measured across three dimensions: Activity, pipeline, and revenue by rep and by sales manager.
- Activities are measured by calls, emails, and connections.
- Pipeline is measured by new pipeline and total pipeline as a ratio of revenue targets.
- Revenue (also called bookings in the SaaS world) is total revenue contribution calculated monthly, quarterly, or annually. Revenue levers also include win rates and sales cycle time
A world class, high performing sales organization will also measuredistribution of quota attainment across a sales team as a measure of the health of the sales organization and sales management.
What are the most important attributes of a successful sales manager today? How has that changed in the last 5-10 years?
- Successful sales managers are true entrepreneurs.
- They own recruitment, enablement, pipeline, revenue, and customer success.
- They are metrics driven.
- They are great coaches too.
- They are mayors of our corporations.
- They make it happen.
I am seeing a shift. Winning sales managers have another set of skills.
- They are great communicators.
- They listen.
- They motivate.
- They facilitate conversation and best practice sharing.
- They give everyone a voice and they teach their teams to mentor each other.
The most successful sales mangers are measured not just on their overall attainment; they are also measured by the percentage of their team that has exceeded their revenue goals.
How important are tools vs. process in driving sales productivity? Does one come before the other?
I love this question. The answer is rooted in a concept I’m hearing more these days, which is about being human. I believe tools and technology are a very important part of the sales productivity equation. At the core though, there needs to be values that are defined and shared. Storytelling is a process and cultural foundation that precedes technology as well. I meet so many sales teams and startups that expect answers to their sales productivity questions to come in the form of technology like Salesforce.com. The tools are incredible once you have a defined sales process and go to market. Just last week, I was speaking with a group of sales professionals and I encouraged the room to be human, reminding everyone to pick up the phone more and even write thank you notes. Someone followed up my statement with a question asking “How can they do calls if they don’t have office phones?”. I believe we’re getting a bit lost in the technology and we’re going to see a “back to basics” movement in sales.
What is marketing’s role in driving sales productivity materially (and profitably) in B2B sales organizations today?
When marketers listen to what their sales teams need and deliver tools and templates that are consumable and actionable, amazing things happen. Marketing can’t work in a vacuum. The best product marketers are the ones that can turn proven sales activity into repeatable sales programs. I’ve seen many hyper growth organizations here in Silicon Valley skyrocket when marketing leadership is at the pulse of what sales does and needs.
Why does most sales training fail, and how did you make it “stick” at Salesforce.com?
There are many secrets to making sales training work. First, embrace the idea that sales training is an ongoing activity and not an event. Second, make sales training actionable and immediately usable. Third, align sales training with go to market and make it local.
What’s the elevator pitch for Saleshood? How is this platform driving productivity gains for sales teams nationwide already?
SalesHood is a SaaS sales productivity platform already being used by many companies and thousands of sales professionals. We help sales teams work together to ramp faster, improve forecast accuracy, and be on message. We’re seeing ramp time improve by 50%, quota attainment jump from 30% to 70% across teams, and we’re seeing entire sales organizations getting on message in less than 30 days. We’re delivering value to sales professionals, sales managers, and marketers. We’re having fun reinventing the discipline of sales productivity.
How has having a book helped drive awareness and sales pipeline for the business? Would you recommend writing a book to other entrepreneurs and business leaders?
The feedback on the book is beyond my wildest dreams and very humbling. The book is a great way to evangelize and demonstrate the principles of sales manager empowerment, storytelling, and ongoing learning in action. Having a book is the ultimate in thought leadership. I would recommend to every CEO and founder to organize one’s ideas in a book or at least maintain an active blog. I’d be happy to share my writing experience with anyone who is attempting to join the ranks of authorship.