3 Steps for Building Revenue Teams in the Post-COVID Era
The biggest change to the post-COVID sales environment is already here. Stakeholders are increasingly making buying decisions as a group. Therefore, sales professionals need to respond in a way that addresses the customer’s diverse requirements. Doing so means developing revenue teams. A revenue team is a coordinated group of sales professionals and non-sales professionals that is able to meet the complexity and range of customer needs. These teams represent a spectrum of capabilities, from pre-sales SMEs to service and support teams. All members drive customer retention, value realization, and revenue goals.
Why Should You Create Revenue Teams?
Revenue teams are critical today because modern business needs are complex, and a single point of contact within the selling organization is not enough to fully engage customers. A revenue team is needed to provide an agile response to shifting perceptions of risk, evolving goals, and changing definitions of value. This dynamic picture means that the one-time sales motion is no longer adequate for delivering a solution with the scope and scale needed in the current market. Meanwhile, other equally impactful factors are also driving this change. The normalization of virtual engagement, the increasing role of procurement professionals, and the customer’s need for a customized experience all contribute to this shift.
In this new model, the selling organization is akin to an orchestra in which each participant contributes. These skills are varied and sometimes specialized; however, when applied in unison, the result is one cohesive sound in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In this setting, everyone, even those who are not in customer-facing roles, see themselves as part of the sale.
3 Steps for Building Revenue Teams for the Post-COVID Era
Forward-thinking sales leaders are considering how to build a revenue team capable of delivering continuous value.
At Richardson Sales Performance, we believe doing so consists of three key steps.
Focus on Skills Not Tenure
Tenure still matters because with tenure comes experience. However, a key characteristic of selling today is that it has less resemblance to the past. Therefore, experience, while important, must be balanced with equal regard to skill.
Effective sales leaders understand that selling requires a range of capabilities that cannot be met with sales experience alone. For example, non-sales roles like that of a subject matter expert (SME) are increasingly important to the sales process. SMEs are valued for their deep knowledge of the solution’s capabilities and the ability to address even the most granular questions. The SME has a unique ability to quickly respond with detail as the sales conversation begins to include IT and implementation teams on the customer’s side.
The trend of including non-sales roles into revenue teams in the selling organization has surged in recent years due to the prevalence of revenue intelligence platforms. The breadth and depth of data available on these systems is considerable. Therefore, selling teams need professionals who can distill insights from this information, as well as relationship analytics. This data reveals critical information like hierarchies connecting stakeholders. Using this data to make decisions requires skills that might not be part of the traditional sales teams. Consider that 99% of CFOs and CIOs at global organizations believe that analytics are important to their business, yet 75% say that they have trouble using the data to make decisions, according to research from International Data Corporation.
When building a team based on talent rather than tenure, it is also important for the sales leader to prioritize communication. It is likely that the people on a revenue team speak different professional languages. The language of data management is different than the language of client engagement. Therefore, the sales leader must coalesce the team around a universal sales language in which everyone can understand the other.
Articulate How Each Role Influences Selling Outcomes
Herb Kelleher, co-founder of Southwest Airlines, famously remarked that “the important thing is to take the bricklayer and make him understand that he’s building a home, not just laying bricks.” This idea perfectly describes a key responsibility of the sales leader. Each person on the revenue team must be able to see how their work influences the overall success of the selling organization. Making this connection visible not only boosts the cohesiveness of the team, but it also instills a healthy sense of urgency and resolve in each team member. This speed is important in a setting in which customers increasingly expect fast responses.
Helping each team member to see the house rather than the bricks is also important because it avoids siloed sales routes. When the team is aligned to a customer-centric approach, they are more adept at helping the customer move from one member to the next as the sales conversation changes. Facilitating these handoffs is critical because today’s larger buying teams are increasingly loyal to experiences rather than fixed sales routes.
The core purpose of this approach is seen in the name “revenue team” because each person, despite their role, is participating in revenue generation. Making this structure work means giving the team a vested interest in sales outcomes by forming incentive plans that are tied to sales goals. This approach not only aligns the financial interests of the individuals with the company, but it also serves as a clear signal to team members that the selling organization is committed to investing in a united approach to the market. In addition to incentive programs, sales leaders should also consider including the entire organization in sales kickoff meetings and quarterly updates on sales goals. These company-wide meetings are great opportunities to cite the success of both sales professionals and those who are not in traditional sales roles.
Approach Selling as an Ongoing Process
Effective revenue teams must adopt a mindset in which selling is seen as an ongoing process rather than a project with a definitive end. This change has become necessary as products and services have evolved into subscription models. These solutions are designed to grow with the customer and bring continued value over a long-term horizon that has no set expiration. In this setting, the sales professional’s expertise is needed long after an agreement is reached.
Even non-subscription solutions demand the support of revenue teams with a long-term focus. The reason for this is the fact that businesses are changing and evolving at a faster rate than ever before. This sweeping change occurring across industries is sometimes referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. The primary change underpinning this revolution is the adoption of digital transformation which is characterized by connected, holistic, and digital solutions. These solutions often need to be customized to the stakeholder’s business. For this reason, many customers are discovering that the sales professional and the solution they provide are bound together. As a result, customers face the challenge of seeking solutions and sales professionals that yield value as a whole. Unfortunately, many customers have been unsuccessful in finding this balance as seen in research from the Harvard Business Review, which shows that only 13 percent of 734 respondents consider their digital transformation efforts to be effective.
This finding underscores the competitive advantage possessed by revenue teams that can leverage agility. Revenue teams succeed, in part, by being able to identify when and where they need to employ each of their diverse skills. Agility is a crucial advantage because it allows the revenue team to address the customer’s evolving needs at every turn in the buying process and even after the sale. The value of this flexibility is evident in research from the BCG Global Innovation Survey, which shows that nearly half of global innovation executives believe that development times are too long. As a result, generating a return on an investment in innovation is the biggest obstacle companies face. An agile revenue team understands not only how to position the solution, but also how to implement the solution. The same body of research shows that fast innovators get new products to market quickly and generate sales earlier.
In the modern sales organization, everyone is involved in selling. Uniting the company around this single goal means creating revenue teams that represent a diversity of skills aligned to the same goal of serving the customer over the long term. While the primary purpose to this team approach is to meet the customer’s complex set of needs, it also has the added benefit of fostering an atmosphere in which success is shared and everyone has a sense of equity.
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