How to Rebuild a Sales and Marketing Function in 120 Days

Imagine you walk into a situation where the Chief Operating Officer, the Chief Revenue Officer and the entire sales and marketing team have walked off the payroll. It’s the equivalent of a hitting an iceberg at sea.  Instead of water rushing in the hull, there were in-process opportunities scattered everywhere and a sales pipeline with an 18-inch hole blown through it.

This was precisely the situation I walked into in the middle of a second quarter. Of course, to have that kind dramatic mass resignation, there was considerable disfunction.  Long-term, this needed to be addressed. However, solutions had to come quickly.  As the new Chief Revenue Officer, I had to get things back on track to support substantial growth initiatives that remained.

Ultimately, along with the CEO, we felt this could be positive. It provided the opportunity to get rid of bad habits, culture, and sales processes, while aligning the marketing and sales technology stacks for improved velocity and pipeline management. We had the opportunity to bring a new team into Sales and Marketing with fresh ideas, new experiences, and, most importantly, a collaborative, can-do attitude.

Step 1 – Stop Taking on Water, Steady the Ship

I sail so the yacht analogies come naturally.  We were taking on water.  First, we had to stop that inflow and use the bilge pump to get water out of the hull. There’s no way to do that except wade in and get to work. As the interim CRO, that meant I had to call existing clients, quickly understand the status of prospects, and create a triaged sales process.

Step 2 …. Rebuild a Team and Retool the Onboarding Process

There were mainly three requirements to the quick onboarding process that needed rapid attention and laser focus. The first was learning the basic sales and marketing processes of how to move a lead through opportunity to close. The second was learning more about the value proposition of the products and services being offered and finding an individual’s voice. The final on-boarding process was determining how “real” the pipeline was given to them from the predecessors and cleaning it up.

Step 3 – Set the Optimum Course

There is a saying “That what gets measured, gets managed.” This works well if you are “measuring what needs to be managed.” Being a SaaS based technology organization, there are three streams of revenue that needed to be managed through key performance indicators: new logo revenue; upsell/cross-sell back to the client base; and retention revenue streams. Each required different targets for similar metrics. These were sales velocity, opportunities created, deal sizes, conversion rates, close rates, forecast accuracy, and retention renewals to name a few. Targets were established in each segment based on business targets and assumed conversion rates

Step 4 – Measure Performance and Adjust Direction

Staying the course is easy when there is steady wind and little current. When the winds shift and the current picks up, it is time to adjust and get back on course. Managing the exceptions in the metrics is what matters most. In some areas, we found we needed updated sales enablement tools, updates to our sales processes and technology stack, and some additional product training. In other areas we exceeded targets by reducing the sales velocity by fifty percent, improved deals sizes by twenty five percent, and exceeding opportunity flow into the pipeline. Adjustments are continually being made now to the targets tied to a better understanding of conversion rates.

Step 5 – Form a Regatta with Customer Success

The client is now at the point that we recognize to exceed sales targets we need to have the client success and professional services team tightly aligned with the sales process. This has been instrumental in managing client and prospect expectations throughout the sales process and ensuring that the organization is focused on achieving the business objectives of the project. The result has been an improved client retention rates, reduced days sales outstanding on project invoices, and more referenceable client for sales success.

david-cahnDavid Cahn in an interim and fractional CRO, CSO and CMO. Read more about him.