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Nine Steps To Establish A High-Performance Sales Engine To Drive Revenue Growth From identifying the right geographies to expand into to setting up an attractive compensation structure, here are nine key steps that entrepreneurs need to take in order build sales teams that can successfully scale their respective businesses.

By Abrar Hussain Edited by Aby Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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A growth venture that can build a successful sales engine and an effective go-to-market approach is rewarded with faster growth, customer success, and superior market share. Indeed, companies that have weak sales engines languish when compared to their competitors. A high-performance sales team helps companies generate revenue, achieve faster growth, ensure customer success, have long-term relationships with customers, build a customer-centric brand, and, at the same time, bridge the gap between the customer and product teams to improve the products. As such, here are nine key steps that entrepreneurs need to take in order build sales teams that can successfully scale their respective businesses:

1. Bring in a Chief Revenue Officer For most new tech ventures, the product-led tech-minded founder transitions in to becoming a CEO. At the growth stage of the company, these CEOs require support in sales, marketing, and commercial acumen to drive growth. Such new ventures also often have a subscription-based product that requires a person who can be responsible for holistic view of customer life cycle. A Chief Revenue Officer (CRO) can be that one person who can manage, and be the single source for, all the revenue generating processes and execution starting from sales, implementation, customer success, product usage, repeat business, marketing, and expansion from existing customers. The CRO will thus essentially lead the team that will consist of sales, marketing, business development, sales enablement, channel/partners, customer success, and solution architects.

2. Implement the necessary sales tools Acquiring and implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system is critical for building a sales engine. Things to consider when doing so include the CRM system's features, functionalities, ease of use, and scalability to grow with an increase in revenue. The CRM system will help the sales team and the management to have a detailed view on business by tracking opportunity stages and the health of the pipeline, managing approvals, generating ordering documents, and having a long-term and short-term forecast of revenue. A CRM solution will also help the company better connect with the existing customer and manage the full customer lifecycle. Other sales intelligence tools such as LinkedIn Sales Navigator can help the sales team identify the right customer, target prospects, and further connect with them.

3. Identify the geography to expand While defining the go-to-market strategy, the venture should decide what will be the geographic regions that needs to be targeted in the short term and the long term. For instance, a company starting in the US typically should start sales in the US during its first phase of growth, and then expand to other economies such as the UK (catering to the European Union), Australia, and Singapore. Phase 3 can be emerging markets like the Middle East, Turkey and Africa, South East Asia, Japan, and Latin America. Similarly, the companies starting in India/UK/France should focus on their respective countries during phase 1, and then go to US, Europe, and Australia during phase 2 of growth, and further follow it up in other regions.

4. Define the go-to-market approach, and design the sales process Define the target customers that should include industry verticals, size of the customers (e.g. small- and medium-sizes businesses, or larger entities) and any other specific criteria. In simple terms, define the best-fit customer profile as well. Also identify the sales pipeline sources, which can include inbound leads, direct sales interactions with customers, channel partners, online channels such as Google Ads, and marketing Events. The next phase of designing the sales process should include the steps starting from qualifying a lead, doing a demo/presentation, then doing a proof concept and providing a free trial, and finally, close the deal. The companies can also take an approach of "land and expand," which means start with a minimal footprint, and then grow. The go-to-market and sales process should also be designed in a way to increase the customer lifecycle value, and reduce customer acquisition cost. Note here that the customer lifecycle starts after the deal is closed, and includes steps such as onboarding, implementation, adoption, and expansion.

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5. Hire a sales team Success in sales requires top-tier talent. The company should thus define a playbook for hiring. The ideal new hires should have, at least, several years of experience in selling similar solutions, knowledge of existing geographies and industries, the ability to build relationships, and a past record of chasing aggressive and achievable goals. Members of the sales team should also exhibit persistence, an ability to collaborate, a winning attitude, and a willingness to learn, while also being coachable and having a passion for sales. To ensure a culture-fit, let a candidate have 3–4 interviews with the various members of existing teams. Also, the following roles of sales organization should be considered:

  • SALES REPRESENTATIVES Work with customer for full sales cycle

  • SOLUTION ARCHITECTS Engage for technical demos, proof of concepts, and presentations

  • CUSTOMER SUCCESS Ensures that the solution is implemented and adopted

  • BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Speak to new customers, and forward leads to sales reps

  • MARKETING AND DEMAND GENERATION Build brand awareness to generate demand

  • CHANNEL MANAGERS Establish relationships with resellers and value-based partners

  • SALES MANAGERS Lead the entire sales team, and keep them on track

6. Set up an attractive compensation structure A sound compensation structure is at the heart of driving the behavior of a sales team, attracting talent, and retaining the top performers. The total sales compensation usually involves a base component and a variable component that is based on an achievement quota. In most markets, the base salary ranges from 50–70% of the total compensation, and there should also be an accelerator for over-quota achievement to drive high performance behaviors. Furthermore, the compensation of the sales reps, sales managers, channel managers, and solution architects should be based on the revenue targets. For business development or sales development reps, the goal should be based on revenue, as well as an additional component of meetings/demos booked or qualified leads provided. It's advisable to also include an equity component vesting on a yearly basis to have low attrition as well as ensure commitment to the long-term success of the company.

7. Build a culture of success Salespeople should be provided with good training that should cover company's go-to-market strategy, knowledge of products, advantages over competition, target customers, how to effectively drive sales cycle from lead generation to close, as well as information on internal support structure. Salespeople should also be made available with sales plays, customer wins, products presentations, case studies, and other required collateral. The learning should be constant and ongoing to ensure the sales team is up to date with new product features, customer wins, etc. The best practices of exemplary wins and success of top performers should be shared across the organization's wide sales team. Practices such as customer centricity, collaboration, and effectively utilizing available resources should be rewarded and celebrated, as this promotes a good culture.

8. Determine key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure As the saying goes, "what gets monitored gets done." Clean KPIs and goals should be defined for the sales team, and these should align with the company's long-term vision as well. This will empower and help the sales team to take initiatives and drive results. Some of the sales KPIs can be defined in terms of number of customer meetings per week, new logos acquisition per quarter/year, revenue growth per territory, customer satisfaction, collaboration with extended internal team, CRM hygiene, relationships with members of the C-suite, and retention rate of customers. While KPIs are good to follow and monitor for internal promotions and progress, compensation still needs to be based on elements such as revenue growth and renewal rates.

9. Ensure governance and sales discipline Discipline and rigor are very important in sales. Sales leaders need to operate at all levels and be connected to details so as to be aware when to get involved without micromanaging. A strong governance and cadence is required to maintain a firm grasp on business. The sales managers/leadership should have weekly forecast with sales reps, weekly calls to go through main accounts and large opportunities, monthly sales summaries to track KPIs of each individual and region, bi-weekly catch-ups with important channel partners, and frequent meetings with customers. At the end of the day, the sales team should exhibit ownership and have a "do what it takes" attitude.

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Abrar Hussain is a business leader with experience in sales, expansion, and establishing new markets with international exposure across the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia Pacific regions. He is a technology evangelist and passionate about helping businesses, governments and societies by promoting the use of technology, data, and exemplary leadership. His focus is on building high-performance teams, making a global impact, and being a force for good. He is currently based in Dubai, working with an American Multinational Technology Corporation as a Regional Sales Leader, and leading a cross-cultural team helping customers digitally transform their business and modernize their information technology. Abrar did his Global Executive MBA from INSEAD, and he is a frequent speaker at various events, conferences, and schools.

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