Sales reps thrive on building relationships, including with other departments at their company. Testing out new products and features from the product team, or new partnerships and lead sources from marketing, is an important part of the sales experience.
But without a process to manage these interactions, misunderstandings quickly arise. Marketing and product teams don’t always understand the incentive model for the sales organization. Salespeople don’t always understand the complexities of making changes to features or lead generation processes.
As the Head of Sales, your job is to make sure that the sales team gets what they need from other departments while also serving as a facilitator and gatekeeper when other leaders want reps to execute on a new process or product.
Every sales team at your company operates on a different incentive model. The Head of Sales is in a unique position to ensure that marketing and product teams collaborate with sales in a way that helps reps reach quota attainment.
Be clear with other departments that the sales team is willing and able to help, but you need to make sure that the right incentives are in place. Otherwise, reps won’t commit to new processes or even revolt against changes. There’s a limit to how much anyone is willing to put their own salary on the line when tasked with something new.
Work closely with your finance team to align product or marketing requests with sales. If the product team wants sales reps to sell a new product or marketing wants reps to try out a new lead source, create a compelling incentive. Perhaps guaranteed commission for 3 months or double quota attainment when they close a deal.
Cross functional alignment flows in two directions and sales will also want things from other departments. Whether it’s a feature request, a bug fix, or concerns about lead quality, the Head of Sales has to manage the flow of information and prioritize the right requests.
Sales is uniquely positioned to extract information that other departments need. Reps can surface insights about the quality of leads from specific channels if new features are gaining traction, and provide direct feedback from customers.
Sales leadership must define the process for how other departments connect with sales. You don’t want other leaders going directly to the reps and asking them to do things that misalign with your sales goals or the ethos of the team.
You also don’t want product or marketing teams setting up new processes and putting reps in an uncomfortable position when those processes aren’t followed. The VP of Sales has to be the arbiter and make sure that reps can build relationships with other departments without being roped into unproductive work.
Dealing with constant micro-changes to processes or having to work on entirely different workflows from other sales teams is confusing and leads to reps losing gusto for new processes or initiatives.
For example, say the product team has rolled out a new feature and needs 25 customers to beta test it. Instead of asking reps to spend uncompensated time managing these conversations, the Head of Sales must manage which reps will work on this initiative. You want to ensure that the effort will translate into a higher chance of closing an existing deal, rather than throwing a wrench into it.
Marketing will also want sales help when bringing on a new partner or testing out a new lead channel. Since 50% of a salesperson’s compensation is tied to commission, asking them to sell to leads from an experimental channel or untested partner will meet resistance. These leads are unproven and take time away from more reliable leads.
Finally, limit the number of experiments that your team helps out with. Be stern about following the process, don’t let anyone go around you to work directly with reps or managers, especially when you have a large sales team with varying incentive models.
Sales will frequently need things from other departments and it’s important to be considerate when making requests. Things usually go off the rails when sales need something from the product team, like a bug fix or a feature request.
Being in sales can be very visceral. Customers get upset or angry with you about a feature and you can lose a deal suddenly. Sales reps and leaders often have too rudimentary of an understanding of how easy it is to fix something on the engineering side of the business. There’s a lot more to it when dealing with backend and code changes.
The VP of Sales needs to vet what information is passed and how it flows out of the sales team in order to maintain a good relationship between product and sales. Oftentimes, there are bigger things at play and you’ll simply have to allow a customer to walk away because of a specific feature limitation.
Lean on SalesOps to manage these conversations and vet requests from sales reps. This team can explain to sales which bugs are a priority and which aren’t, based on how much work it will take to fix the problem and how many customers are actually impacted. SalesOps can pick and fight the right battles for the sales department.
Reps have a different relationship with marketing. Problems with leads and marketing campaigns aren’t as visceral as product issues since bad leads usually won’t affect any active deals. Instead, reps want the marketing team to remove unproductive leads and channels in favor of more successful options.
When reps reach out directly they may give unhelpful feedback like, “these Facebook leads are shit.” Instead, the Head of Sales needs to take this information, and put together an evidence-based, rational business case for making changes to Facebook as a channel.
For example, “we’ve found that 100% of the leads coming from Facebook aren’t qualified because they don’t understand our use case or meet our ideal customer profile.” Give marketing the concise information they need to change their lead generation strategy.
By working closely with Finance and SalesOps, sales leaders can create streamlined processes for how information comes into and out of the sales organization. Instead of allowing for misunderstandings between departments, the Head of sales can facilitate successful cross-functional initiatives.
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