Earlier this summer, we published an article about organizing sales for professional services. In this second part, we talk about the same topic but on from a leadership point of view. While our portfolio is strongly focused on B2B SaaS companies, all of us at Takeoff Partners have been deeply involved in sales of professional services in the past. In our experience, while every company in professional services does do sales, quite often the sales function is not professionally set up or it is in need of improvements that would bring significant benefits yet are fairly painless to make happen.
The first part of our article series focused on how to
set up the sales function of a professional services company in practice, especially
when it comes to assigning roles and responsibilities. This second part focuses
on the high level – the leadership.
We have summarized our learnings into three key points:
first, you need to set clear, strategic objectives for your sales team.
Secondly, you need metrics and initiatives to support the strategy and measure
its efficiency. And, finally, because it warrants a part of its own, we talk
about the importance of marketing.
Tip 1: Create a clear vision and a strategy to meet
Naturally, everything starts from the company strategy
and without it, leading sales effectively is not possible.
You need to define your vision for the next 3 to 5
years. From sales perspective, it is important to define in a very detailed
way what this means for your customer or project portfolio. Who,
exactly, will be your optimal customers in this scenario? What kind of projects
will you be running?
Defining customer segments, geographical areas,
customer industries, customer sizes and other specifics will help paint the
picture of where sales should focus on to do its part in achieving the company
It is also vital to assign the leadership of the sales
function to one person. This person should be able to take responsibility of
the aforementioned strategic aspect as well as make sure that all practical measures
are in place to enable it. That includes clear processes and tools such as the CRM,
presentation and quote templates, image banks, etc. This may sound granular in
the context, but making sure the entire sales team works in a streamlined and
unified way really does make a difference.
Organizing sales is key. Our previous article covered
the details of different roles and how they should be assigned, as well as the
importance of engaging the entire organization in the sales process. But you
need to make sure that engaging the entire organization genuinely serves the
needs of the salespeople. This means that everyone involved understands that
the rest of the organization is there to support sales with their skills and
insight but the ownership and responsibility of the sale still remains with the
You also need ensure that the help sales receive is of
the kind they genuinely need. For example, our previous article discussed the
importance of the rest of the organization and particularly its senior
stakeholders providing sales with connections. This is vital but it needs to
happen in a way that does not overwhelm the salespeople. Quality matters more
Tip 2: Create procedures to
support the strategy
Quite often, change does not quite happen just by
everyone mutually agreeing things should be done in a new way. Humans are
naturally resistant to change. In addition, leadership is hard without numbers
or metrics for monitoring progress.
This is why your strategy should always be supported
by concrete procedures and incentives that help people align their daily
activities with it, as well as metrics that provide relevant insight to sales.
Here are some examples we have found useful:
- Basic performance management: goal
setting, tracking KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and rewards need to be part
of how your sales team is set up
- Optimizing resources: CLTV
(Customer Lifetime Value) and CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) are excellent
metrics for strategic decision-making.
- Customer management: Customer
Health Index needs to be developed and monitored in order to make sure that
customers who are about to move away can be re-engaged quickly.
- Learning and communication: Salespeople
and customer service should regularly meet, discuss and also receive training
to ensure continuous development.
- Additional tips include
customer win back programs, strong customer promises such as money back
guarantees, internal sales competitions and campaigns, carefully executed price
increases and cross-selling in large organizations.
Tip 3: Demand results from marketing
The purpose of marketing is to support sales and
account management by creating relevant leads at a reasonable cost per lead. In
addition, marketing will build thought leadership that increases your company
visibility and keeps your existing clients engaged and committed.
Due to its lead generation role, marketing should not
be seen as a “nice to have” but rather an integral part of the organization’s
If some of your company leadership has actual
experience in marketing, this is probably a given to you. For the many people
running successful companies without internal marketing experience, the best
advice is to outsource this task to an external party who knows how to lead
the marketing so that it supports sales. Hiring a marketing manager is not
necessarily enough, because without the strategic support they will not be in a
position to lead the marketing effort in a way that brings results.
In essence, marketing and sales must have a shared
understanding of where customers come from and how they become your customers.
Both need to be aware of who, exactly, needs to be convinced within the
customer organization for the sale to happen, as well as how that typically
Measuring the success of your content is key. You need
to see how many people your publication or event has reached and the conversions
you have gained with that content.
Organized approach helps everyone perform
As mentioned earlier, every organization does do
sales. Yet, sales can be mistakenly seen as something that happens on its own,
without strategic leadership or involvement from the senior management.
This may hold true for a small professional services
company. However, for a growth-seeking organization, this is not a sustainable
approach. Not every salesperson can be a “superstar” who exceeds expectations
even when working without any support from the organization. However, with the
right kind of setup and management, most salespeople can meet targets and
perform well. Arranging these favorable circumstances is the responsibility of
It is well worth it. Sales cycles are typically long
in professional services. In addition, consultants often also sell. For these
reasons, developing the sales function may be just what your business needs to
become a growth company.