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Sales Standards – 16 Standards Your Sales Organization Needs

One of the most striking things our analysts see is the lack of standardization that exists in most sales organizations. There’s a staggering number of “one offs” – gerrymandered sales territories, custom comp plans, salespeople who “just do it their way”, content created by individual reps…

The lack of sales standards should come as no surprise though. Sales leaders and salespeople alike are strongly incented to make decisions in the context of achieving quota in the current or next period (whether that period is a quarter or a month). This results in short-term, one-off decisions, like allowing one sales rep to own a vertical, even though the 99 other reps on the team have geographical territories. Sales management and CEOs rationalize these decisions with the mantra “we need to hit the number”.

While a lack of sales standards may actually help short term quota achievement, it sets the company up for slower growth in the long run. Without sales standards, companies can’t just add people and leads to drive growth (which, our data shows, is a shared characteristic of high performing sales organizations).

16 Core Sales Standards

Adopting a set of proven sales standards is actually a simple exercise when you use the right framework. To do this, we recommend establishing standards in the following 16 areas:

  1. Sales cycle
  2. Process definitions
  3. Common plays
  4. Activity benchmarks
  5. Lead supply
  6. Standard roles
  7. Quota assignment
  8. Compensation
  9. Territories
  10. Candidate profiles
  11. Employee lifecycle
  12. Training and enablement
  13. Technologies
  14. Key performance indicators
  15. Per rep reporting
  16. Management reporting

You should establish these standards for the major roles in your sales organization such as Sales Development Reps, Inside Sales, Field Sales, and Account Managers.

Sales cycle

Develop a standard sales cycle that can be applied to every lead that comes into the sales organization. A good starting point for this is to define the stages of the sales cycle. Pay close attention to the requirements that must be met for a lead to move to the next stage. Make sure that every rep understands these.

Process definitions

Make sure that you have defined the critical elements of your sales cycle. Focus on lead/opportunity definitions, sales stages, and sales plays that reps use to move leads through the sales cycle.

Common plays

Establish standard sales plays that the sales team should use throughout the sales cycle. Use historical data to identify the tactics that convert leads at a higher rate. You should train sales people on these plays to ensure that they understand the daily activities they can use to close business.

Activity benchmarks

Depending on their role, each rep should achieve a standard daily, weekly, or monthly activity benchmark. These should be determines using historical data that tells you which activities drive closed business. For example, each inside sales rep should be responsible for delivering five first meeting/presentations each week.

Lead supply

Every sales person should receive the same number of leads each month. Moreover, sales people should receive the same quality of leads. You want to make sure that reps aren’t able to blame their own poor performance vis a vis other reps on the quantity or quality of the leads they receive.

Standard roles

Define a small number of standard roles in the sales organization and then hire sales people for those roles. Common roles that need defining include Sales Development, Inside Sales, Field Sales, and Customer Success.

Quota assignment

Assign the same quota to all salespeople depending on the roles they are in. For example, every SDR on the lead qualification team should be responsible for creating 20 meetings a week for the sales organization.

Compensation

Compensate all sales people using the same compensation model. While it’s rarely possible (and usually not desirable) to achieve compensation parity across the organization, reps need to know that they are being comped using the same standards as everyone else in on the sales team. As an example, if you offer an accelerator, offer it to everyone.

Territories

Provide all sales people with territories that are defined in a standard way. Common standards for territory definition include geography, named accounts, vertical, industries, and round robin.

Candidate profiles

Identify candidate attributes that allow you to hire the same type of person over and over again. For example, you may determine that successful sales people in your organization have worked in the industry that you sell into or that they are extremely coachable.

Employee lifecycle

Develop a model that defines how every sales rep will onboard, ramp to productivity, consistently achieve quota, win promotions, and ultimately exit the business. Pay particular attention to how long it takes for a new rep to ramp to fully quota achievement. You should also focus on attrition rates and make sure that you don’t see wild fluctuations in sales rep attrition.

Training and enablement

Make sure that every rep receives the same training and enablement. New hires in particular should be trained the exact same way every time. A two week training that provides new reps with the information and tools they need to quickly get to quota achievement is key.

Technology

Adopt a core set of technologies that increase conversion rates and make the sales team more efficient. A standard CRM system is one obvious example, but increasingly sales teams are using other tools such as sales intelligence applications.

Per rep reporting

Set a standard for the metrics that reps will report on each week. Every rep should report on the same set of metrics. For example, strategic account executives who own a small number of accounts should always report on their complete list of accounts each week.

Key metrics/management reporting

Identify the metrics that matter for each of the major functions in the sales organization and analyze those on a weekly, if not daily, basis. When reporting to other parts of the organization, make sure that you consistently present these metrics. This will help the CEO and other executives understand what drives success in the sales organization.

While sales standards are almost never uniformly applied, they are an extremely useful tool when it comes to building and managing a sales organization that’s capable of scaling. That’s because the standardized sales organization is one that’s capable of growing just by adding leads and sales people.

About the author:  Scott Albro is the CEO and founder of TOPOTOPO is a research and advisory firm that helps companies grow faster. We do this by shopping, benchmarking, and improving the experiences that sales and marketing organizations deliver to buyers. It’s this data that helps our clients (some of the world’s fastest growing companies) drive more traffic, more leads, higher conversion rates, larger average deal sizes, shorter sales cycles, and lower churn rates. The result? Our clients grow 2X faster than the competition.

  • TheIrreverentSalesGirl

    Craig, This article is simply brilliant. While, of course, it makes sense to give your sales reps the freedom to swing out, be themselves, and make the role their own – a far more engaging way to connect with prospects – we must also provide your recommended solid foundation so that we can:
    1) Replicate results
    2) Pull in the same direction as a sales team
    3) Win together
    4) Tweak systems and messages and measure the impact of those revisions
    5) Trust our managers and fellow sales people – which builds camaraderie
    6) Provide a foundation for coaching, training, and developing a sales team
    Thank you for the thoughtful work it took to build this article.
    Love it UP!
    The Irreverent Sales Girl

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