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Guest blog by Joe Rodden, Sales Systems Manager at Catalant Technologies

It’s nearing the end of your company’s fiscal year, the sales team is gearing up for another year end close, holiday parties are being planned, and your leadership team is determining 2018 initiatives. These initiatives will likely trickle down into your lap in the form of a whole heaping of new projects, sometimes with little more than a one sentence headline.

That little voice in the back of your head starts asking “Is this even possible?” “There’s no way that’s even fixable.” Sound familiar? I think it’s something that every sales operations professional experiences in their career and it can be daunting and overwhelming.

So, how do you manage it and solve the problem? Simple. Work backwards from the target goal.

Step 1. Figure Out Your Target Goal

Determining your goal sounds straight-forward, but it’s the part that will have the biggest impact on any project, positive or negative. The goal that you have in your mind may not be the end goal that the project owner had in mind. Your goal may just be a step along the way to their goal. To effectively figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, make sure you ask the right questions about the project assignment like, “Why?” and “What are you trying to accomplish?” and “What does this prevent or allow to happen?” are good starting points.

Here’s an example of what you might experience:

Project owner: “Our account data is bad, you need to get it all up to date.’’

You have two options in your response:

1. Meekly say, “ok” and bang your head against a wall aimed at the ambiguous target of “get good data.”

OR

2. Ask: “What information are you trying to find?”

Project owner: “A prospect’s location, industry, company revenue, and technology stack.”

Ask: “What will this information allow you to do?”

Project owner: “Well, we’re trying to segment the sales team based on a mixture of these.”

The end goal in this scenario wasn’t “get good data,” that was just a step on the way to a new territory segmentation. If enough questions weren’t asked, your definition of important data might not have included this information, and all your efforts wouldn’t have solved the problem.

Step 2. Step Back From Your Target Goal

You’ve now identified the end goal and know what the problem you’re trying to solve. Great. The hard part is over. Next, take a step back from the target goal and figure out what needs to be done before you reach that goal. Using the previous example, the goal is to support a new territory segmentation that relies on existing account data.

So, what’s one step back from the goal? Get good, account data.

Two steps back? Reliable location, size, industry, and technology information for each account.

Three steps back? Determine if your data is incomplete.

Four steps back? Figure out how to reliably get this information going forward (could be enrichment tools, new validation rules, etc.).

Five steps back? Stop accounts with incomplete data from being made, and figure out how they’re made.

Step 3. Execute

If the previous two steps are done correctly then you have taken an insurmountable, scary problem and divided it into a series of goals. You can then take these goals and break them into actionable tasks that your team can actually tackle. You also now have a much more realistic idea of the level of effort involved and can give a realistic timeline to your internal project owner. It also makes it much easier for you to communicate how you are going to solve the problem, and what you may need from other teams in order to solve it. Your internal project owners will appreciate it and the little voice in the back of your head can sing a completely different tune of “I can do this.”

Erin Rohr
Director, marketing communications
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