Guest blog by Zahra Bukhari, sales operations manager at Localytics

An effective sales methodology is arguably the backbone of a successful sales team. In today’s sellers’ environment, there are many standard sales methodologies your team can use: The Challenger Sale, MEDDIC, BANT, Solution Selling, Value Selling — the list could go on. Choosing the methodology that’s right for your organization is only one small step in the entire process, and the decision may not always be in the hands of the sales ops team. However, the sales ops team will be responsible for supporting the sales leadership to ensure that the sales methodology your organization selects is adopted and adhered to. So what does a sales ops team do once a methodology has been selected?

1.Define Sales Stages

Once a methodology has been chosen, your sales ops team will need to work with sales management to analyze  your current sales process in your CRM and determine if it aligns. Ask the questions:

  • Will we get the information required, and accomplish the steps we want to accomplish with the stages we have today? If not – what should the stages be? Are they easy to understand and to follow?
  • What are the forecast categories for each stage?
  • What is the pipeline weighted probability per stage?
  • What criteria is needed to enter the stages?
  • Can the global team use these stages?
  • Do the stages flow properly?
  • Do they apply to all opportunity types?
  • How will this affect our win rate?

Since there are so many components required to define a sales stage, a good approach is to create a table like the below example and to build it from there.

2. Creating and Mapping Stages

Once sales stages are defined and added to your CRM, your team will need to plan how the new stages will replace the existing (if any), and if you will need to update any third-party tools that report on the stages.

When new stages are added to your CRM (in this post I will reference the process you should follow using Salesforce), you either have the option to deactivate the existing stages, or deactivate, delete and replace the existing stages. The first option is a safer route, but will require some active data clean up (see the next step for more detail on this). The second option is great if you don’t have much existing data, your team’s pipeline is up to date, and your new and existing stages match 1:1. Either option you take, you will need to make sure you are updating the stages to the opportunity types they now apply to. You will also want to make sure to have a data backup, like any huge project, in case anything goes wrong!

One important way to drive adoption is to also create fields that relate specifically to your new methodology. For example, if your organization decided to follow the “MEDDIC” methodology, you could create fields that correspond to each criterion, and require your reps to fill each out based on which stage they are in through validation rules. For example, the “I” in MEDDIC stands for “Identified Pain”; you may want to have a pick list of generic challenges your prospects encounter, and require your reps to update this field once they enter stage two through a validation rule error that reads, “Please update the ‘Identified Pain’ field before moving to stage two”. By doing this, you not only ensure your reps are following the methodology, but you also help them keep it top of mind, and track important information throughout the sales cycle.

Once you have moved to your new stages in Salesforce, and added any other new fields, you want to make sure any third-party tools that are used at your organization have the new stages added and the existing stages mapped correctly to the new ones. If you do not proactively make this a part of your process, you will notice remnants of your existing sales process in important tools that your organization invests in and relies on – don’t miss this step!

3. Data Cleanup

If you choose to not delete and replace your existing stages, that means that your existing pipeline still remains in the old stages – this isn’t a problem! Take this as an opportunity to get your sales team in a room for a block of time to clean up their pipeline and update it based on the new sales methodology. To make this easier on them, you can create opportunity list views where they can use in-line editing to update their opportunities. An added benefit to doing this is that you give your sales team the chance to test their knowledge on the new methodology, and ask your team any questions they may have. This could be an exercise for your reps when you train and roll out the new methodology.

4. Training/Documentation

Changing your team’s sales methodology is a huge endeavor and would be best rolled out at an all-team meeting or kick-off. During this time, your team should train the reps on the new sales methodology, explain why it is beneficial to them and the organization, and then give them an opportunity to also participate. Great ways to encourage them to participate is to have them reflect on their current process and how it relates to the new, and areas where they think they may experience improvement.

Although training is a great way to introduce the team to the new methodology, you want to make sure they have something they can take away with them. A one-pager on the new steps, or a small booklet they can keep on their desks is the best way to ensure it is actually read, and a great reference tool if they ever need to look back.

Depending on the demand from your team, you may want to schedule office hours where your reps can stop by and ask questions. This time can also be utilized to have 1:1 sessions with reps who have had poor adoption in Salesforce.

5. Reporting

Once your new methodology is rolled out and your team trained, you want to update sales management regularly on adoption. Unfortunately, old habits die hard, and you want to make sure your sales team is updating their pipeline accurately, and providing pertinent information in related fields.

Running and scheduling simple reports that indicate how many related fields are blank or have junk data (ex. “N/A”) is a great first step. You can also run stage age reporting, and indicate which fields have been “stuck” based on your average sales cycle.

I’ve found that every sales methodology roll-out is different, and from each your teams will learn more and more about what works and what doesn’t, and you’ll learn how to create a seamless experience that will help drive success for your team. Good luck!

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