The prospect of scaling a B2B company is both thrilling and terrifying. Hitting the “go” button and adding headcount in sales and marketing to drive growth is fraught with danger — adding too many people too quickly can (and often does) lead to culture changes, disorganization, and sometimes even a drop in revenue.
An article published by First Round Review on the 7 bullets sales teams have to dodge when they scale does a good job summarizing the list of risks built into the process. The specific dangers the article highlights are:
- Failing to identify a target customer base
- Trying to build the sales team without a blueprint
- Growing headcount prematurely
- Burning through funding
- Overburdening sales reps
- Relying on emotion over data
- Neglecting the importance of transparency
This list should look strikingly familiar to those of you who work in Sales Operations. The entire function of Sales Operations is to catch these bullets before they impact sales performance and hamper growth.
The hard part isn’t so much knowing which pitfalls you need to steer the sales team around — it’s figuring out how to get around them. Fortunately, half the battle is simply knowing what you need to be ready for. Winning the other half of the battle is a matter of executing on these three points:
1. Identify Who You’re Selling To
The first thing you need to be sure of before you scale is that you are targeting the right customers. Yes, it seems simplistic, but many companies shoot themselves in the foot by failing to establish well-defined customer profiles and scaling prematurely.
This causes a lot of problems as they grow, because they end up trying to sell to everyone and everything, rather than creating a set process that’s optimized for prospects who are most likely to benefit from their service and become customers.
Scalability stems from structure and process, and the foundation of that structure has to be built around your ideal customer profile. Unless you have a good grasp on who you are selling to before anything else, you will fight a constant uphill battle to create any consistency or predictability in your company’s growth.
2. Put a Process in Place
In sales, consistency is a direct product of the sales process. Your company’s ability to scale predictably depends entirely on how easily you can add headcount while still maintaining a consistent sales process.
Constructing the process starts with understanding and optimizing for your ideal customers’ needs. The rest of the process relies on the quality of your team’s:
- Training and Onboarding
- Goal Setting and Compensation
- Measurement and Coaching
Again, these points should be familiar to anyone in Sales Ops (I’m sure there’s some mention of each one in your job description), but always remember to go back to your customer profiles as you make decisions about each of these areas.
A mistake that everyone makes when thinking about what needs to go into their sales process is focusing too much on automation. The point of the sales process isn’t to automate sales — the point is to help the sales team engage in as many conversations as possible with the right type of prospects.
Don’t get caught trying to equip the sales team with a single process to sell to both enterprise and SMB customers — figure out where your team’s sweet spot is, and put a process (or several processes) in place that match the buying process of that specific customer base.
“Scaling” is simply another term for enabling the sales team to reach a wider base of target customers. Organize your work with that in mind, and don’t worry about automation until you are consistently reaching the right customers at the right time.
3. Measure Everything, and Then Measure it Again
There’s no way to put enough emphasis on how important it is to measure performance accurately when you scale. You need to be able to detect warning signs and adjust your approach as soon as performance begins to slip on everything from high-level, company-wide metrics like Cost to Acquire Customers (CAC) to very tactical sales metrics like Sales Cycles.
Scaling efficiently hinges on maintaining visibility into the impact that each hire has on your sales visibility, and keeping track of all opportunities both pre- and post-sale. The more accurate measurements you have, the faster you will be able to react to hiccups in the sales process.
Lack of visibility is what makes scaling such a hazardous endeavour. It’s like flying a plane without an altimeter — you know you’re in the air, but you won’t know you’re losing altitude until you hit the ground. Using the right metrics helps you proactively take action and grow consistently over time.
So long as you know who your ideal customers are, build a sales process that’s optimized to fit their needs, and have clear visibility into your sales performance, there’s no reason to fear scaling your sales team.