(By Freddy Jose Mangum)
A guide for technical sales solution architects, sales engineers, system engineers and presales managers that increases their visibility and impact in driving top-line revenue and improving margin
Throughout my career I have been blessed to see some amazing technical sales leaders in action. And most recently in my role at Hub, I have had the honor to learn from stellar technical sales managers, at both private and public companies, on best practices that impact revenue, optimize margin and enable them to get a seat at the table with the chief revenue officer, chief financial officer, chief product officer, chief executive officer and even the board of directors.
So what is the key to gaining influence, you may ask? Interpersonal dynamics and communication skills make a difference. But the most important pillar of influence is data that technical sales leaders utilize to focus on delivering value.
Let’s first look at the six areas where technical sales leadership can add value.
Analysis. Your ability to analyze the right data that shows what is working and not working with your processes, people, products you sell and solutions you develop is a tremendous value add to your C-suite. Make sure you correlate the right data elements, double click on the integrity of your data, and provide the right confidence levels on the data integrity that you have to work with.
Insights. Measure and track insights from your analysis and then articulate them to the C-suite so they can determine ways to further fuel growth and optimize margin. For instance, your insights may indicate that winning certain types of business is not profitable to the company, given their associated cost of sale. Or you may discover that by getting technical sales involved earlier in the technical discovery sales process, you are able to reduce the noise associated with poor opportunities and increase capacity to process more high quality business opportunities.
Gaps. Identify blockers that are impeding revenue associated with net new business, expansion, upsell and cross-sell opportunities. These opportunities may require new feature enhancements but in some cases may require actions outside of development, such as compliance to mandates like FedRam certification. With data you can have more productive conversations with product management, as illustrated in this most recent post, “How to Align Technical Sales and Product Management Differences on Product and Solution Gaps.”
Forecast. Complement existing processes and tools utilized by the C-suite to further improve forecasting of meeting or exceeding upcoming quota. In both private and public companies, it is a best practice to be 100% accurate on forecast, so the C-suite will greatly appreciate your efforts to help achieve that 100%.
Investment. Help quantify with accuracy the cost and revenue generated by technical sales professionals in your organization. If you provide these metrics, you can justify where to make investments in talent, process development and tooling, which can influence growth and the attachment rate to all opportunities in the funnel. Additionally, map out the leverage your technical sales professionals have across your various go-to-market initiatives as outlined in the post “The Technical Sales Leverage Effect On Quota.”
Action. Increase your value with the C-suite not only by providing look-back metrics and visibility but also offering leading indicators and real-time corrective actions that can put opportunities on the right track to success.
Now that we covered the six areas of value, let’s ask ten questions to help you to determine your capabilities to get access to the right data that tracks and measures your team’s activities:
- Where does your team’s data come from?
- Is your data quality high, medium or low?
- How is that data updated on a daily basis by your team members?
- Do you have administrators at your disposal overseeing systems that house your data?
- How quickly can you get access to your data?
- Are your individual contributors supportive in giving you the data you need?
- Does data input and collection hamper individual contributors’ productivity?
- Do you have what you need to track your team’s daily activities?
- What blocks you from getting the data you need?
- What can you do to improve the quality and timeliness of your data?
With the right data on your team’s activities you can deliver value across the six areas. However, if you don’t have what you need or are inclined to improve data on your team’s activities, consider these three steps.
1. Optimize your general-purpose customer relationship management (CRM) system. Data hygiene and data input are some of the most prevalent challenges for technical sales professionals. If you have administrative and development resources at your disposal, develop initiatives to both cleanse data and develop features to minimize the burden on individual contributors entering the data you need.
2. Implement a personalized productivity technical sales platform. To greatly enrich the quality of your technical sales data, evaluate a personalized platform specifically built to help technical sales’ individual contributors with their daily work. Selecting a commercial vendor whose sole purpose is to provide a personalized platform for technical sales can very well give you additional capabilities that further enrich your data, minimize the operational costs associated with custom development of general-purpose CRM systems, and accelerate your ability to win more business and deliver value to the C-suite. Also look for systems that can securely interoperate and sync data bidirectionally with your general-purpose CRM system, so that you can preserve the integrity of your sales data in your CRM.
3. Ingest data from common productivity applications that your team uses. Whenever possible, sync data from tools used by your individual contributors into your personalized technical sales system and your source of record and/or your general-purpose CRM system.
Whether you are overseeing ten or thousands of technical sales professionals, you play a key role in the company’s success. Delivering value across these six areas — with access to timely and reliable data — will increase your influence within the C-suite.
Freddy Jose Mangum is the CEO of Hub, which provides a productivity platform to help technical sales professionals win more business. Freddy has over 25 years as an operator in businesses pre-revenue to $1B+ in revenue.