Six Tips for a Successful Sales Transformation

By Todd Albright

Transforming a sales organization can help you seize new opportunities. But any transformation must start with clear objectives.

Sales leaders must align the business strategy with recruitment and retention goals, incentives that reward the right behaviors, and the right tools and resources that allow salespeople to maximize the impact they have in every customer interaction.

Five years ago at Merrill Corporation, we started on a transformation journey to simplify our business and amplify investments in our core DatasiteOne platform. We executed several divestitures, added new leadership and talent across all functions, and transformed the company into a high-growth software-as-a-service (SaaS) business focused exclusively on optimizing and streamlining the M&A life cycle for our corporate clients and their advisors.

Our total company transformation involved building out a world-class, global sales organization. A recent Sales 3.0 Conference, which brought together top sales leaders and executives to discuss best practices, allowed us the privilege of sharing some of our lessons learned during that process.

Here are six tips to build a well-integrated, high-functioning sales organization.

#1: Secure executive buy-in.
You need to seek, secure, and sustain buy-in from executives all the way down to first-line managers.

When they have transparent insight into your strategy and tactics, your leaders will become advocates. This requires ongoing education and data-supported communication about what your team and people are doing, where they’re making progress, and how they can overcome obstacles and be successful. Flatten your organization by getting your executives and leadership directly involved in client conversations. Not only does this demonstrate commitment on the part of your organization to potential clients; it also inspires internal collaboration.

#2: Nurture your sales talent.
Hire, onboard, and retain high-energy sales professionals on a global scale and provide them with the coaching and skills they need to succeed.

When we onboard new salespeople at Merrill, we put them through a robust program designed to provide industry insight, selling skills, and best practices for showcasing our product and value proposition. Our team selling approach helps ensure the best buying experience for our clients. This has led to seller success and has increased tenure and retention.

Finally, be sure your sales team reflects the diversity of your customers and various buying styles.

#3: Motivate salespeople to perform with the right incentives.
Design your sales compensation plan to reward performance without any caps or ceilings.

If your company seeks both market share and revenue gains, consider integrating unit-based incentives alongside bookings targets. Beyond that, offer threshold incentives for above-target performance.

At Merrill, for example, we recognize outsized achievement with our Accelerator Club, which rewards high performers by sending them to a signature event to be publicly celebrated, while also networking with fellow top performers and executive leadership. Finally, we offer career progression for our top performers who seek new opportunities, including international assignments.

#4: Understand your addressable market.
Put your sales team in the best position to succeed by optimizing your CRM to score and rank your true addressable market. This enables your sellers to hunt among the prospects with the highest propensity to buy from you.

Coupled with white space analysis of your current client list, this can help you identify the clients and targets that can have the biggest impact on revenue and results. Then, partner with marketing and inside sales to help drive engagement with those desirable customers via account-based marketing, which can translate to more meaningful meetings and deals.

#5: Play well with others.
Sales cannot be successful without effectively (and authentically) partnering internally with marketing, product, customer service, legal, and finance. It takes a whole company to execute your brand promise for the customer.

In some instances, it’s getting critical product feedback, or, executing a time-based project for a client. Sales leads all this, and collaborating constructively with other functions keeps everyone locked into the same mission to execute for the customer and universally enjoy the fun of winning.

#6: Promote your best!
At Merrill, our sales leadership team has risen through the ranks to manage field teams and beyond. That experience has given them a unique view of our industry, clients, and prospective market. We’ve found that a culture of meritocracy and promoting from within has also helped produce leaders who have the skills to inspire, coach, and develop others to be great sales professionals, both individually and as part of a team.

We also provide the opportunity to transfer to international markets. All of this has helped us become a leading global SaaS technology provider to M&A professionals, handling close to 20 percent of global deal volume.

Todd Albright is chief revenue officer for Merrill Corporation. Merrill, a leading global SaaS provider for professionals in the M&A community, helps power secure, intelligent due diligence and enterprise collaboration for thousands of deals in more than 170 countries.