How to Build a Sales Machine

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In the early days of a startup, the founders and other members of the leadership team are the people making sales. But if a company is to have long-term success, this approach is not sustainable. A high-performing, scalable sales operation — a sales machine — is required.

This article will explain how to build a sales machine and why it’s so important. At the end, you’ll be able to download our complete playbook for making the transition from founder sales to a scalable sales organization.

What is a Sales Machine?

A sales machine is more than just a sales team. It is a sales organization backed by company-wide policies and processes designed to ensure sales success. A company’s marketing funnel, product pricing and packaging, quotas, compensation packages, hiring practices and more all have a part to play in sales success, and they must all be working towards the same goals.

At York IE, we call this approach aligned acceleration. You can’t have a sales organization that accelerates your growth if your operations and team members aren’t aligned.

Why Is It So Important?

At some point in the journey for any startup that is gaining customer traction, the founders and other leaders are no longer going to be able to handle all of the sales work that needs to be done.

This is an important milestone, but it’s also an inflection point. You can either hire a sales leader and build a sales team in a vacuum, with all the growing pains and misalignment that comes with that, or you can seize the opportunity to build a sales machine that scales with your company.

By building a sales machine when the time is right, you’re laying the foundation for future success.

Building a Sales Machine

There are 12 foundational parts to building a sales machine:

Executive buy-in: Your founding team truly needs to believe that your product is ready to be sold and your market is willing to buy.

Sales and go-to-market (GTM) leadership: Sales and marketing need to be aligned on one vision, with one person owning the end-to-end funnel.

GTM strategy: Choose a market, develop a plan to disrupt it and make this a core part of your company DNA.

The pitch: Your startup’s elevator pitch should inform everything you do, from making sales calls to your marketing and public relations activities.

Bag of tricks: Equip your sales team with the collateral they need to succeed. This includes your corporate overview slides, sales cut sheets, white papers and other enablement content, and more.

Sales culture: Create an environment that is competitive, yet collaborative. Your sales team should be a team in the truest sense of the word.

Financial alignment: Define your key success metrics (with a focus on annual recurring revenue) and establish consistent, repeatable forecasting policies.

Pricing and packaging: Establish a pricing and packaging foundation and develop a sales strategy that marries this foundation with your overall GTM motion.

Compensation: Develop clear and concise compensation plans that explain what everyone in sales has for a base salary and what targets they need to meet to receive additional earnings (variable compensation aka commission).

Quota models: A bottoms-up quota model is critical to sales scaling success. Your model must include specific quota targets by level of seller, across each sales team and across the whole sales organization.

Sales team structure: Be clear on who is building the culture described above and how all members of the sales organization are divided into teams.

Hiring roadmap: Like all startup hires, your early sales employees will need a variety of skills and the willingness to handle multiple responsibilities, including some outside traditional sales tasks.

For in-depth advice about each of these 12 components of a sales machine, plus videos on nailing your pitch and succeeding at SaaS sales, download the sales process review playbook from our Fuel platform.

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