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Quota sharing — working towards your goals as a team — requires a lot of positivity. Stephen told me that setbacks and gaps in information can’t be taken as negatives. Great salespeople are “always thinking towards

I recently spoke with Stephen Morse, Vice President of Sales Engineering and Technical Success at Mixpanel. Coming from a sales engineering perspective, he had some very useful insights to offer into the nature of sales teams, and salespeople.

Stephen had a lot to say about what makes for a good salesperson, effective forecasting, and – especially – what makes for a good sales team.

Discipline and Positivity

Quota sharing — working towards your goals as a team — requires a lot of positivity. Stephen told me that setbacks and gaps in information can’t be taken as negatives. Great salespeople are “always thinking towards the next step,” not hung up on the negative.

But positivity isn’t everything — you also need discipline. Within a shared sales process, you need a “disciplined system” to “[get] your team involved, get them engaged and positive, and keep the momentum going.” Teams need to be asking, “How can we learn? How can we advance? What should we be doing?” and not taking minor pitfalls as detractors.

People with a “closing/negotiation mindset” are constantly contemplating what it’s going to take to make a deal happen. Remaining future-oriented requires the discipline of positivity, being able to always keep working towards a solution — no matter how many setbacks you face.

Different Lenses: Wear Bifocals

In our discussion, it was clear that we shared the observation that – by and large – sales reps and sales engineers view the world from very different perspectives. Folks who work in sales support and engineering tend to be very technical, spyglasswhereas folks who work on the front lines of closing deals are much more relational.

Stephen stressed to me the importance of “co-ownership.” He said, “Yes, you have the rep who thinks more relationally, about the transaction and the contract. But the accountability is on both shoulders. The sales engineer is really responsible for covering and owning the technical selection… The relationship aspect is going to fall on the account executive’s shoulders.”

In a complex sale – teams require both a rep’s perspective and an engineer’s perspective to share the responsibility of finding and closing a deal. Both the technical and relational lenses are vital to success — both have their strengths and weaknesses. Quite simply, and not to be trite, they’re better together.

It Takes a Village

For quota-carrying reps, it’s important to “have followers, have enthusiastic people that are willing to go the extra mile to support them.” Clearly, this is the essence of a sales team. Great teams form around successful reps — whether or not they’re especially charismatic.

Quota-carriers — team leaders — don’t always need to be people you want to help. If the opportunities are not equal everywhere, you’re going to go where the better chance of success is. Stephen believes that salespeople will rally around unlikable closers. “That does work, although decidedly not as well as [rallying around] someone who has a higher EQ.”

However, with likable quota-carrying reps, it’s easier to maintain that discipline and positivity that Stephen spoke about earlier. That being said, there are many formulas for good sales teams — but in every instance, no one can do it alone.

The Holy Grail: Forecasting Accuracy

I asked Stephen what he views as best practices for forecasting — practices that provide a lot of accuracy and truth for a pipeline. “It’s half art, half science,” he explained, “but people tend to ignore the science side of it and just go with their gut.”

It’s difficult to predict sales because it’s difficult to predict the very human behavior of your reps. You need to understand the human factor — your reps’ predispositions — in order to understand how they’re going to view a sale. Some of your reps might be more optimistic than others — might report deals as a sure thing, even if they’re nowhere near ready to close yet.

The best way to ensure forecasting accuracy, Stephen said, is to have a “streamlined, highly efficient way to talk about the methodology of forecasting.” Have a “checklist of things you do and don’t know” that will create a concrete process for your reps to assess cases.

Bottom line:


Positivity is important, but it means nothing without a disciplined process. Teams are teams — it takes more than one person to get deals closed, and more than one way of doing things. When forecasting, never forget the human factor.

 

 

  • How do you factor in human behavior in your forecasting process?
  • Do your sales teams ask themselves “how can we learn?” after a failure?
  • Are your quota carrying sales reps supported by enthusiastic teams?

 

 

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