What’s the one thing you’re missing when you try to coach your large sales team?
How can you be sure that your sales teams are promoting the right products to the right people?
How can you train global teams at scale or one-on-one with the individual salespeople who need your help?
These were the challenges facing Greg Downum, the Senior Director of Sales Operations for NTT DATA, a global IT services company with clients in manufacturing, commercial, public sector accounts, financial services, insurance, etc. Downum is responsible for all of the account planning initiatives, their win-loss process, as well as their Salesforce data quality.
With lots of sales teams selling innumerable products in diverse industries in many regions around the globe, it was easy to get lost. Downum wanted to replace their ad hoc account planning “system” of scattered PowerPoint slides and Excel files.
“None of it was automated. None of it was standardized. It needed to be updated constantly and it wasn’t even stored centrally. So it was a difficult process and tool for us to use,” said Downum.
Enter ForecastEra Account Plan Navigator.
Below is a Q&A with Downum. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: Why did you choose ForecastEra?
The fact that we could have all of our account plans embedded within a central system was a big benefit to us.
Our sales teams weren’t having to duplicate efforts. Having the data all in one place in a unified format made it much easier to create executive presentations with just a few clicks.
There is a truism that businesses spend 90% of the time looking for data and 10% of the time working with it. If they can use a tool that is sitting within their CRM system that pulls existing data into their account plans, it makes it much easier for them to use.
By making the CRM, in this case, Salesforce, more useful, helps contribute to the entire team’s adoption rate.
ForecastEra’s data analysis dashboards give sales leaders insight into where each member is succeeding or needs improvement and more insight into what’s going on in the account.
Result: Better Account Plans
Q: How would you rate ForecastEra’s ease of use doing account planning within Salesforce?
We were able to have a standardized view of account planning, which is a luxury that we hadn’t had before. Because everyone had the same view of the same KPIs, we could “pressure test” account plans quicker.
We were also able to do a trend analysis of the consolidated data by individuals and teams, which we hadn’t been able to do before.
As a result, global account planning went from a once-a-year series of scattered snapshots in spreadsheets and slides to a cohesive, comprehensive, real-time view of entire accounts.
Through our account planning process, we started showing that our win rates, close rates, and average deals sold were higher. This created a blueprint for success with repeatable guided tasks that we can apply with increasing profitability to various markets.
Q: Can you talk us through the account planning pressure testing process?
Account planning is not just about what you are selling today. You have to ask, what is your relationship with your clients? Do you have a good relationship? Are you selling into more than one area of the business? Are you just focused on a singular business unit? Are you selling into the C-suite?
Having an account planning dashboard makes it easy to find the answers to these questions on an individual, team, or company-wide basis. Then training teams can provide additional training to a whole team or one-on-one coaching to individuals.
Q: How does Account Plan Navigator help you train better?
It gives us an analysis of the entire account plan. We’re able to see:
- Where they’re targeting an individual account
- Where in the org chart those opportunities are
- What is the product or service they are pitching to that persona?
- Their attack plan
- Do they have the right relationships established?
- Do they have the right SMEs (subject matter experts) on our end aligned to the account? Who are the SMEs, architects, and delivery people?
- What are they doing to close this opportunity?
- What do we need to do to have renewal opportunities?
Leaders can go back and take a look at the opportunities and the attack plan and say, “I see you don’t really have a solid plan in place. Let’s help you refine that.”
Result: Better Salesforce Adoption Throughout the Company
Q: Once you started using ForecastEra products, how did that affect Salesforce adoption throughout your entire organization?
As an organization, you do not want your sales team to be going into different systems, especially if they are not connected. Not only does it increase their time trying to generate reports and activities for their leadership teams, but it also keeps them away from their clients.
The same thing goes for your executives. You want the reports to have a standardized view of your account teams. It makes it much easier to report on the activities, close rates, pipeline attack plan, activities, and so forth.
When we do analysis and trends within different industries, are we targeting the right clients? Are we growing our business? Having all of this information together in one tool makes it that much easier.
We also saw a huge improvement in data quality, not just because everything was stored in one place but because everyone was using the same metrics across the board.
The big productivity secret is that because everything is in one place, the entire company saves so much time finding what they need with a few clicks instead of hunting hours for it.
Result: Real-Time Actionable Insights
Q: What ForecastEra product features do you use the most?
Definitely the influence paths.
They declutter the view, especially in the larger organization. This shows particular influence paths for specific opportunities, as well as alternate paths to key individuals.
It provides a blueprint. It shows everyone’s budget influence, their relationship with our company, their influence on the final decision being made.
Also, each influence path can be shared with various [data] architects and delivery personnel. It can also show departmental influences to help build better relationships within the account.
The best part is that each of these influences can be created and saved, and then referenced at a later date. It’s something that our account teams are so excited to see.
Q: How do ForecastEra products help you manage your team? What dashboards are you looking at on a daily, weekly, quarterly basis?
One of the features of Salesforce is the ability to push out the weekly, monthly, and quarterly reports on automatic views. So the tool will execute a series of reports through email to specific leadership teams.
They can see the execution of those attack plans. They can see if they’re penetrating the proper business units within that account and if they’re targeting the C-suite decision-makers or just the director or supervisor level.
This is meant to be insight, but it’s also meant to foster a coaching environment. It can show an account team where they may be struggling. So sales leaders know exactly where to apply their efforts to help their account teams be more successful.
Q: Can you think of an example where artificial intelligence told you something that surprised you about your sales operation?
One of the insights is that a lot of our teams may be focused on just the particular segment of the clients within a particular industry. And they’re not calling across the entire board, or they’re not calling in on the decision-makers at a much higher level.
We started to see a trend where they were siloed within the account. So we were able to provide them with some sales training to say, “We can provide an offering that will benefit this other business unit.”
It gave us insight into some of the win-loss information that explains why we’re winning. Sometimes it wasn’t about the relationship, but about targeting the right solution to the right persona.
It was good seeing those analytics in a dynamic, real-time way, not just hidden on someone’s hard drive or updated once a year.
Q: How did relationship mapping change how you approached sales?
It’s very important that a salesperson does not approach an account by themselves. They have a support team behind them, and it’s important to engage that support team with the attack plan.
With this tool, we can create blueprints of what decision-makers, influencers, and budget owners are doing, and who needs to be assigned to make sure that we’re successful on all fronts.
If you just focus on the decision-makers, but you completely ignore the influencers, chances are, you’re not going to be successful in selling that deal. They have a very large influence on the final decision that’s being made. Same thing for budget owners.
These influence paths are very insightful on how you can approach them, who’s being assigned to what person, and what attack plan is being associated with that approach.
Why Choose ForecastEra Over All the Others?
Q: What it’s like working with the ForecastEra team in configuring your installation, training, and your ongoing relationship with the ForecastEra team?
The thing that impressed me about ForecastEra and their Account Plan Navigator tool is that you’re able to see that this tool was clearly designed by salespeople for salespeople.
Salespeople don’t have time to fill out a lot of forms. They don’t have time to address a lot of questions that are not relevant to what they’re trying to sell. They have a highly adverse reaction to doing any kind of paperwork. Let’s be honest.
When you review this tool, it gets directly to the meat of what salespeople are interested in. It’s designed by salespeople from ForecastEra. They understand what is needed. And most importantly, what is not needed to make them better at their job.
But what sold me on ForecastEra, was their effort. We worked with their development team very closely. They listened, and they responded to all of our requests.
For many vendors that would be sufficient, and then they would move on to the next sale. However, with ForecastEra, they are continuing until a hundred percent of our needs are addressed, which is why we consider them more of a strategic partner than a vendor.