Why We Invested in Atrium: the Power of Great Sales Management
April 14, 2021
I resemble the below comments highly. As the first head of Rev Ops @ salesforce.com, where we were writing the go-to-market SAAS sales playbook in real-time as we doubled reps every year, I lived through this quarter after quarter. Fifteen years later, from what I have observed first-hand across many high-flying software companies, this is still very much everyone’s reality.
THE SCENE: EVERY QUARTER AT EVERY SOFTWARE COMPANY
The sales period is over - usually a quarter. It is now time for the retrospectives. So we as a sales organization can talk to our highlights and lowlights and report up as to what we can and will do better and what we need help from others on. This is usually what we do:
- We dig into the data with our sales operations teams and focus on outcome-based metrics like close rate, win rate, asp, sales cycle length, pipe coverage, etc. We can look at these to understand what has changed upwards or downwards to build our narrative.
- Normally, the actions we recommend often come down to a) we need more pipeline b) we need to be better at maturing pipeline c) we need to be better at creating urgency d) we need to be better at differentiation and the favorite one e) the product team needs to build a better product :)
- We then prioritize the items that we need to change, often focused primarily on how better to train and up-level our individual account executives.
- We also inspect our rep performance and make difficult decisions on whom to put on performance improvement plans and whom to exit. In this, we primarily look at bookings to date, pipeline created / available, and some comparable performance metrics like win rate, sales cycle, etc.
- These can often be contentious conversations - often what I call the “you can’t handle the truth” exercise between what the data says and what management believes - and can often pit sales operations versus sales management unnecessarily.
Then, we go back into “selling time”. During ‘selling time’, we don’t have time for retrospectives as we got to get to the business of selling!!!! During this all-important ‘selling time’, what do we do as sales managers? What do we ask of our sales managers?
We talk deals and we talk forecasts. We talk forecasts and we talk deals. We sometimes, just for giggles, opine on the deals that should be out of the forecasts or why we are not including in the forecast certain deals.
Here is, however, what we don’t do:
- We don’t focus on the actual performance of the humans (i.e. the reps) doing the work.
- We don’t focus specifically on what these humans could do to improve the outcome of their forecasts.
- We don’t focus on what managers could do in real-time to adjust the trajectories of the reps that work for them.
When you read this and you know it’s true - we must admit how inane that sounds. The question is, why don’t we hold our managers accountable for doing this? Why don’t we expect them to do it competently?
Especially when the data and research clearly tell us that high-performance sales management is one of the single biggest drivers of a sales team’s success. According to Gartner, sales teams with high-performance managers were on average 26% more productive, 3x more likely to have top performers, have 80% better rep retention, and reps on average worked 38% harder.
The why, from my experience, is easy to understand. We don’t do this because:
- Managers are incredibly busy - i.e. inspecting pipeline, attending internal meetings, recruiting and onboarding new reps while offboarding poor ones, performing deal reviews, helping close deals, enforcing sales process methodologies, submitting and defending forecasts, etc. Managers, as a result, spend less than 10% of their time on developing their reps.
- The majority of enablement time, money, and effort go towards reps. We spend almost all of our training time and energy on ensuring our reps grok what they need to know, what they need to say, and what they need to do. Manager enablement is almost always an afterthought.
- The systems and tooling we provide managers, who are already over busy and under enabled, are all wrong. We throw at managers a cavalcade of dashboards, not just within their CRM but also from their engagement tools, their listening tools, their cms tools, etc. We expect them to make sense of multiple dashboards at a level that would allow them to identify and diagnose issues in real-time with each of their team members in a way that they could effectively coach/redirect behavior. Not a chance - marketoonist.com must be a sales manager in disguise.
THERE IS A BETTER WAY: DATA-DRIVEN SALES TEAM MANAGEMENT
Imagine a different reality - one in which any sales manager becomes incredibly proficient at not only setting and tracking key performance goals for every rep but is also able to easily identify performance issues against those goals. Imagine a world where the performance of existing reps and ramping reps are compared easily to the success metrics of an organization’s top performers and not mythical benchmarks found on SAASTR. Finally, imagine a world in which such a manager now has data-based 1 on 1 ‘s with their reps where they discuss not only deals and deal strategy but the key areas where a rep can improve the tempo, the quality, and where appropriate the quantity of their execution.
Sounds pretty fictional eh? This must require a lot of time, money, integration, and training - none of which we have, especially not during the all-important ‘selling time’.
Now imagine that reality being something you could buy and deploy from a company instantly and that was wildly easy for managers to use and incorporate in their rep 1-on-1s. Sounds too good to be true for sure.
That is what I always have thought.
Then I met Jason and Pete and the team at Atrium. They are heavily committed to the craft of ‘better selling’ like few founders I have met. I looked at their product. I read Pete’s book. I didn’t believe it - no way.
Then I spoke to a few of their over 100 overzealous customers and they raved at how it had fundamentally changed how their sales managers ran their teams. How their sales managers quickly understood who was kicking butt and who was struggling and not only why but how to best fix the underlying issues. How several sales managers attributed their rapid career ascent to their selection and usage of Atrium.
Then we... invested.
We had to because Atrium is a platform purpose-built for AE and SDR managers. Atrium provides the data and insights your AE and SDR managers need to run their teams more effectively.
Atrium can be lit up in an organization within a day and starts capturing, measuring, and analyzing all of the key performance metrics that matter in real-time. Atrium then presents those results where managers work in an easily consumable way such that they can track performance versus goals, receive early warnings on negative trends, and much more easily diagnose performance issues. More importantly, sales managers can now weave this data-driven insight into their weekly managerial operating rhythm with their reps and teams.
Skeptical? Don’t be. Contact the crew and learn more. It takes 2-minutes to set up your own account.
There is a better way to drive rep productivity - ie amazing sales management that is data-driven. Before you invest in even more systems and training for your reps, focus on your managers. They deserve it. I only wish Atrium was around when I ran Rev Ops at the mothership back in the 00’s.
While you are at it, don’t forget to join Modern Sales Pros (also run by Atrium) and join 24,000+ of your peers in the world’s largest community for sales operation, enablement, and leadership professionals.