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Sales Pods: Lessons Learned in the First Month of Running a Strategic Pod

Sales pods are the key to scalable structure within many successful SaaS sales organizations. And in the first month of running a sales pod, we’ve learned a lot of lessons. But to truly see the benefits of setting up sales pods, you first need to understand the journey it takes for an organization to determine the goals, needs, and actions required to reach that level of scalability.

When a sales organization first looks to scale, the first strategic move is to sales development.

Why? Because sales development is the biggest movement to hit the sales industry in the last decade, and it’s the number one way to specialize, personalize, and convert more opportunities, faster. The frontline sellers are prospecting and qualifying leads, seamlessly handing off SQLs to the closing team for what optimistically will become a closed-won deal.

The next move beyond sales development? Account Based Sales Development — a targeted sales development approach in which prospective customer accounts are treated as markets of one, reached through hyper-personalized campaigns.

And as the sales organization scales and specializes, different metrics start to emerge as the most important, and goals begin to shift. Traditional sales organizations have always had these three mainstay metrics for Account Executives:

  • The concept of opportunities
  • A consistent sales cycle
  • A win rate

But with the professionalization of the SDR team, modern sales development metrics look more like this:

  • Account stages (the pre-opportunity)
  • A sales development cycle (starting at the first touch)
  • An account conversion rate

The differences are subtle, but the key to top of the funnel success is in the specialization, the personalization, and the focus on the right sales development metrics.

This is where sales pods come into play.

Sales pods are collections of cross-functional roles, each dependently intertwined to achieve a specific and scalable goal within a sales organization. The methodology behind sales pods is to use the power of community and teamwork to focus and align well-rounded groups of team members on a targeted objective.

When starting out with sales pods, the first step is to understand the full customer experience: first define the end goal, and then work backwards. To reach that end goal, should your sales pods be cross-functional? Should they be divided by territories? Industries? The goals of the organization will determine the structure of the pods.

These goals and metrics might be revenue-focused, where the pod goal is to reach a specific ARR. Or the goal could be attainment-focused based on customer percentage, such as selling into 30% of 100 key accounts. But either way, pod alignment helps coordinate efforts across strategic accounts, thus creating as scalable structure for reaching these goals.

Every company structures their sales pods differently, because every organization has different end goals and pipeline dreams for their sales pods. But when we set up our first sales pod, the overarching goal was to increase the average customer spend by tripling the average deal size. For our product, the best way to achieve this goal was through a mid-market pod.

The structure of our first mid-market pod was designed with three Sales Development Reps, two Account Executives, and one strategic Account Manager.

The theory behind this structure was to create multiple pods that each fill a representative/role for every division that touch the enterprise client experience from start to finish (i.e. find, sell, and keep).

The SDRs are structured 2:1 — two Outbound and one Farmer. The Outbounds are responsible for named accounts they go after, and can continue to cross-sell to other divisions. Their focus is on net new divisions clients in top 100 lists. The Farmer’s responsibility is to dig through current clients, and find new opportunities and new divisions.

Then, the Account Manager from Success will be responsible for any large clients subsequently pushed over. Their goal is to ensure that these clients receive the highest quality training experience, and get onboarded correctly. This role also has a stake in the game because of the opportunity to send upsell opportunities to the SDR/AE team, just as the farmer does.

These pods will eventually share the existing Marketing, Inbound SDR, Outbound SDR, Sales, Engineering, and Success figureheads (a.k.a. influencers). Some of these figureheads have ownership within the pod, and some are just there a primary contact for the pod. Their purpose is to serve as the line of coordination between all pods and departments.

For example, the Engineering figurehead provides insight into the product roadmap, and serves as an outlet for Sales to request future enterprise features within that roadmap. The Marketing figurehead, on the other hand, is leveraged to both enter into an Account Based Marketing (ABM) model, as well as help provide with the pod with promotional marketing resources (branded gifts, personalized notes, etc.) specific to the mid-market pod’s client base.

After running this mid-market sales pod for a month or so, our team has learned a few valuable lessons. These are a few of the biggest takeaways from the new structure:

  • Affiliated reps are more productive than unaffiliated reps.
  • SDRs messaging significantly improves based on proximity to AEs
  • AEs and SDRs have a mutual desire for each other.
  • We didn’t know what we were missing in terms of existing client upsells.
  • There are major creative benefits to sitting together, like bouncing ideas and tactics off of each other.

All in all, what we learned is the importance of teamwork and mutually shared results.

The success of one team member is success for all.” – Clint Green, Account Executive and Strategic Lead of Mid-Market Sales Pod

When creating your sales pods, be sure that you’re structuring compensation, career progression, goals, and metrics around this notion. What is good for the person is good for the group, and your sales pod structure, from start to finish, should always reflect this mission.

For a more comprehensive look into SalesLoft’s internal SDR process, download the second section of our newest playbook trilogy, The Sales Development Playbook: Executing. In this section, we share the ins and outs of efficiently using SalesLoft to call and email prospects.

Download our free white paper and optimize your sales efforts to start crushing your sales development goals today.

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