Building An Efficient Hybrid Vertical Selling Model

Case Studies Sales Operations
Virtira Sales Operations

In order to streamline similar clients, our customer organized its sales teams, spread throughout the US, into vertical market groups. They wanted sales teams to share best practices in order to leverage a win in one client into others in the same industry. They also wanted the sales reps to operate more efficiently streamlining ongoing administrative and operational aspects that were taking away from their sales time.

Our customer had a hybrid office-remote-home work style with most of its customer-facing sales reps, so they needed support that also had a remote management component.

Virtira helped make these changes possible. Here’s a lightly edited interview with our consultant who led this program:

What problem or opportunity was your client-facing?

The story goes back to our client’s US operations, where they developed a plan to sell their enterprise solutions by vertical. Instead of just selling a product on a one-off basis, they wanted to sell by vertical, and this meant doing more outcome-based selling.

They wanted to put all the folks that sold into the utilities vertical into one group, for example, and all the folks that sold into the healthcare accounts into another group. And so on. The idea was that they could do knowledge sharing and best practice sharing across the US.

So they developed those verticals, and they asked if we could supply operational support to bring together speakers, organize the calls, organize collaboration tools and repository spaces. It meant that these people could all come together and act as one sales team, all understanding the issues, the risks, and the gaps. For example, the healthcare industry team would meet so all these bright minds could share the projects they’re doing.

So that’s how I started working with this enterprise software client.

What was your first observation about things to be improved?

Our first observation was that the account managers were overloaded, with many enterprise sales initiatives requiring global solutions requiring specialized technical support. The account manager was a scheduler or chasing internal stakeholders for decisions, rather than being a sales rep.

So, we developed a program under which larger projects could be handled at a more complex level, based on five criteria of complexity and size. Then, the AM could say something like, “This project is complex because it meets your five criteria — it’s bringing in this much revenue, it involves this many stakeholders, it’s over a five-year period,” or whatever criteria we came up with. If the project was considered to meet those criteria, our team was able to get more involved to support the process.

It was going well, the project was making a real difference. And then, as often happens in business, the market dropped and a lot of the people we’d worked with got fired, laid off, or packaged out.

So, my colleague and I went out and found our own champions. I found a champion in the public sector vertical who still wanted that vertical approach, and my colleague found a champion in another vertical.

What were the benefits of the work Virtira did?

We’re dealing with some very complex sales. It’s something you can see very clearly when you’re at 3000 feet.

From that perspective, it was easy to see that for example, here was Joe in Vancouver selling into the healthcare sector, and he was having great success with a certain solution. There’d be a colleague in Orlando who was struggling selling into healthcare and we’d be like, “Well, why are you guys not talking to one another?” Because if Joe over here is having great success with this solution that he’s put together with partner XYZ, why is Mark not adopting that approach?

And Joe would share that best practice with Mark, who took it and he had a success himself. So it was just sort of a way to share knowledge, to make sure everybody was on the same page, selling the same way, selling the same solution. Customizing obviously was necessary, but the idea was there. We’d also have folks from the States come up and share their knowledge because they were further ahead than Canada in this area.

Another thing we did was to push the idea of solution selling. Don’t just sell a widget – sell a combination of widgets and create a solution for your customer’s business. And from that, we were getting big hairy complex deals of the sort that our client excelled at.

We’d always leave half an hour within each of those hour-and-a-half calls each month to share wins. Then the whole industry team heard how Joe sold this particular solution to a Vancouver hospital or whatever.

Why did they have Virtira work on this, rather than do it for themselves?

The reason they didn’t do it themselves is that they don’t have time, they’re just so under the gun to meet that bottom line. If there’s a $10 million deal coming down the pipe, everybody gathers together to put all the resources into it.

From what I could see, nobody really stays at that strategic level. They all get pulled down due to the pressure to make the big deals happen.

It seems that you added two things of value – more time for the sales reps and the ability to collect best practices so that everyone benefited. How do you see it?

I think it’s a combination of both. I’m not an IT specialist, but I’m a person who can come in and have visibility across the enterprise because of all the folks that are on these calls.

So, the skill set would be able to see a gap, and then see where something simple could mend that gap. The second part of it is to have the initiative and the confidence to say to somebody who is in a leadership position, “You have a gap, and this is how it can be filled.

How did you choose which projects to get involved in?

Those decisions were up to our client. What happened was that all of a sudden these account managers found out that they had access to fractional project managers, so we had a lot of requests come in: “Help me manage this project.”

Well, there were too many projects to manage. And so we had to put together some approaches regarding which projects we would get involved with, and which ones not.

How would you summarize the benefit for your client?

Our work allowed remote employees whose skill sets are not around project management to focus their time better. Their skill sets are to sell that deal, and our work freed them up to go and do that. This accelerated the sale. And then our team was able to take them off that sale, so they could then fill their pipeline with another one.