Throughout the last eight years of my sales & marketing career, I’ve come across several misconceptions of sales. From my peers comparing a consultative sales job to their last experience buying a used car, to sales reps thinking that updating their opportunities in the CRM with relevant information is simply tedious work or micromanagement.
The comparison to a used car salesperson aside, let’s set the record straight about the importance of sales cadence. Whether you are a founder of a startup, an individual sales contributor, or a new sales manager, sales cadence must be part of your day-to-day, month-to-month, and quarter-to-quarter work.
What is sales cadence?
To those with purview to music, cadence is synonymous to rhythm. Hence, a sales team, whether a couple of people or an entire division, must follow some type of rhythm. And this rhythm of business must be consistent, with structure and specific timing. This type of rhythm helps founders manage growth demands and sales managers prioritize opportunities, while managing a team.
The basis for a sales cadence is a bottom-up approach, with top-down expectations. Salespeople actively and accurately update opportunities and close dates. Managers use this information to support their salespeople, whether coaching them through the opportunity, or calling on additional assistance from marketing or engineering. Managers also forecast team revenue to directors, and so on (more on this further.)
Timing is also important. Opportunities must be updated. By when? When should a manager coach each sales rep? When are forecasts made? When does sales communicate with the rest of the business? From a startup’s perspective, how often are the founders collaborating and making strategic business pivots? These are all questions the team and managers must consider and will depend on the nature of the products & services, the length of the sales cycle, the size of the account team per opportunity, and the resources available in the company.
Lastly, once structure and timing decisions are set, a good CRM is necessary. You can’t scale a company while managing it with spreadsheets and Google Docs (I’m looking at you, startup founder.) Pick a tool that best aligns with your cadence, organizational goals, and provides a comprehensive view of a customer or prospect for anyone in the organization. There are a lot of great CRMs out there, like Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce. Or even HubSpot, which has great tools for price-conscious startups.
Why is sales cadence so important?
If the revenue is coming in, it doesn’t really matter how it’s done, right? Wrong.
It’s easy to let performing sales reps “do what they’re doing” because they’re blowing sales targets out of the water. But what if the sales target is way off? What if the performing rep is missing little, yet profitable, opportunities while handling the big accounts? Or what if the product managers are creating new products or features with inaccurate information from clients? Those are just some of the questions that come to mind when thinking about how sales cadence impacts a company.
Yet there are four solid reasons for a strong sales cadence and rhythm of business, which business leaders should adhere to. They are overall business decision-making, meeting client commitments, sharing best practices, and the impact on product management and account-based marketing.
Sales forecasts impact business decisions
This seems obvious, but overall business decisions seem far from a salesperson’s day-to-day activities, so it needs to be explained. And startup CEOs must condition themselves to run the business based on forecasted revenue (not valuation.)
As forecasted revenue rolls up via a sales cadence, like monthly and quarterly business reviews between managers, directors, and VPs, business decision makers do just that — make decisions. These decisions include hiring people, like sales support staff, pre-sales engineers, customers support, operations, marketing, etc. So, while the decision is made far from the salesperson, the decisions directly impacts sales. In other words, the sales forecast comes full circle because of the decisions being made from the sales forecast.
And to ensure a proper forecast, a solid sales cadence leads to good pipeline management behavior across salespeople and sales leadership.
Meeting client commitments
As a sales manager, I encountered salespeople who liked to go it alone and salespeople took advantage of every resource available. Both types of salespeople can close deals, sure. But meeting client commitments goes beyond closing deals. Account management has equal importance in revenue generation and impacts the brand. And it’s widely known that it costs less to retain a client than to get a new one.
So, an additional purpose of the sales cadence is to understand if and how customer commitments are being met — with key clients, in particular, for sales leadership.
Sharing best practices
A sales cadence creates opportunities to share best practices. Within sales meetings, create time for idea sharing. As a salesperson, I used ideas shared in morning huddles with my clients. As a sales manager, I used coaching methods learned in weekly manager meetings. And as a sales strategist, I took deal-closing ideas from one sales team to another; and from one division to another.
This type of idea sharing is a result of a proper sales cadence, as you’re bringing people together. Without such a structure it becomes a lot harder to learn from one another.
Unfortunately, it’s far too common that marketing and sales departments diverge as companies scale, which is why I am a big proponent of account-based marketing (ABM) for B2B companies. But even with ABM, there’s a constant struggle to align sales and marketing. Yet a rhythm of business creates a forum of collaboration.
As mentioned earlier, a sales cadence is hierarchical, as it goes up a leadership chain. It can also be horizontal, allowing marketing and product management to gain feedback from sales, who in turn get feedback from customers.
While it becomes obvious that there isn’t a product-market fit, or the message just isn’t getting across with the target market, or there’s a brand reputation issue, when sales drop, but it’s too late by then. An effective sales cadence is cross-functional, allowing other parts of the business to adapt to changes in market dynamics before critical issues arise.
Again, the timing of cross-functional collaboration depends on the reasons mentioned earlier. If it’s a blue ocean market, then collaboration between product managers and sales managers should be frequent. On the other end, if the product has been commoditized, then sales directors should be often aligned with the group leaders of brand strategy and customer experience.
Regardless, the sales cadence is a rhythm of business and should include stakeholders.
Take a step back & measure
It can be tough getting out of the daily grind, whether you’re a sales manager, or startup CEO. But taking a step back and setting up a sales cadence will make the entire sales operation proactive. And this proactiveness will be felt through the entire team, no matter the size.
And on a last note, a rhythm of business of any type creates a better structure for metrics and measuring against this metrics. Mainly because a cadence sets timeframes, and then the teams and their leaders can experiment with metrics and how they go about achieving them.