Sales Excellence Journey

Why You Need a Sales Operating System

While Alabama football may not be playing for a national championship again this year, it’s nearly certain they will be in the mix again next year. Meanwhile, Georgia, led by a former Alabama assistant coach, may well repeat as national champions. And as I think about that, I’m reminded of the importance of a comprehensive sales operating system for competitive excellence. I know … quite a shift from football to sales. But bear with me.  

At Alabama, they don’t just have a scheme for offense and defense. They have a system for everything from who they recruit to how they practice and prepare to coach. And they are fanatically committed to that system. If this approach helps the Alabama football team achieve the highest winning percentage in college football, could it help your team win at a higher rate?


Let’s face it. A myriad of challenges besets the sales profession (I know, beset and myriad in the first sentence of a blog is frightening, but hang on). Buyers engage with sellers later in their evaluation than ever before – if they engage at all. More products are sold more often and without the involvement of a sales professional than ever before. Yet, despite losing control over information about our solutions, there is hope. When buyers engage with salespeople, that engagement will likely have more impact on their decision than the product, the price, and the company combined!

Whoop-de-doo, what does it all mean, Basil? (Blatant Austin Powers reference for fans of the trilogy).

Selling more effectively might be your company’s most important competitive advantage. Unfortunately, many companies leave sales excellence to chance and miss a great opportunity to differentiate themselves. These companies often have little to no formal processes for this critical business function.

They often lack predictive, leading indicators for sales performance, and their models for opportunity management, account management, and sales coaching are often poorly defined.

The result: sporadic achievement, missed forecasts, and mounting frustration.

Please understand me. It isn’t that these companies aren’t trying to sell better than their competition. Everyone wants to sell better, just like every college football team wants to win weekly. However, most companies still treat selling as something between black art and acquired skill. They either try to gain an advantage by hiring people who have already figured out how to sell, or they send everyone to training once a year, hoping that new skills will stick.

What these companies really need is a comprehensive system that drives superior execution of proven skills – they need a full-blown sales operating system.

Now, before you tap out because that project is too overwhelming even to consider, let us provide a four-point roadmap and reassure you that this can be done in the next 6 – 12 months.

Step 1: Implemeny Models

The first step on our journey is to implement models for your most important selling behaviors, including how your people will engage with prospects and customers. This cannot just be a fancy way to tell your company story. Prospects don’t meet with us because they think our story will be more entertaining than the season finale of Ted Lasso. They meet with us because they need help figuring out what is best for them, which means we need to understand them. Your customer engagement model should help you build great relationships by being completely aligned with your buyers’ needs at each step along their journey.

More than random skills models, your people need to know WHAT to do, WHEN, AND HOW to do it, and there should be some consistency and agreement about what poor, acceptable, and exceptional execution looks like. To facilitate this, you should have clear information objectives (what you want to know about prospects and customers) and models for everything from learning about their business to developing differentiating decision criteria and presenting recommendations based on their unique situation and criteria.

Key point – wherever possible, you need the ability to capture artifacts from these buyer interactions to facilitate effective execution of these models.

For example, if your people should be gathering specific information about their opportunities, such as business issues and differentiating criteria, this information should be available for review as artifacts of effective or perhaps ineffective execution.

Step 2: Sales Model

Second, you need a model for how your sales managers will coach and develop your people. In fact, sales coaching is arguably the single most important habit for a high-performing sales team to develop. This needs to include the cadence and approach for everything from funnel/pipeline reviews to opportunity and account plan reviews to joint sales calls. Once again, there must be measurable artifacts from effective coaching conversations, this time in the form of selling or developmental assignments. With nothing to measure, you will have no way to evaluate the effectiveness of your coaches and their ability to develop your team.

Step 3: Embed All Models into Your CRM

Your selling and coaching models must be embedded into your CRM. This means more than just creating a few fields and reports. The typical CRM is a great platform for sales success. Still, it doesn’t have applications to help people win opportunities, or coach and develop sellers. Done correctly, the CRM can help drive best practices and help you create accountability for better selling and coaching engagements.

Don’t be fooled by custom development projects with no clear behavioral models or disjointed point solutions that promise to drive any and all selling behaviors. Even more importantly, please don’t accept any solution that treats the learning and development of your team as an event that is separate from their work.

The most effective learning happens while people do their jobs, not apart from it.

Step 4: Recruit

Finally, once you define these models and embed them into your CRM with applications that are specifically designed to support execution and promote accountability, you are ready to recruit your players. Maybe you already have the right team in place, but candidly, the right players aren’t absolute. It depends on the system they are in.

Alabama has very strict guidelines for the type of players they will recruit. How committed are they? Each year, they are allowed just one exception to their profile. Not one per position, or one on offense and one on defense, just one … period! Once you know what system you are running, you can bring on talent that suits the system. And you can do it confidently, knowing that the right talent in the right system will consistently produce better outcomes. But how do you know you are on the right track? Do like all great teams, constantly measure everything and look for ways to adjust to optimize your results. If you’ve implemented the right models and tools, it will be easier than you think to see the full “causal chain” for your sales successes and failures, and you will be on the path to continuous improvement.

As Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban says, “Process guarantees success. A good process produces good results.”

Want to learn more? Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

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