July is almost over, and it’s officially the Dog Days of Summer. People are out and about, enjoying the weather and the slow pace that seems to creep in around this time. A lot of my clients are out on vacation, and I’ve been spending my time watching the Tour de France. My late father-in-law was an avid biker, and he got me interested in the annual road race through the mountains, countryside and cities of France.
While cycling isn’t the most popular sport in the U.S., the Tour is a great sporting drama that serves as a classic example of putting the team ahead of individual greatness. Among each of the dozens of teams competing in this year’s race, really only one or two riders have a shot at ending the 21-stage grueling race wearing the yellow jersey at the top of the podium. The other riders, the domestiques as the French call them, are merely there to serve.
They get up every day, strap on their helmets and ride for hours—setting the pace, preventing breakaways, letting the team leader draft off his coattails. It’s not a glamorous job, but it’s the way the sport has evolved. Groups of eight riders claw their way one hill at a time, sacrificing themselves, willing their one superstar to the front of the pack where he can sprint away at the end, leaving the domestiques to gasp their way through the last kilometer at the back of the peloton.
And, in a way, it’s the perfect metaphor for how the sales organization operates.
Sales reps are the flyboys. They jet in, shake some hands, finalize the details and take the sale across the figurative finish line. But what most people don’t see is a whole team of people throughout the organization that are furiously peddling, setting the pace while shielding wind and weather so the sale can get done. Not for glory. Not for acclaim. All for the sake of the team.
Consider the marketing department. Leads need to be generated—whether from email lists, trade shows or other activities. They’re exhaustingly cultivated from created content very much like this blog, weeded through and given to sales reps for follow up.
You also have sales operations—the people responsible for the extensive toolkit that keeps the sales organization humming along. This includes Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Sales Performance Management (SPM) and Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ)—as well as a slew of other spreadsheets, planning tools and business process management software. The product team also lends a hand, providing reps with product information, various configurations and pricing—all things that make things easier for the rep to make a sale.
Once the general conditions of the sale are confirmed, the management team needs to step up and approve the parameters of the deal, ensuring that the overall needs of the business are being met. That’s when legal steps up, providing contract templates that are ready to go. It’s important they’re able to fast-track deals and keep things moving seamlessly for the customer.
Finally, there’s the implementation team. Someone has to make the widget or deliver the service and ensure it’s working like it should. The accountants also step in to send invoices and track down payment. Then it’s up to the support team to provide ongoing services to keep satisfaction high and cultivate repeat business. Those leads head back over to the marketing department where the cycle continues.
All of these functions of the sales organization are carefully orchestrated as the sale moves through the funnel. And each one is absolutely essential—yet, very little comes with the glory that his showered down on the sales rep for shepherding the deal through.
As you’re watching the final stages of the Tour de France this week, give a special shout out to the sweat-soaked domestiques doing all the dirty work so that one teammate can don the yellow jersey. It’s the right thing to do.
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