100 years in B2B sales operations – so what have we learned?

Incredibly, May 2016 marked the 6th anniversary of the launch of Practical Sales Processes (PSP). Whilst marvelling over how quickly time had flown by and how much younger we all looked in the launch photo’s, we, the three partners, also calculated that collectively we had notched up over 100 years of “hands on” B2B Sales Transformation and Sales Operations, from the large corporates to medium and small enterprises. That’s a lot of knowledge we thought! After much discussion we honed in on what we believed were the most important lessons learned along the way. We thought it might be of interest to share them with you.


Think carefully before investing significant sums of money, time and effort, and/or your career and reputation in large scale Sales Transformation. In fact, if we’re honest we would strongly advise against it. Why?

  1. It typically takes 2-3 years for the results to feed through (Less than the average CEO tenure and far less that the average Sales Director job-span)
  2. Most programmes get canned half-way before the impact bites and significant improvements are delivered.
  3. It requires excellent, mostly autocratic leadership and complete attention to establish and bed it down.
  4. An 80%-win rate performance can and does happen but all the planets have to be aligned and we rarely see a situation where that’s likely to occur.

That might seem like a ‘Ratner moment’ coming from a small business dedicated to Sales Process excellence but our experience shows there are a handful of very simple things that can be implemented quickly and easily that together (or in some cases individually) will make a positive difference.

Here they are:

  1. Insist that every opportunity has a Close Plan – and from early on in the sales cycle. Keep it simple – who on the buyer’s side is getting approval and what process they need to go through to get it. If your sales team don’t know and the buyer won’t tell them there’s either nothing to win or, if there is, someone else is going to win it.
  2. Put in as much effort and intelligence as possible early in the sales cycle. Work out if/how you can win and what it will take – strategy, plan, budget, time and resources. If you don’t have enough information or resources to undertake the plan you’re probably not going to win.
  3. In your existing clients make sure you know exactly what you’re most senior customers really think of you – an Executive Customer Satisfaction process done properly, repays itself literally hundreds of times over. Companies hugely underestimate the importance of being seen to be obsessively interested in making sure their most important customers are getting what they need to be successful.
  4. Make sure you know why you won or lost. Internal myths of ‘what won the deal’ or ‘who screwed up’ are typically a mix of politics and plausibility rather than reality. High quality, independently sourced feedback is hugely powerful and indispensable fuel for the sales engine.
  5. Keep ahead of your renewals. The time to start is no less than 18 months out from renewal. Successful renewal often depends on taking the lessons you’ve learnt from the relationship (even if they’re hard ones) and re-shaping the proposition/service in a more attractive and valuable way. Most customers respond positively to a display of initiative, complacency and a lack of creativity is where we see winnable renewals being lost.
  6. Create an environment where the sales teams get more comfortable dealing with reality. It sounds a bit metaphysical but reality is the sales persons’ best friend – yet the majority of sales people really struggle to harness its potential. You have to base a plan on verifiable data and information, it’s the key to outselling your competitors. It’s also the one thing that separates consistent winners from the rest.


Try to work with people who have similar values, running your own business is tough, but fun, when shared with like-minded people… It does however give you the freedom to stick to your principles and values, this is liberating.

It can be lonely ploughing your own furrow, make time to discover the pleasure in spending quality time with family and friends, having fun, being happy and not taking yourself too seriously!

And that’s about it – that’s what our small troop of mostly EDS-forged, slightly senior (but all the smarter for it), PSP’ers are focussed on bringing to our customers.

Sandie Sharples

Marketing Coordinator