Surprise! What you may not expect to find in your sales execution audit.

After years of conducting sales execution audits, we’ve found that many revenue teams are functioning from the outside, but, like a "fixer upper," crying for help under the wallpaper.

A few members of our team love those home renovation shows when a family buys some gigantic old house, rips it to shreds (who doesn’t love watching demo day?), and then rebuilds it to look better than it did the day the first family moved in.

These are the two reasons we think those shows are so popular:

  • The “big reveal”
  • The “you found what!?” moments

You know what we mean. Inevitably, there is mold under the clawfoot tub, there are varmints nesting in the attic, or there are rotting logs supporting the foundation. 

And while it’s a pain in the rear end to deal with those problems, choosing to ignore them will probably mean that, in pretty short order, the whole house will come tumbling down.

After years of conducting sales execution audits, we’ve found that many revenue teams’ sales execution programs are in a similar state: functioning from the outside, but crying for help under the wallpaper.

Are “varmints” infesting your sales execution program?

We’re sort of like a pest control team for sales execution platform (SEP). For instance, when you tell us about little “nibbling,” pesky problems that may not seem that bad, we know that, if left unchecked, those termites could bring the whole house tumbling down.

But most of the time, revenue leaders don’t even know they have metaphorical termites. They just think their reps are lazy, or that they’re not sending enough emails.

To illustrate the point, and help our network and friends to realize how important it is that they occasionally audit their sales execution programs, we’ve compiled a list of some of the more common “you found what!?” problems we uncover in the audit process.

“Our metrics mean nothing?!”

Revenue leaders make important decisions, like hiring and firing, projecting revenue, purchasing software or professional services, and guiding their overall sales strategy and messaging based on the numbers and metrics they see.

But, tragically, those numbers are often completely unreliable. 

For instance, we recently conducted an audit for a team that allowed their reps to fully edit the templates within each step of their sequences. And, because their enablement infrastructure was underdeveloped, those reps were using their sequences only for workflow management.

Outreach was, to them, a project management service poking them to make a call or send an email. Each time they did send an email, they copied and pasted their own messaging into the sequence.

This created an infinite number of variations of what Outreach saw as one sequence. But the truth is that prospects interacting with that sequence weren’t experiencing the same messaging, making it completely impossible to discern why prospects were engaging with the sequences in the ways they were or how to duplicate those results.

More specifically, a sequence running according to best practices will allow you to see a lot of booked meetings at a specific step and know that it’s because that messaging is paying off. Or, after a critical mass of sends have gone through it, to start predicting the number of prospects you should put through the sequence to get a certain outcome.

But for many teams lacking proper safeguards, these metrics are essentially meaningless. Try building a sales messaging shop off of that sort of information. Teams try every day, but it usually leads to a lot of frustration, wasted resources, and burned prospects.

“Linked templates do what?”

Other common surprises lurk in the settings many teams don’t completely understand. There are countless examples here, ranging from the use of variables to the ways sequences respond to out-of-office emails.

But one example, which is particularly destructive, is the difference between a cloned and a linked template.

For review, a template is a pre-written email message that can be dragged and dropped into sequences, sent from a rep’s inbox, or added in to populate a manual email step.

A linked template means that any time a user makes any changes to the template in question, it changes the template everywhere else it’s used. Yes, even if that template is used in other sequences.

The benefit is that it keeps that template’s message consistent which, as we covered above, can be beneficial when you’re trying to isolate variables and understand how your message is received in multiple contexts. When it’s used properly, this can be a good thing.

However, misusing a linked template can be disastrous. For instance, if a rep personalizes an email for an individual prospect, and that template is linked, everyone who receives that email step will get that same personalization.

Imagine accidentally congratulating hundreds of people for the birth of a new baby boy, when you really only intended to make that change for one person. Or, consider an international brand that translates a template into Mandarin, only to find that every region worldwide has just received that translation.

Our audits find many instances where teams simply had no idea this happened, which means they’ve done nothing (yet) to repair the damage or make modifications for the future.

But the good news is, once you find a technical error like this one, it’s possible to start addressing it and doing what you need to do to prevent it from recurring.

“Replicating myself isn’t working?”

The previous surprise was pretty technical, but not every “water leak” is in the code. Sometimes, it’s a change management–or fundamentally human–problem.

Every once in a while, revenue leaders learn that the strategy (or strategies) that worked for them, when they were individual contributors, isn’t working on a larger scale. Of all of the problems we uncover, this can be the toughest pill to swallow.

It isn’t a technical error or a problem with the messaging. It’s a management issue that requires a lot of humility to address. Sometimes, leaders aren’t willing to make changes, and their teams (and revenue) suffer for it.

For example, we’ve worked with sales managers who were extremely successful with a very specific workflow. Their results were so notable that more senior leaders said, “give that rep a team.”

When that happened, instead of listening to the reps they are now leading, testing a variety of ideas to learn what actually works, and then adapting to those learnings, they just created sequences to mirror their personal workflows.

This misses one of the main sources of value in using an SEP: they’re constantly iterative. You see results coming in, and you make tweaks. You run A/B tests on messaging, and you hone the best call to action. You see a rep absolutely crushing cold calling, and you scale their script. 

Sales leaders who don’t take advantage of these opportunities, and instead just try to make their teams do it their way, often become frustrated and seek out external validation that their reps should step in line.

The problem is that, in many instances, the audit confirms that the salesplay, for any number of reasons, isn’t working. And the only way forward is to start testing some new ideas.

When leaders embrace this opportunity, bringing reps into the process of creating messaging and workflows in response to what they’re seeing on the front lines, teams can be extremely successful. But, it’s more of a kitchen gut job than a “let’s paint the cabinets” scenario.

“What’s a sequence state?”

The sequence states section of your SEP is sort of like the fuse box in an old house. It’s not glamorous, but it tells you a lot of critical information you need to know about the wiring behind the walls.

When we audit a team’s sequence states, we often see thousands of failed prospects, which means that, due to errors in a sequence, valuable prospects were dropped into that sequence and, somewhere in that salesplay, they abruptly stopped hearing from you.

Because reps don’t check sequence states, they likely have no clue those people are functionally frozen. They think they’ve heard from your company when, in fact, they probably haven’t in ages. 

To get things moving again, you have to find the spot where wires are misfiring, fix it, and then retry the prospects in the sequence. If you don’t, then those prospects will remain in a no-man’s land across your entire sales organization.

Because a lot of sequence settings won’t allow prospects to be in more than one sequence at a time, which is a setting we often recommend, they can’t be added to any other sequences until they’re either removed from the failed sequence or allowed to continue until that sequence finishes on its own.

It’s also here, in sequence states, that you can see your bounces. Many teams have no idea that many of their emails are bouncing because they’re not following best practices with their messaging strategy. A high percentage of bounces is devastating, not only for the prospects who haven’t heard from you but for your overall brand.

If you’re seeing a lot of bounces, it means email servers have flagged your brand as being spammy, and it’s going to become increasingly harder to land in an inbox. Instead, prospects’ servers are either going to push you right into spam or block you entirely.

This won’t just impact sales, either. Your marketing, customer success, and other externally-facing teams won’t be able to get through, and your business will suffer the consequences.

We can help you not only assess whether your bounces are normal but, also, devise a plan to reverse the tide and start connecting with your audiences again.

“Marketing emails don’t (usually) work for sales?”

The last big surprise is intuitive but still often overlooked. Sales and marketing are not the same function, and their email best practices are just as different. Just like carpet may be appealing in a bedroom renovation, but gross in a bathroom, you have to know your context. 

When we audit the messaging or content shop for a company that has a strong marketing influence in their sales shop, we often find a lot of well-intentioned errors that result in really low opens, replies, and booked meetings.

For instance, those image-heavy emails marketing often sends–as a brand to an audience–just don’t play well in a one-on-one interaction between a sales rep and an individual prospect.

Or, as another example, marketing tends to be pretty product- or feature-focused. A marketing email might include links to videos, case studies, white papers, or any number of external resources. In a sales email, numerous links can seem too impersonal.

This doesn’t mean that marketing shouldn’t be involved. In fact, we wrote an article about the fact that a B2B sales messaging program should be a collaboration between sales and marketing. 

However, it does mean that, if the emails in your SEP look or sound like marketing emails, your content-focused audit is going to pinpoint the ways your strategy needs to adapt to an authentic, persona-focused, one-on-one conversation about how you can solve their problems.

The “big reveal” is worth it.

Maybe after reading this, you’re thinking, “I don’t want to go through all of that.” We don’t really blame you.

But here’s the problem. If you have an SEP, or even if you don’t, you’ve made an investment into writing sales messages, creating salesplays, training reps, creating prospect lists, and reaching out to tons of people.

In other words, you’ve bought the house. Like it or not, maintaining its infrastructure is not really an option. 

And, from a much more positive perspective, the “big reveal” moment isn’t just for homeowners on reality TV shows. Your team can love their sequences, the workflows you create for them can actually make their work lives better, and they can hit quota.

Take 45 seconds to imagine a quarter when your team hits its number, you retain all of your headcount, and you get positive feedback from everyone on your team about how much better your sales strategy has become.

That sort of positive improvement isn’t just for television. It can happen for your team, too.

Let’s talk about scheduling your team’s audit; we’ll start with discussing what the “big reveal” looks like to you, and then we’ll create a plan to get there.

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