Proven Leadership Frameworks for a High-Performing Sales Team with Databricks VP of Sales Heather Akuiyibo (Podcast 517 and Video)

When sales teams succeed, the company succeeds. Revenue goes up, productivity increases, and ideally, the team continues to grow. But running a high-performing sales team isn’t an easy task. How can you ensure success within your sales organization in a way that scales with you?

Heather Akuiyibo, VP of Sales at Databricks, shares her four adaptable frameworks for high-performing sales teams and how those frameworks helped Databricks’ sales teams succeed.

Establish a solid company and team culture.

Culture is a critical part of every company and organization from top to bottom. It’s massively important when it comes to scaling your organization, too. How do you want your team to be defined? What are the hallmarks of the culture you want to create, and how are you going to achieve those?

The most important leadership framework is to establish and grow this team culture. Without it to lean on, other frameworks simply won’t be as successful.

To continuously and successfully execute, you need strong frameworks to lean on and iterate against year over year.

Define your ideal account executive profile and use that when interviewing potential reps.

When we interview someone to become an account executive at Databricks, part of that process is going through a mock sales call or meeting. People on the candidate’s interview panel receive a detailed scorecard from our team, with specific characteristics they’re in charge of understanding and observing during the interview. They give a rating from 1 to 5 and multiply that by the weighting we’ve set prior, and provide a total score output. This score is then taken and compared to top performers already in our sales organization.

Running our interviews and hiring process this way helps us elevate the talent we bring on to the team, and it’s something we’re always reevaluating depending on the industry we’re in and the needs of our customers and our team.

“here’s always a ‘what’ behind an internal process change, but if you’re not effectively communicating the ‘why,’ your team won’t get behind you. Explaining the ‘why’ and how a change ties back to your values and company mission will make that change management process much easier.

When we get those new team members on board, we have an ideal AE profile and time allocation plan for them to aim for. These are both things we constantly refresh, too, about twice a year or every six months. Depending on your business and target market, you might find yourself needing to adjust how often you want reps on calls with partners vs. customers or what you want their conversion rate to be—especially as you scale and grow your team and company.

Set and maintain a quarterly cadence for success across all teams and team members.

At Databricks, we have a defined cadence for success that draws a line straight from leadership to each sales rep and committed deal.

At the leadership level, we’re focused on overall performance and the direction we want to take the company as a whole. We want to understand our pipeline, top performers, close rates, and so on. From there, we hold quarterly meetings, QBRs, to focus on enablement and training for our account executives. This leads to enablement in all hands calls and weekly forecast meetings at a team level.

Understanding your pipeline coverage ratio, what you need to hit your targets, and what your close rates are against that pipeline amount are fundamental to the success of your department. We inspect our pipeline ratios every single week.

At the individual level, we run territory reviews every quarter—this involves a gap-to-goal analysis and either develop a plan to fill the gap if one is identified or set a stretch goal if someone is over their current target. For every deal that’s been committed by an account executive, we run a deal review on how things went and suggestions for improvement. This process is all templatized and clear to everyone in the organization and never comes as a surprise. We review this process four times a year to ensure it’s helpful and relevant for our sales organization as we continue to grow and perform.

Celebrate your victories with the whole company, not just your sales team.

When an opportunity closes, there’s a tendency to celebrate the sales rep involved. But closed-won business is a team effort, not only across the sales organization but across the entire company.

When we celebrate victories and wins at Databricks, we celebrate with everyone. We have a Slack channel dedicated to mid-market commercial wins. If someone contributed to the deal in some way—whether through writing the blog post that brought the customer in the door, or the contracts team that helped with that administrative paperwork—we celebrate them, every single one of them. This reinforces that team camaraderie and culture we’re laser-focused on, and it’s probably the most active Slack channel we have in terms of emoji reactions.

We need to have tremendous alignment and teamwork across customer success, field engineering, and sales teams. We look for challenges together so we can solve them as a team.

Key takeaways

A high growth, high-performing sales team’s success rests on strong frameworks. Company values and culture are your guiding star. From there, your team has something to rally around so they can develop and iterate their processes and skills together. Plus, if those processes are easily repeatable, with clarity and structure, you’ll be in the fast lane for success.

You can listen to the full talk with Heather Akuiyibo or subscribe to weekly updates from SaaStr.

Published on January 12, 2022

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