Sales Transformation


A well-funded software startup was struggling to gain sales momentum in a market dominated by more mature competitive products. Prospects saw the company's implementation costs as prohibitively high and contributing little to the perceived value of the solution. To meet their aggressive sales targets, the total cost of the solution needed to be lower, more predictable, and easier to quantify and communicate.


The company's software solution was large and complex, and due to the sales associates' lack of understanding of the entire solution, they regularly underestimated the cost and duration of the implementation services projects. Many core components of the solution had not yet been built, but were nonetheless actively marketed and sold. These features needed to be developed and later configured by the implementation services team before new customers could begin to see value. The sales team did not have a good understanding of the complexities of the development process, which led to misalignment of customer product expectations, and also to frequently missed deadlines. Potential differentiating capabilities were often discovered during the sales process, but there was no formalized process for quantifying the value of these capabilities, or for prioritizing them in the software development backlog.


The company's early customers were unhappy with the incomplete solution and with the cost and frequency of change orders. This made it very difficult to secure referral business, and nearly impossible to sell add-on products or secure renewals at the end of the initial contract. The implementation team was viewed by the company and its customers as an unexpected cost, for which no measurable value was recognized. The sales team was compensated only for the initial sale regardless of the costs of delivery, which compounded the problem and made it more difficult to address. Since there was no process to quantify the financial impact of new capabilities, potential game-changing improvements were seldom developed, and those that were were not actively sold to the customers who requested them.


Since it was clear that the lack of communication between the sales and implementation teams led to easily quantifiable negative impact on the bottom line and on customer satisfaction, I worked to address this problem first, by establishing an end-to-end accountability chain. This required the creation of two key artifacts. First, the sales staff began to document customer requirements in a standardized format as they were discussed. This not only led to more accurate delivery, but also made it easier to understand and communicate the value of the different modules that worked together to provide a comprehensive solution, leading to higher average software sales. Second, the implementation team established a list of common costs and development times associated with each module, making it easier to provide ballpark estimates that could be tuned in later, once more information could be gathered from subject matter experts who were rarely involved early in the sales process.

The product gaps were more challenging to measure, but represented a significant amount of potential business. Freshly armed with new processes for capturing key information during the sales process, I added fields for missing features and their estimated impact on the sale. After a few short months we began to meet with the product design team and provide solid revenue justifications for new feature requests.


By taking these steps, the company was able to streamline its sales and implementation processes, lower its costs, and improve customer satisfaction. Standardized implementation rates led to faster quote times early in the sales process, and to more predictable implementation costs overall. It also established a benchmark for each type of implementation, and encouraged technicians to document and continuously refine their processes, resulting in lower implementation cost and fewer change orders. Product development efforts were focused on tangible, measurable outcomes that had the highest impact on the ability to sell new software. Once software was successfully delivered, it created opportunities to reclaim lost opportunities with much shorter sales cycles, since those customers were already familiar with the product and understood the value the new features provided.

The sales and implementation transformation was an immediate success, improving the company's ability to compete with the most mature competitors in the market on the aspects that were most important to its customers. Customer satisfaction was increased significantly, as unexpected costs and delays were removed from the implementation process and better outcomes led to a huge increase in referrals and stronger brand reputation.