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Your sales department is vital to your bottom line and long-term growth. While keeping your salespeople motivated is a constant flywheel, deciding what compensation package to offer them can prove to be a delicate balancing act. 

Small business owners and founders should examine and refine compensation paradigms for their sales teams, going into 2023 so that everyone wins and can prepare for the upcoming year.

In this post, I hope to tackle these questions and hope it will give you some insight to help you make your own decisions on a few of the most common compensation models

Option 1: Salary Only

It’s interesting to note that nearly every other part of a business, a salaried wage is commonplace, but for sales teams\ are not paid using this structure most of the time.  Just like your other employees, under a salaried structure, you decide how much you pay your sales team members and the basis thereof. Regardless of how little or how much they sell, their direct deposit is the same amount each month. The implicit understanding is that if they don’t meet their new business revenue targets, they’re likely not going to be employed for very long

This structure is uncommon for most sales teams. Because the current thinking is that without a commission, your sales reps are typically less motivated to go beyond where you’d like them to go. Typically, when they hit their target with this structure they usually go into a mode of relaxation, instead of driving full speed to the next deal.

Say, you worked in HR as a senior manager and someone on your team is NOT executing to their highest potential, you would likely choose to review the barriers to performance, and then if they were unable to remediate their performance, you’d terminate their employment. By the same token, it would be the same for sales teams using this compensation method. If they don’t perform, they remediate, or they’re out. In this way your sales team is treated like all other employees in your organization.

Option 2: Salary Plus Commission

This compensation structure is the most common found in organizations today. Under this framework each sales team member receives a set base salary (usually a range based on experience) and commissions based on their sales performance. Using this compensation structure offers the advantage of stability while motivating them to maximize their performance.

The base payment provides a steady income that enables team members to focus on mid to long-term objectives instead of seeking short-term abnormal behaviors. Depending on the stage of their lives, this base salary will likely cover most, if not all, of their basic living expenses and the commissions will provide them additional “lifestyle” enhancements.

For veteran salespeople who may have families and mouths to feed, or while introducing a new technology or company into the market (sometimes called “pioneering”), a base salary will support them in getting your message out to the market.

For the business owner, providing a base salary plus commission will result in increased sales operations and customer acquisition costs alongside cash constraints. (This includes items such as payroll taxes and benefits expenses relating to the salary).

Option 3: Commission-Only

This is a compensation plan where a business pays salespeople commission only on what they sell.  There is no base salary, so this is truly an “‘eat what you kill” sales environment. Many believe that this plan is ideal to motivate salespeople to work harder to find deals, sell more effectively and convert sales.

Under this model, the thinking is that salespeople who are driven by income (aren’t we all?), typically go after prospects, and possess more motivation-fueled vigor in order to convert sales because their compensation is directly connected to their activities. 

The highest performing reps find this compensation method very appealing because, when structured correctly, they have unlimited earning potential. The potential to earn high commissions is great when they know that the only way they make money is by making sales.

Thus, high performers will optimize their activities to source and capture the best and biggest deals by making those extra calls and working those longer hours. You can be certain that your sales team will go the extra mile to think Out-of-the-Box on how to make more sales because their livelihood depends on it.

In theory, this type of compensation can be the most attractive for highly motivated reps because it offers several benefits that should directly appeal to them.

  • The adrenaline rush that every sale gives them, knowing it is tied to income.
  • Large commission payouts signal to the rest of the team that you pay for performance
  • If a Salesperson is extremely talented, he knows that he’ll be earning more than his peers who also make a salary. The more sales they make, the more they will earn compared to their less motivated peers.

However, this compensation method could also present great challenges for both organizations and reps.

Unpredictable Expenses for a Business

If your business provides payment terms to your customers, then your compensation model should be aligned with your billing practices. There will be an imbalance in net income and compensation if the business pays commissions to their salespeople immediately after the sales but does not receive payment for them for some time afterwards. Some Salespeople could also worry about the erratic nature of such a compensation plan.

Income Fluctuation for Salespeople

A straight commission plan lends itself to the possibility of dramatic monthly swings in income, resulting in earning fluctuations. Depending on the market they serve, salespeople might experience sizable changes. These kinds of variations could make accounting and budgeting for the future more challenging. This would cause instability in the personal life of your salespeople. In order to successfully plan for the volatility of their income and address these variations, employees must talk with a financial professional such as an accountant about how to manage their finances.

Nonaligned sales practices

With straight commission compensation plans, lies the possibility that salespeople can become overly aggressive in their pursuit of new business. These pursuits may run counter to your corporate culture or values. So while this approach might boost sales in the short term, it might also drive off customers who are taken aback and offended by these increased efforts.


Sales development can take some time. Building a sales pipeline is work. And the work takes time.  Only customers who resolutely trust their salespeople will make a purchase, and developing that trust takes effort. As a result, many sales professionals are unable to accept a position with a straight commission structure, because even though the earning potential is limitless, they urgently need cash for necessities.

Exogenous market forces may cause even your highest performers to hit a performance slump for a quarter or two and/or extend your sales cycle (remember the first few quarters of the COVID pandemic?).  If such events occur, then these team members may start looking around for someplace else to hang their hat, as a result, as the business owner, you must provide systems that keep performance and morale high during such events and periods

If you choose a commission only compensation model (and there are plenty of industries who do so), then you, as the business owner or sales leader, need to be prepared to provide extensive support, material, and training to maintain peak performance.

You’ll also need to get better at attracting and recruiting team members for this environment’s compensation model.  As such you can easily fall into the “grey-haired” experience trap 

For enterprises whose growth driver is sales lead (SLG), the advantage of this compensation structure is that you only pay for sales that have been converted. In this way, most of the time you do not incur compensation costs unless you capture sales revenue. While the actual commission rates can be substantial (40 to 50% of first year billing) business owners and sales leaders can control their labor costs more effectively and ensure that their selling efficiency is maximized by the commission structure.

However, raising the bar for each level of sales goals provides extra motivation. Reaching the level is an added challenge and as we all know, salespeople love a challenge, especially when it brings them more earnings. 


Create a pay structure that rewards account growth by ensuring that the compensation plan is clear and detailed.

Gartner Research
Option 4: Tiered Commission

Below is an example of a tiered commission structure. In this example, your sales reps would earn a rate of 10% for every deal they make until a 75,000 target is reached. Once that is reached, their commission rate would jump to 12% until they reach 125K in sales and so forth.

TargetCommission Rate
$200,001 +18%

Advantages of this structure to reach your business goals encourages your sales team to drive forward in closing more deals even after reaching their targets.

This structure has the added incentive of having an uncapped earnings potential for sales revenues in excess of $200,000. 

Some of the downsides of this structure are:

  • Payroll will fluctuate as your sales team advances beyond their quotas.
  • This structure may not relate to the actual effort that your team member actualized on the transaction – they may have been referred in late and just “closed” it out
  • Sales agents will do their best to “game” their compensation based upon the structure, this is especially true as you approach a quarter or year end.

NO matter the compensation method you choose (and trust us there are many more) it’s critical that businesses are prepared to meet their compensation obligations. I’ve met many business owners who’ve told me that they’re more than happy to write big checks to salespeople, but when the time comes, their CFO finds a way to cut the number somewhere below the salesperson’s expectation. 

This is the single fastest way to lose your entire sales team.  So, when you create a compensation plan, ensure that your business can meet the financial requirements.

In this regard, if you don’t know if you can afford a compensation structure, then I recommend you grab time with your finance leader and model out how any compensation plan has an impact on the business… You’ll likely discover something about your current and proposed Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC for short), that creates more insightful questions.


 In this post I’ve covered some of the most popular sales compensation packages used by businesses to compensate their sales teams as well as some advantages and disadvantages.

There are other structures that we will cover in future posts.

Regardless of the method you’ve chosen, you need to ensure that the compensation plan fits your long-term objectives.

From what I’ve seen work well over the past few years, operating sales teams for small businesses in a variety of verticals, the best way for an established business to start is with an optimal base salary plus commission structure with accelerators and refinement as needed. 

For Emerging Technology companies or those breaking into a new industry/geography/focus, I prefer the tiered commission approach as it recognizes that there will be some periods where you’ll be pioneering the market and then as penetration improves, you’ll reward high performers with increasing levels of uncapped variable compensation.

Which one is best for you?  The answer to that burning question depends on a number of factors, some of which we have gone over here and others you need to decide for yourself. I hope this post can inch you closer to deciding on which to use for your business.

Dear Prospect

During this crisis I will continue to serve my prospects by calling them.

I am calling you… because your livelihood depends on it


I will not

I believe that
I can help you.

I believe that
my company can serve you.

I know
you’ve got problems and pains in your current operations.

But I’m not blind or deaf, I know what’s going on.

I know
people are scared.

I know your
team is trying to figure things out.

I know that it’s not business as usual.

But I will
not stop.

I will not
stop calling you.

I will not
stop emailing you.

I will not stop attempting to connect with you.

we’ve still got to do the work

Because when we get through this global incident, and we go back to our places of business will see that our real, longer-term problems still exist.

And that nothing
has changed, accept the passage of time.

probably also learned how to balance our family and work lives a bit better.

But in the
long term, we’ve still got to do the work.

We still need to make widgets, we still need to grow and process food, we still need services that make our lives more effective and easier.

because I still believe in the human spirit

So here’s
what I will do:

  1. I will be respectful of your time.
  2. I will tell you how I can help you alleviate, mitigate or improve your current situation.
  3. I will be a human and ask about you, your families and your colleagues with genuine interest.
  4. And I will ask for a meeting, even if that meeting is in a few weeks or months

So when we
eventually speak, all I ask is:

  1. Please be courteous.
  2. Please be honest.

And if I can’t help you, then I’d be happy to find someone who can or leave you to your own business.

because nothing can resist a human will

But I will
not Stop.

Because our economy and way of life depends on it.

Thank you

Where have all the Sales Leaders Gone?

3 Crucial roles you need from your Sales Leaders even if you don’t have one.

Put me in Coach. Coach, where are you?

Over the last several weeks, I’ve held discussions with founders, CMOs and business operators about enhancing their revenue operations teams and one thing has struck me as very odd.  There is no real sales leadership resident to the current business. 

I mean none: no managers, no trainers, no recruiters, no leaders.

Now to be fair, in many of these organizations, there are less than twenty team members and thus the CEO or COO acts the revenue and sales leader.  Unfortunately, these CEOs and COOs appear to be delegating crucial sales management and leadership roles like recruiting, training, and retention to others in the organization who have little or no experience in any of these tasks.

As a result, the sales leader (ie. CEO, Founder, CMO, COO etc.) never really get the performance that they’re seeking from their sales team and they’re routinely disappointed. And welcome to churnsville… insert salesperson 1, 2 and 3 out comes sales person 1, 2 and 3….

So you might be asking yourself: why are they acting as the sales leader in the first place?

It seems that in Startup land and other smaller organizations that the hiring of sales leadership is considered a luxury.  So instead we get sales leaders who are either inexperienced and learning on the job or those that are filling the role of player-coaches.

For small businesses and start-ups sales leadership is treated as a luxury so there is no sales leadership

What’s a Player-Coach?

Let me explain.

Up until the “modern era” of most professional sports, it was common for there to be one seasoned or more experienced player who was near the end of their career to be on the team as an active player that would also act as an assistant or full coach.  For example, the most recent player-coach on a professional team occurred when the Chicago Cubs signed Manny Ramirez, a hall of fame player, to their Triple-A affiliate in Iowa to both play and mentor some of the “big club’s” younger players – a la Kevin Costner’s “Crash Davis” in the 1988 classic Bull Durham.  While in Iowa, Manny got the chance to continue to play baseball as his passion and also help out the Cubs organization.

Sounds like a great idea, no?  You get an All-Star caliber player who’ll help some of the younger experienced members of your team, put some numbers on the board – and all for a price that’s usually below the cost of both (a coach and a leader).

Let’s examine what’s happened to the player-coach role in professional sports over the last generation. 

The last player-coach in professional sports before Manny was Craig Berube who served as a player-coach for the AHL Philadelphia Phantoms in the 2003-04 season. And before Craig, Pete Rose worked as a player-coach for his hometown Cincinnati Reds from 1984 to 1986.  So Craig was 10 years before Manny and almost 20 years after Pete.  BTW, the last reported NFL player-coach was when Dan Reeves suited up for the Dallas Cowboys in the late 1960s.

In professional sports the role of the coach has become so extensive and all-encompassing that coaches can no longer play the game and keep coaching at the highest level. Craig Berube understood this and that’s the main reason he quit playing midway through the 2004 AHL season so that he could focus on being behind be bench instead of on the ice. 

Sean McVay, the Head Coach of the Los Angeles Rams was just shy of 31 years of age when he lead his team to Superbowl 53 this past February. While he might have been the youngest coach to do so, there is plenty of precedent for the venerable NFL hiring coaches that are just a few years older than many of their players. In fact, John Gruden, Bill Cowher, Don Shula, Al Davis, John Madden, Mike Tomlin and many others all started their head coaching careers in their early 30s.

To date, there are no more player-coaches in professional sports.

Revenue Operations needs Sales Leaders

While leadership is needed throughout your revenue operations team, it’s most appropriate for the sales operations team. 

In order for sales leaders to be most effective and operating a high velocity sales attack they should not be selling to prospects or managing accounts, they should be teaching and training others to do so.

If you’re asking your senior sales professionals to “help out” or “mentor” the younger professionals then you’re doing both groups a disservice.

What you need is a professional sales leader.

As goes the leader, so goes the sales organization

Mike Weinberg, Sales Management Simplified

But you’ll tell me that your small business or start-up can’t afford one.

The good news is that you can rent sales leadership. 

There are plenty of experienced sales leadership professionals who are prepared to act as consultants and coaches to your team.  They’ll charge you a modest retainer or fee to gain access to their experience and skils, run events and keep your team accountable to their mission.  They might even have organizations that focus on helping sales teams grow and become exceptional (for example Jeb Blount runs and Grant Cardone runs

Three Crucial Roles for your Sales Leader

Just so that you know what to expect from you sales leader, here’s the 3 crucial tasks of Sales Leadership:


For a variety of reasons, sales personnel are constantly changing roles;  a sales leader needs to understand the nature of the talent market at all times.  By having an active and robust candidate pipeline, the sales leader is going to have clarity on the market for sales talent.  If you’re handing this task off to HR or anyone else, then you’re likely not going to achieve the results you’re seeking from the team members you receive.

Culture & Accountability

The sales leader is the primary influencer in the creation and maintenance of the culture of the sales team.  This starts with setting objectives for activities, outcomes and behaviours and continues with recruiting the right people into the right positions.    In addition, sales leaders will make their team accountable for their results through the use of team and individual coaching.


Through one-to-one and team meetings, sales leaders should be interacting with ales team members almost daily.  These weekly or bi-weekly meetings should focus on reviewing activities, results and challenges that your team and members face with the intention of creating incremental improvements. 

General team meetings should focus on learning about elements of the sales process, market and product and celebrating all victories (large and small). Individual meetings should focus on removing obstacles to growth, encouraging hearts and, sometimes, providing the team member with a good nudge.  

The result of this coaching is incremental growth that’s both immediate and extensive.  As in sailing, a small course corrections can be as effective as full breakdown and analysis of an impending opportunity or process. 

If a sales leader is not coaching their team every day, then they’re quickly sliding off into irrelevance.  And the market will punish irrelevance with stagnant results.

Channel your Inner Sales Leader

So if your small organization is not ready to rent or hire a sales leader, are you doomed?  No, sales leaders are not born, they’re made. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways that you, your CEO, Founder or another leader can take over this role, but to truly drive revenues to new heights, they’ll need to dedicate sales leadership as their primary responsibility, and they’ll have to read and study a lot. 

To this end, I’ve got a number of great resources in the books section of my site that I’m constantly updating here.

Lead Generation is NOT Demand Generation

These are the Glengarry Leads… and they’re for Closers

A few weeks ago I wrote my thoughts about Demand Generation in detail (you can find the posting here).  In this post, I’m going to do the same for Lead Generation. 

As I feel that the two are often confused with each other, I’m hoping that you’ll read both posts together and you’ll then have a clear understanding of the differences between these two important marketing strategies.

Why Lead Generation?

It’s seems obvious to most people, but every business needs revenue to survive and meet their long-term vision and objectives.  In order to obtain these revenues, the business needs to find clients that are going to pay for their offerings.  What’s not so obvious is how you convert the general public into paying clients.  That’s the primary purpose of Lead Generation; to find potential customers (let’s call them leads) who have problems that can be fixed by your offerings and will pay you for the privilege of doing so.

Lead generation is more than just finding the names and contact details of leads.  Good lead generation programs increase the winning percentage of your sales team. Good lead generating marketers know how to communicate with your target market (medium) and know what to say (message) at the right time (timing).

Good lead generation programs increase the winning percentage of your sales team.

If done properly, lead generation activities guide the behavior of the lead through the marketing journey and increase or heighten awareness or pain of their problem.  So lead generation techniques have the ability to drive actual behavior towards the eventual sale.  Lead generation marketing activities can be directly tied towards revenue

Over the last decade, lead scoring is a process that has been used by marketers as the primary method to determine when the lead is “in the buying window” (thank you Jeb Blount).  Traditional lead scoring defines the value for each content piece consumed or viewed by the lead and the timing of each interaction (time between review of each content piece and types of content).  The lead is assigned weighted score according to each these parameters.  In theory, the higher the lead score, the more interest in the offering by the lead.  When a threshold is added to the process, marketing then knows when to hand off the lead to sales operations or sales development for contact and further qualification.

Well thought out lead generation systems create scores of qualified ready buyers for the sales team to grab and build the commitments to buy the solution.  And there is nothing that says product-market fit more than a customer who will actually pay for your offering.

Results of Lead Generation Activities

If done properly, your lead generation activities provide your marketing operations team the following outcomes:

  1. Direct link between marketing and revenues – This is the holy grail for CEOs and CMOs.  If set campaigns are set up properly then direct tracking of lead activity from initial acquisition to a closed won deal helps focus the marketing efforts on activities that are most effective and can provide marketers with additional ammunition to build increasingly effective campaigns.
  2. Accelerated path to revenues with a developing sales team– By providing sales operations with well qualified leads (sometimes called Sales Qualified Leads or SQLs) instead of just Marketing Qualified Leads (called MQLs), sales operations doesn’t need to have the best or most experienced players on its development or account team.  This is especially welcome for organizations that are just developing their market and sales operations systems or rebuilding a new group of team players.
  3. Evidence ofIdeal Client Profile – If you’re like most marketers, the ideal client for your solution is evolving alongside the market.  The best evidence that you’re marketing and selling to the right persona is when money is exchanged for an offering.  When lead generation is done well and delivers leads that convert to revenue, then your marketing operations are easily validated.
  4. Confirmation of medium and message – One of the hardest parts of building an effective lead generation program is to recognize those messages and communication mediums that resonate and convert to revenues.  Most marketing leaders start with either an omni-channel or bi-channel approach and iterate until they attain some level of acceptable results.  Because lead generation is directly linked to revenue, with proper tracking, marketing leaders will clearly understand which messages and media resonate with their leads over time.

Types of Lead Generation Activities

For most organizations, most marketing-led lead generation activities are content focused and, as such, can be closely aligned with content management activities similar to demand generation (hence the confusion between the two). 

However, the tone and tenor of your lead generation content will be materially different than that provided for demand generation purposes because it’s focus is not only on capturing your leads’ contact information but also to gauge the intensity and veracity of their interest.

Some of the tools and assets used for lead generation include:

  1. Landing pages – quasi web pages that are focused on capturing lead contact data usually with the promise to delivering some content or value (see Core Content below)
  2. Infographics– these are images that usually denote how an offering helps solve problems in simple visual graphic.
  3. Blog posts – Blog content allows you to position your organization as an industry thought leader or at least empathetic to your lead’s challenges.  Your content should be placed on your own website but is generally more powerful when it’s found on other sites.
  4. Paid Media – Cost per click advertising can help you zero in on keywords and phrases sought by your leads in a variety of media.  It can also be an effective way to circumvent your competition by bidding for search items relating to their offerings.
  5. Advertorials – using a news-style format that addresses specific challenges faced by like-minded prospects and clients can build credibility and trust if placed in the right media.
  6. Core Content – this includes all types of content that your lead might find of interest about your market, common market challenges and how your offering might help solve their problems.  These core content pieces could be in the form of e-books, case studies, third-party reports (think Gartner or IHS) or product reviews (think Capterra).
  7. Email – Email is still the main direct response marketing system that works.  A well crafted email marketing campaign with appropriate automation will not only test your message, it will also get leads to self-select their buying intent as they only have to hit “reply”.
  8. Events – Online or In-person events can generate both demand and leads for your offering and brand.  Organizations must be careful in using this medium as the events can themselves be very time and resource intensive, but when used properly in an organized and orchestrated campaign, are a great focal point for the marketing team’s efforts.
  9. Chatbots – there is an increasing use of real-time or delayed chatbots on sites that address specific questions or concerns from leads.  They create lead data through the use of tracking pixels, cookies and lead capture fields

Tradeshows and speaking engagements are great for demand generation, not lead generation

You’ll notice that I don’t have trade shows or speaking engagements on this list.  That’s because I don’t believe that either of these activities will generate actionable leads for sales operations.  I believe that both are great demand generation activities and if used properly can augment existing lead generation and qualification activities.  I’ll write more on speaking engagements and trade shows in another post in the future.

How to Start Your Lead Generation Campaign

Though I’m not trying to sound like a broken record, your lead generation campaign (much like your demand generation campaign) starts with an understanding of your Sales Story including:

  1. A heading or introduction which briefly describes what you do
  2. A description of your Ideal Client Profile that relates to your activities
  3. A description of the problems you solve and pain you make disappear
  4. A description of your offerings points of difference vs your competitors and market

The Medium is the Message

Once you’ve got the content for your messaging you then need to choose the medium through which you intend to communication.  I recommend allocating your content into two bucket: Core content and Tactical content.  Core content is focused on building long term engagement and can also act to build demand generation activities. Tactical content is focused on testing messaging and media to specific target personas.  This dual approach allows you to build a long term following and test personas to increase your following.

Use an Expert

You must assign someone on your team to complete these tasks and they need to have prior skills in their functional area.  We’ve all seen infographics that are just way too busy to drive the point home or with a clear call to action and marketing emails that are either too long, too unfocused or to much me, me, me.  If you’re really focused on lead generation then you should spend a few extra bucks and hire someone who’s been there and done that before, successfully.

Review and Realign

Have a plan to review each of your lead generation campaigns while the campaign is running and after it’s run its first course.  Focus on what has worked and what hasn’t and work with your team to create a best practices guideline so as to ensure that you can replicate or redact for the next campaign.  If you don’t embed these review periods during your campaign, you’ll likely never take the time do to this.  I generally run 8 week macrocycles with 2 3 week microcycles and a 1 week mid-campaign review and a 1-week post campaign review (perhaps I’ll save this for another post another time).

Build a Fan base

Your leads may not be in the buying window today, but will likely be at some point the in future.  So think of your lead generation activities as prospect journeys that will develop fans in your organization and offering according to your Ideal Client Personas.  This is a not a touchy-feely exercise, each part of the journey should be measured for engagement (as you define it) and used as part of your review.  By definition, your lead generation activities can be measured in actual sales (which is good) , those leads who don’t convert into short term revenue can be turned into fans that recommend you to their own networks (which is also good) so long as your messaging and media are geared towards building a fan base.

Define Engagement

Engagement with your leads is, initially, arbitrarily determined by some random bright line.  Over time, though, your engagement criteria will increase in precision as you can determine which lead behavior is most indicative of actual revenue results.  One of the keys to increase this precision is to have both a clear line of site to transactions and, more importantly, why and how those transactions were completed.

Concluding Thoughts

Lead generation is the oxygen of any organization.  As such, marketing operations plays a key role in building messages and using media that will connect with interested parties and generate leads that convert to revenues. 

In order for marketing to deliver the Glengarry leads, sales leaders need to be actively engaged in a dialogue with marketing leaders about the nature of the market and how to find the best leads.  When marketing and sales work together on lead generation, revenue is not far behind.

Demand Generation is NOT Lead Generation

Demand Generation is a key part of Market Strategy

The terms Demand Generation and Lead Generation are often used interchangeably by B2B marketers. The difference between these two can seem murky, but generally, it is actually as simple as the terms themselves.

As the name implies, Lead Generation is used to accumulate information regarding potential clients that can be converted to sales leads. Demand Generation, on the other hand, refers to a marketing operation that aims to create an interest in or demand for your products and organization using the law of attraction.

It’s likely that the confusion between the two terms resides in the fact that both use content assets as the core offering to achieve their objectives. This purpose of this post is to describe more of my thoughts on the nature of Demand Generation, a subsequent article on Lead Generation will follow.

Purpose: Start with Why

With respect to Simon Sinek’s famous TED talk, , Demand Generation concentrates on communicating your organization’s message to the market with the intention of then attracting those individuals that are beneficial to achieving your desired message.  Demand Generation is about building an audience that will follow you and your organization.  If you’ve got a successful Demand Generation program you’ll be able to achieve the following:

•    Create a market awareness of your presence and vision and values. You communicate to your target audience who you are and what you can do for them.

•    Create a position as a thought leader. By providing quality and valuable content to the audience, you will be seen as an expert in your prospect’s challenges and unique circumstances.

•    Attract investors, staff, and clients to you because you’ve shown the industry why they can trust and rely on you.

•   Educating and defining your value proposition. In new “blue oceans”, you may need to define and educate your market on the severity of the challenges or potentiality of the solutions. 

•    Position yourself as the leading brand in your market.  Using the techniques from Demand Generation you easily acquire the trust of your target audience ensuring that your brand and company are top of mind.

Use the Law of Attraction

Demand Generation activities and techniques build your audience of prospective customers, investors and team members.

A more prominent market presence will lead to greater possibilities for you and your organization through the law of attraction.  Not only will your prospects and clients get to know and understand your values, they’ll also appreciate how you differentiate yourself from your competition. 

Expected Outcomes From Demand Generation

Demand Generation is all about building organic growth that creates medium and long-term results.  Organic growth is the source for sustainable or recurring revenue and a loyal client base that not only provides for scalable product-market fit it creates product fans and opportunities for additional revenue channels with the same audience.

Great products can build great organic growth which can build brand awareness. Demand Generation is about building brand awareness through story-telling.  Thus Demand Generation and Product Design are two partners to achieve organic growth.  So in order to accelerate the organic growth, a great product needs a great story.  Content created for this purpose (ie. To support the product and organization) creates lasting impression and allows prospects to discover your product.

Demand Generation creates Organic Growth

By using Demand Generation activities, Investors and key hires will get to know your organization and as a result, when you’re ready for the next “acquisition”, the ease through which you’ll be able to grab their attention will be significantly easier.  Because of your Demand Generation efforts, building a team of “A” players or investors will take less time and efforts.

Typical Demand Generation Activities

The development and publication of content is one of the key activities related to Demand Generation.  The type of content that can be used for Demand Generation includes any and all of the following:

•    Podcasts – We’re all busy people, but with a microcomputer in our pocket, we can all take 15 or 20 minutes to listening to an inspiring idea or intriguing interview. Building a Podcast on your topic allow you to network and grow beyond your current network and adds value to you, your peers, customers and prospects.

•    Whitepapers – Lengthy papers that provide insight, data and practical instruction, knowledge, guidelines can position or reinforce you position as to go-to leader in your industry.  The key is to ensure that these documents are about the content and not yourself or your organization.

•    Blog posts – on and off-site – The blog post is one of the common ways to share knowledge with your target audience and in turn, establish a reputation as an expert in your industry. Aside from including blog posts on your website, you can increase your reach by submitting articles to other sites.

•    Press releases and media – Media Relations is all about getting your audience to know about you and your organization’s offerings in a broader context.  Issue formal press releases when you’ve got something big to talk about and make sure your media contacts know about this “news” in advance.

•    Advertorials – Find and publish content on publications where your target market visits. Don’t know where to start?  Ask your current clients and prospects using a simple survey or interview.

•    Video blogs – According to Wordstream, YouTube has billion of users. 82 percent of those that use twitter watches videos, 1/3 of online activity is generally spent on watching videos, you will not only widen your reach and boost business awareness. It can also help in yielding higher ROI and profit. 

•    Tradeshow talks – Make presentations on leading topics at tradeshows where your prospects attend.  As a result, you’ll increase your visibility and awareness of your brand offline and position yourself as an industry thought leader.

•    Academic papers – Offer to assist academics use your technology in their research and ensure that you publish the results in your media channels.

•    Case studies – People most likely want proof. Through case studies, you are providing them with proven content.

Note that the key to success somehow relies on the quality of the content. No matter how many Demand Generation activities you execute, if you do it half-heartedly, there’s a lesser chance of success.

Get Started on Your Demand Generation Program

Starting a Demand Generation program can be a bit daunting, so here’s some ideas on where to start:

  1. Identify your organization’s core values and how they’re transformed into market offerings
  2. Build a story as to how you want your audience to understand both these values and offerings
  3. Start telling your story using the various activities (For now, I personally choose written and video blogs posted to several sites).
  4. Increase the volume of activities and communication channels as you have time and resources.

Lastly, as Brian Tracy has famously said, Eat the Frog First.  If you start doing the hard things at the beginning of your day, then the rest of the day gets much easier. A Demand Generation program and strategy will help focus your organization on its core values and the translation of these values into offerings that will pay medium and long-term dividends to your Revenue outcomes.

While content management planning is a key element of the successful outcome from a Demand Generation strategy, execution is as equally important… it’s best to just start with one or two activities (described above) and then grow your outreach over time.  You can do it so just get to it!

Due Diligence For Sales Operations: 4 Areas of Focus

VC and PE Due Diligence is about more than the numbers

As an Angel, VC and Private Equity investor, I’ve conducted due diligence (DD) on over 100 + companies and given my skills I always examined the Sales Operations group as closely as the Financial Controls group. So why is it that almost every VC or Private Equity investor examines all facets of their target businesses with a microscope except for the sales function?

This is the full version of my thoughts.  A much shorter version of this article can be found on our LinkedIn page here

Due Diligence and Sales Operations

As part of Revenue Operations, the sales operation team is a key component in the future success of an organization.  When the sales engine is tuned up and performing well, profitable revenue is almost guaranteed.  However, during the initial due diligence process, the proficiency of the sales organization to drive future sales and the accuracy of sales projections are rarely, if at all, challenged or analyzed thoroughly.

In my due diligence work, the absence of a sales process is evident in almost every small to medium sized founder-based enterprise. These founders didn’t intentionally set out to ignore sales, they’re just so busy working IN the business, theyv’e forgotten or never really worked ON the business.  So with no metrics to guide them, there is limited accountability and a narrow or partial vision of future sales.

Dig Deep into the Data

Utilizing a metric-driven approach to a company’s entire sales operations is essential for Revenue Leaders and Investors. This part of the Revenue Operations strategy will provide the owners and investors with a complete and more accurate view of the business’ revenue-generating capabilities.  

According to the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney, Sean Covey, and Jim Huling, the authors discuss the difference between lag measures and lead measures, both of which are important metrics that are used in sales. The authors define a lag measure “is the measurement of a result you are trying to achieve”; while a lead measure “foretells the result.”  I find that many of today’s lag metrics are really just vanity metrics that have been used by teams forever. 

Don’t be Fooled by Vanity Metrics: Due Diligence is about finding drivers and leaders of revenue

An effective due diligence process needs to find the leading measures that drive performance. When executing due diligence on sales operations both lag and lead measures should be considered in the analysis. The data that comes mostly from lag measures, like the past financial performance of the company should be complemented by an analysis of the sales process that may reveal critical lead measures that are more indicative of future revenue performance. 

For example, in markets with complex sales, the sales team can’t generally control sales revenue volumes as these results or outcomes require decisions made outside of their span of control control; instead, the sales team can control their level and volume of inbound and outbound contact activities with prospective customers.  So while lag measures such as sales revenues are easily available during due diligence, leads measures such as sales activity levels are less so.

You may not know the leading indicators that drive revenues but you can find them in the data

DD Focused on 4 Areas

There are four elements of sales operations that are collectively critical factors in a company’s success. These four elements should undergo an in-depth analysis and benchmarked against other top sales organizations. These are infrastructure, organization, process, and support (collectively I call these the sales system).

1. Infrastructure

All highly-productive sales organizations should have a solid infrastructure in place. With the right infrastructure in place, your sales team can focus on the activities that will drive revenues.  In addition, with the tools and process from the infrastructure, your team will be able to execute faster with prospects.  The sales team will only reach its maximum potential and achieve consistent results if they have the infrastructure to support them.

A good sales infrastructure should include documented policies, procedures and activities related to sales performance, compensation, pipeline review, marketing collateral, payment policies and market/competitive review.  Not every sales team uses advanced technologies like local presence dialing or AI, but most, if not all, should have some core tools like CRM that are available to all team members.

2. Organization

When examining the organization you should be searching for these key elements as part of the sales culture: sales team structure, territory design, sales management, and sales personnel.

The sales team structure should be organized in such a way that will ensure maximum efficiency. The sales team structure should also be designed to look at each individual as a team member with a significant role to play, and it should be seen in the light of the rest of the organization – as an all-important cog in the machine.  This includes the sales team’s Sales Story (New Sales Simplified, Mike Weinberg) used in its messaging and methods of approaching new and existing accounts.

Territory design is not as straightforward as assigning geographical coverage to the sales team.  Apportioning territories requires an understanding of factors such as the approach to strategic accounts, competition, and expertise areas. Whatever the territory design, the main goal is always to find as much profitable business as possible.  Account-based Management has become a new “buzzword” in sales literature, but it’s just another way to discuss how accounts with multiple contact points should be managed within the organization.

Territory Design and Management is Crucial in Enterprise Sales.  Account Based Management (ABM) can help Revenue Leaders align sales teams.

An effective strategy for sales management involves setting goals for team members, providing sales support, training and monitoring the team’s results.  It also involves creating or updating the sales team culture and strategy.  Questions you should be considering include:

  • Do Account Executives (AEs) and Sales Managers have written and definable goals?  How are they held accountable?
  • How do Sales Managers interact with AEs, Sales Development (SDRs) and product specialists in aligning to the company’s vision and objectives?
  • How much time by the management team is spent “in the field” talking to customers?
  • How much time is spent on coaching, evaluating and praising team performance?
  • How are successes publicized and failures analyzed?

3. Processes

Processes that need to be evaluated include those relating to sales process, lead management, budget, customer success, and forecast management.

Building a sales process is absolutely necessary for the sales organization. Since the sales process is a set of repeatable steps, the team can easily map out each of the stages by identifying key activities at each stage. For example, at the qualifying stage, sales teams with good processes will know what information is required to determine if their prospect in is the buying window. 

A Sales Process is series of repeatable steps that helps the sales team execute the go to market strategy.

An organized and effective lead management process is designed to identify potential customers and engage them in meaningful channels and messages that resonate.  As a result, this lead management process, can ultimately contribute to more sales by creating more engaged prospect leads. A solid lead management process includes identifying and understanding needs, generating and collecting intelligence about leads, and scoring and nurturing leads.

The budget process includes all matters related to the expected volume of sales and selling expenses. A sales organization should have a certain procedure for the preparation of the sales budget. The process should include a review of past budget performance as well as the current and future factors of the marketing environment.

Customer Success is not created when a prospect gives you their credit card, signs an order form, contract or issues a purchase order.  Customer Success is created when that same customer orders again, refers you to a prospect or offers to be the subject of a case study.  This success only happens when there are documented processes that describe how the organization is going to act during the term of the relationship with that customer.  If the sales operation team doesn’t have a new and existing customer account management process, then they’re missing out on multiple revenue opportunities.

Customer Success happens when the same new prospect places another order, refers you to someone or acts as an advocate for you.  It must be built methodically and inculcated in your organization.

Lastly, good forecast management is also an essential part of sales operations.  The forecasting process allows the sales team to evaluate current market trends so that informed decisions can be made about sales operations, customer orders, delivery of goods, customer orders, budgets, and inventory.

4. Support

Support encompasses the following areas: sales operations, sales support, systems, and sales enablement. A solid support team will allow the sales team to just focus on the business of selling as they service new and existing clients.  

Some support functions include keeping track of sales targets, scheduling, monitoring customer accounts, monitoring new sales leads, and managing the correspondence between the sales force and clients.


While we’re always searching for the diamonds in the rough in our due diligence process, we’re likely to find some problem areas as well.  

Not suprisingly then, here are some of the red flags that I’ve found in a sales operation that imply a broken or non-existent sales system.

  1. When the sales team consistently does not achieve its desired outcomes.
  2. When sales projections are only upon the current book of business and do not consider historical data or activity
  3. When the sales pipeline is too optimistic (every deal is more than 70% of closing in the next 30 days)
  4. Despite an influx of qualified leads and prospects from marketing operations, the sales team does not seem to be able to scale
  5. When sales team members are operating with different platforms, messaging and processes.

Sales Operations is about Data AND People

It’s important for you to remember that Sales Operations is about People and Data working together towards a common objective.  When conducting DD, it’s easy to lose sight of this and just focus on the leading or lagging data.  

If you focus on both Data and People, you’ll likely open the door to opportunities for revenue growth or show that the current revenue projects are unlikely to materialize.  More importantly though, you’ll know WHY the these outcomes could occur.

3 Ideas to Create more Sales in less time plus a Bonus!

I’ve recently been asked to guest post for the Outfield App’s Closer’s Coffee blog so this posting is an extension of an article I posted last week.  I was recently told that this article has the second highest ranking article in the site’s history to date.  You can find that article  here.

Whether you’re a field or inside sales person managing your time is crucial to managing your success. In fact, time management is one of the key elements in addition to attitude which will have an impact on your ability to maximize your results and your enjoyment in your sales career.

This post is inspired by a book I recently completed that was authored by Jill Konrath called  “More Sales, Less Time”.  You should get a copy or listen to it on Audible.

Here’s three ideas that can help you squeeze more productivity out of your work week and create definitive long lasting results in your sales career.


In today’s crazy busy world it’s easy to be distracted from the tasks that you need to complete in order to be successful. The easiest way to remove these distractions from your life and your work life is to turn them off. That’s easier said than done, so you need to know where to start and when to start in order to be successful.

Let’s start with your smartphone. It’s easy enough to turn your phone notifications from standard to vibrate, or vibrate to silence, but what’s harder to do is to turn your phone notifications off completely. As with everything, start slowly and build to the point where you don’t need to be using your phone. The easiest way to start is to set your phone on silent during your key working hours and then take regular breaks to check your phone. Ideally, your phone should be in a drawer during your key work time blocks so you won’t be tempted to check it, but Silent mode is a good start.  If your mobile phone is your key connectivity tool where prospects can reach you then turn off all notifications except for phone calls (as other communication methods need not be checked until you have time).

On your desktop, turn off all notifications.  That’s as simple as going into your Chrome browser, reviewing the notifications panel and deleting all the notifications. This way while you’re focused on your work you won’t be distracted by those annoying notification pop-ups that that are constantly during pinging you during your work day. I mean really do you need to know at your aunt just sent you an email or Facebook message? How is that going to help you achieve your quota or move the needle I’m getting to your next bonus level?

Also on your desktop you probably have 6, 8, 9 tabs open in your browser, of which half do not relate to your being a productive in the field. Remove those tabs from your startup function in your browser so that you don’t see them and are not tempted to click on them and see get sucked down the black hole of your personal email, ESPN, the Bleacher Report, CNN or any other type of distracting site.

Okay so now your phone is on silent and the notifications on your desktop are off, so most of the distractions from your work day or gone, except one – your smartphone. It’s probably sitting right next to you when you’re sitting at your desk and it’s tempting to check it when you got a free moment, just to see what’s going on. Break yourself from this habit by using a reporting app which tells you how many times you look at your phone or how many times you open an app. I’ve been using the Space app with tremendous success. The Space App tells me how much time I’m spending on my phone how often I’ve unlocked it and I have the ability to throttle up or Throttle Down those usage as necessary.


Throughout your work and personal day there are three types of activities that we do. Those that will help us achieve our objectives, those that support our objectives and something in between. In the sales business that means there are money days (activities where we’re making money or actively trying to make money), days where we’re doing activities that support money days, and transition days which are between money days and support days.

Objectively, every day in sales should be a money day. Realistically, we can only have 60 to 70% of our time focused on money day activities as we will always need to have transition and administrative tasks days to support our ongoing money day activities. So how do we move to this place we’re 60 to 70% of our work week is focused on money day activities?

First, we make a list of what we consider to be our money day activities.  For inside and outside sales professionals, money day activities likely relate to anything that moves a Prospect forward in the sales cycle or generates Revenue or you and your company.  For an individual producer, a money day activity could include prospecting calls, pre call planning, prospect and customer meetings.

Any other activity or task not on this initial money day list is not a money day activity. For example, entering data into your CRM, preparing presentations for prospects are not money day activities.  They are, however important, administrative tasks that need to be completed in order for you to be able to have more money day activities, so these are good examples of transition activities.

Administrative tasks such as completing expense reports, internal memos to team members, customer service matters and any internal team building or activities are administrative tasks and not activities that will generate revenue for you or your company or your team.

For sales managers and leaders, money day activities include coaching individual producers, completing one on one weekly and monthly reviews with producers, recruiting and sourcing new candidates for your team.

So to increase your productivity, list all of the items and tasks that you do every week every month, and then classify them into the three categories money days, transition days and administration days.  Designate 2 out of 5 days a week to be your money days, one day to be administration day and 2 transition days. Now that you’ve got your schedule and you know which tasks are to be completed on which days, you’re ready to start focusing on those activities that make you money.

Over the ensuing 90 days, transition your daily activity type such that you’ve moved to 3 money days a week instead of 2 with 1 transition and administration day each. If you’re successful and moving to this schedule then you’ll find you’re doing 60 to 70% of your weekly schedule on money day activities that generate revenue for you and your company.


Ever notice how the day before you go on vacation you seem to be able to get everything done that you needed to get done that’s been hanging over for you for the past few weeks? This is a demonstration of the power of time blocking.

Time blocking is the most powerful weapon that you have in your sales arsenal. It creates the ability for you to focus on one or two activities during the block of time, more importantly it communicates to your fellow co-workers that during your time lock you are only focused on that activity and accept no other distractions.

I was re-introduced to time blocking by Mike Weinberg in his book, New Sales Simplified, but realized that I’ve been using time blocking for over 20 years and didn’t really fully understand or appreciate the value until a few years ago. Instead of giving yourself all day to make your prospecting calls do it in 30 minutes or an hour. You’ll be amazed at the results (somehow it will all get done).

The length and duration of your time block will depend on your ability to focus on one activity for a specific period of time and the number of different activities you need to complete each day. So if you’re a field sales rep, going out into the field and meeting customers and prospects on your money Day activities are imperative, so time block these meetings in a specific period and get them done in that time period. If you’re an outbound SDR and you need to make 60 calls a day, break the call sessions into two 30 call sessions and complete them within a reasonable time.

You can create time blocks for all kinds of activities.  Use time blocks to help you with activities such as completing expense reports, filing field activity reports, building prospect presentations quotes, account basic research or pre call planning. Once you Unleash the Power of time blocking you’ll come to appreciate and understand how effective it is in compressing the amount of work that you have into the time that you have available.  With time blocking you’ll have more time for your work more time for your family and more time for yourself.


Because you’re reading this blog post, here an idea I didn’t share in the Closer’s Coffee Article:

I read a blog post several months ago about how to create daily focus in your activities.  Instead of building a long list of activities to do each day, create two lists.  The first list, I call the Core list, should contain 3 or 4 items that you need to get done that day in order to move the needle.  The second list, called FTA (short for Feed the Animals), is all the other things you’d like to get done today once you’ve completed the Core  list.

The key to this approach is to only focus on the High Impact Activities (HIAs) on the Core list until they’re done.  No excuses, no distractions, no useless chit-chat.

I started using this approach several months ago by first writing down my top 3 Core list and then a bunch of FTAs on a scratch pad, but I’ve since migrated to separate notebook so that I can keep track of my progress over time.  I rarely get through all three items on the Core list, but since I’m almost always focused on getting them done, I feel like I’m making forward progress without distractions and guess what? Those FTAs rarely get done and there is little or no impact on my results.

Turn your Time into Money

If you can turn off the distracting notifications, identify your key activities that make that move the revenue needle with Theme days and the Core list, and block your time to execute on those activities.  Then the sky is the limit as you’ll become personally and professionally so productive that people will wonder how you did it all in such a short period of time.

Blair Carey is a Revenue Leader and passionate about using data to help companies meet their mission and purpose. He is the creator the new site where CROs can collaborate on anything they’re thinking about.  You can follow him here or find him on his LinkedIn profile here.

Is your Rockstar VP of Sales ready to be a Revenue Leader?

We’ve seen this before.

Some company has raised a decent size series A or B round ($5 to $15 million) and are now going to scale growth by driving sales revenues.

This time they’re serious. There is a press release about a new dedicated sales office in their key market (usually New York or London) and are hiring a new sales team starting with a Rockstar VP of Sales (who may or may not have been recommended by one of their investors).

Now this Rockstar, is a top producer at another company that’s operating at scale and achieving exponential or hypergrowth, and the thinking is that since he or she has been along for the rocket ride since the early beginnings, they probably know a thing or two about scaling for growth.

So your Rockstar is a sure hire, right?  Maybe not.

Why your Rockstar will work out

Hopefully, in addition to being a top performer in a company that’s running at scale, they’ll have learned some hard won lessons.  In this crucial role (Sales Leader) you need an individual that can conceive, develop and execute processes that fit your market, product and culture.

If they’ve been in a sales organization for a while, then it’s likely that they’ve held multiple Revenue Operations roles such as Business Analyst, Sales Development Rep, Demand Generator, or Account Executive.  If they have held multiple positions then they appreciate and understand what it takes to fill each of these roles and how they fit into the ability to generate revenues.

If they’ve not held multiple roles, but have been in an organization where the primary processes relating to hand offs between groups, cadence matching and planning has occurred then they’re like to transfer some of this knowledge to their current role.  If they’ve been part of these process discussions then they’re even more likely to transfer these ideas to your organization.

If they’ve worked in multiple channels such as SMB, Enterprise of Private Label, then they’ll have a good understanding of which of the 6 paths to revenue (see my previous post) will provide the company the quickest path to long term sustainable revenue growth.

Of course, if you’ve nailed the product-market fit and your industry is white hot, then none of this really matters.  But you need a different kind of sales leader, one who can navigate the blue ocean as best as  possible and extend your run until you’re competitors notice and start to capture your market share.  In this case, you’ll need someone who can manage the pace as well as iterate the processes so as to defend your territory.

If your Rockstar has held multiple sales, marketing and revenue operations roles in a variety of geographic and target markets and you’ve got decent product-market fit, get ready to ride the rocket.

If your Rockstar has been in any of these situations or experiences, then you’re likely well positioned.

Why your Rockstar won’t work out

Most top producers are just that, top producers.  They understand how to excel in the processes and systems provided by their managers and market.  They follow best practices and processes that they’ve learned from previous workplaces and will implement those that worked for them in the past.  This sounds great, but might not work for your personnel, market or culture.

Your new hire likely hasn’t learned to be a sales manager, let alone a Sales Leader, and as such has no idea how to manage other sales team members and their needs (and there are plenty).  And despite them wanting to be team players and part of the executive decision making team, they’ll quickly become demotivated when the find themselves in a series of endless inter-company meetings without doing much to drive the revenue needle (which is why you hired them in the first place).  They want to be a team player, but in their heart, they can’t be, so they’ll slowly start to rebel by focusing on those tasks they know and love (i.e. interacting with prospects, customers and team members) and act apathetically for all the others.

In addition, it’s likely that the founders (especially if this is their first time) and Board will have compressed expectations as to when material revenues from their new “sales efforts” will bear fruit.  An unrealistic quota that hangs over the head of this Sales Leader makes it even harder to focus on the short and medium term tasks that need to be executed so as to realize long term sustainable revenue growth.

It’s also entirely likely that this new Rockstar doesn’t have the same level of support at your operation that they had in their old place.  Maybe Rockstar qualified and closed deals from leads provided by demand generation, then sales operations handled the order paperwork and sales enablement executed the customer onboarding.  Maybe you intend to build these teams or functions in the near future, but without them, it’s possible that your Rockstar has no idea how to build sustainable pipeline and revenues.

Expectations Matter:  If you expect too much from your Rockstar and provide too little support, you’re setting them up for failure

This is akin to sending a sniper out to battle with no logistics and field support.  If your Rockstar doesn’t know how to build these teams, processes and systems, you’ve only got a great sales person, not got an RO professional or Sales Leader.  They’ll need time and coaching to learn these processes and systems and really inculcate them into your culture.  If you’re not providing this support then you’ll find out quickly (within a year) that the Rockstar’s not a good fit for your culture or that you’re not really ready for an true Rockstar of Revenue.

How can you make this work?

In  North American Football, most pundits agree that the Quarterback is the most important position on the team.  He’s the leader and in most cases, the playmaker.  You’ve just hired what you think is your new Quarterback, but you’re concerned about his or her ability to execute, so now what?

Like all good managers, build the team together with your new Quarterback.  Let him or her have a material say in who gets hired for what role and when.  Let them own, not just the RO processes, bu the recruitment, hiring and onboarding of the team.

Prepare the sequence of teams you need and know what plays need to be run at what time.  So build demand generation before customer success, content before outbound or combine sales development and sales together.  Do a deep dive on the business and market analysis and plan out your initial and subsequent tactics and figure it out together.

You’ll need training and enablement tools and processes to ensure that these learned behaviors stick with your team and are part of your culture.  You’ll need constant reinforcement through compensation and incentive plans.  You’ll need a “tone from the top” that’s aligned with your strategy.

You’ll also need to provide the tools and weapons necessary to build the game plan to win in the market. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a spendthrift as it’s important to mind the pennies when you’re a scrappy startup and thereafter (in most cases you’re playing with OPM), but when you’re really trying to scale, sometimes simplicity and speed win out over cost.  I have plenty of examples of companies that could have improved their productivity dramatically for a modest increase in cash cost reaping multiples of revenues.

Give your Quarterback all that they need in order to be successful.  If they’re the right hire, they’ll tell you the tools and processes they need and they’ll also tell you what’s bunk.  Set them up for success don’t stand in their way.

Ok, So we’ve already done this and it’s going the wrong way.. now what?

What’s going badly?  As Peter Drucker has famously stated, “What gets Measured gets Managed” so make sure that what you’re measuring is something that you can manage.

Revenues not on plan? Well you can’t manage revenues, but you can manage the number of outbound calls or contacts made to prospects or the volume and quality of your demand generation leads.

Customer Acquisition Cost too high? Well, you can’t manage this number, but you can manage the amount you spend on advertising, prospect incentives or affiliate commissions.

Start with a root cause analysis.  One of my favourite root cause analysis methods is the “5 Whys”.  Ask Why 5 times until you get to what you think is the real underlying cause of your problem. And if you’re still not happy, ask Why until you get to where you think you need to be.

Does your Revenue Operations team have the processes and systems in place to be successful?  Has the market shifted in the last few months and so your message needs to be retooled?  Do you need to change something amongst your leadership or team?   Examine all of it.

If you’re not happy with the results of the activities you can manage then complete your root cause analysis, admit your mistakes, fix them and rebuild.  This can be painful, but just like ripping the band-aid off, it’s only temporary and you can move on.  The optimization process is plan, execute, review, rebuild and then plan again.

Blair Carey is passionate about using data to help companies meet their mission and purpose. He is the creator of where CROs can collaborate on anything they’re thinking about.  You can follow him here or find him on his LinkedIn profile here.

The 6 Paths to Revenue Growth

This is a 7-minute read, but it’s worth it!

Most of today’s companies execute multiple methods of bringing their product to market and creating revenues.  In this post, I’ll describe the nature of those paths to revenue and the pros and cons of each.

Of course, you might be interested to know which path to revenue is best for your business and my answer will be it depends on multiple factors that are unique to your business.  In reading thoughts you’ll get a sense of my opinion, but I’ll highlight most of the key considerations at the end of this post.

Direct Sales

This approach to the market requires the creation and management of a team that interacts directly with end user customers.  As such, all elements of Revenue Operations (“RO”) are required to be running in order to achieve optimal results. That being said, the sequence of RO levers to implement can vary depending on stage of company, availability of capital and product-market fit.

The direct sales approach can achieve faster results than other revenue channels but this is entirely dependent on your team and the ability of RO to identify the key pain points of each Ideal Client Profile and have an offering to fix these problems at a price that would be easily accepted.  Most of the time though, all of these elements are unknown (ICP, ICP Pain, Offering, Pricing) and thus the speed to fully ramped revenue growth can take significant time.

This approach is best for young companies who have launched their first or second product, and are seeking market feedback on the goodness of fit to their Ideal Client Profiles.


  1. Fastest way to achieve market feedback
  2. Capture all economic rents from transactions (ie. No middlemen)
  3. Direct feedback provides ability of product team to iterate product, leading to (theoretically) faster product-market fit
  4. Ability to test business and go to market models and markets


  1. This method is a big flywheel that requires a lot of heavy lifting, continuous review and complete alignment of the entire organization
  2. Ramp up time to fully scaled Revenue run rate is dependent on:
    1. Product-market fit
    2. Right approach to market
    3. Sales personnel & management skills, aptitudes and compensation model
  3. Requires the key elements of RO in order to have a chance to be effective.

Channel Partner or Affiliate Sales

There are many companies operating in local markets that already service your Ideal Clients and Prospects. They generally provide services and products similar or complimentary to your offering.

Generally these partners have both the relationship access to your target prospects and the technical skills to provide local service.  And if they’ve got great internal sales processes they can provide you with significant market penetration, presence and leverage.  If your offering requires local presence (due to language, culture or product complexity) then using channel or affiliate partners may be the easiest way for you to gain access to these markets.


  1. Quicker access to Enterprise or Complex buyers
  2. Existing technical expertise shortens technical ramp up
  3. Low capital costs or expenditures
  4. Leverage affect possible


  1. No direct access to prospects and customers hampers ability to confirm product-market fit
  2. To create real leverage, you need to occupy the mindshare of the partner
  3. Requires same enablement and training programs and “in-house” sales personnel
  4. Won’t know if the partner or affiliate is serious about marketing your offer until many months after execution of the relationship

Private or White Label Agreements

A private label agreement is one in which you agree to provide your product to an independent third-party with some minor modifications.  These modifications are generally related to branding and/or packaging, but could also include something materially different from your existing product including code or physical modifications.  In most cases, you’re still producing the modified product in your production facility or with your development team.

Most private label arrangements are governed by a legal agreement which covers a variety of matters including, but not limited to, joint marketing efforts (who pays for what), minimum sales commitments, progress payments for modifications (NREs), Intellectual Property protections, cancellation terms, and service & support programs.

One of the key differences between private label and other indirect revenue channels is that because product owners maintain control of the production, it’s easier for them to maintain control of the IP.


  1. Access to potentially larger market without implications to existing brand
  2. Large volume commitments from the private label partner
  3. As a secondary revenue channel, these agreements create incremental revenue and gross margin
  4. With this offering you can attract complimentary market leaders and operators
  5. One of the lowest sales and marketing costs of revenue channel options


  1. Requires its own channel management strategy and tactics within your organization
  2. With no direct access to end user market, you gain less information about product-market fit
  3. In most cases, there is little intertemporal accountability on sales volumes beyond contractual commitments
  4. Market confusion can be created if the private label product looks similar to your branded product
  5. If you have too many agreements outstanding your offering can become commoditized

Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM)

Imagine that a large, multi-national Fortune 1,000 company with well-established revenue channels wants to purchase some component of your offering for its own products.  No muss, no fuss, just sell them the code, API or components and they’ll just write cheques.  Sounds easy, no?  Not exactly.

While the OEM client is the holy grail of revenue for technology focused companies, OEM deals are filled with trapdoors and intricacies that need to be navigated in order for them to be effective.

In addition to the IP protections that are required (most OEMs have their own R&D groups so workaround language is important), you’ll need to ensure that your new client doesn’t use competitive products in their end user solution (which could replace yours), engage in predatory purchasing policies to drive away your margins or request abnormal co-marketing support dollars in relation to the total “whole product”.

You’ll also need to ensure that the term of the agreement is of sufficient length so that you can reap some economies from the initial work that you’re going to be doing to comply with your OEM client’s product specifications (each deal is unique).  You’ll also need to watch out for “easy” termination clauses that would allow your OEM partner to cancel the agreement without implications.


  1. Your components are embedded with a market leader driving increased component unit sales
  2. Increased component sales volume can result in gross margin improvement as your Bill of Materials or cost of development per unit decreases (ie. You benefit from economies of scale)
  3. Allows you to focus on technology more than the go to market strategy and other revenue channels


  1. OEM agreements can take a long time to execute (think years, not months)
  2. Depending on market, ramp up time to revenues can also be longer than expected (and you’re not in control of this)
  3. Zero control over the go to market strategy or end user visibility
  4. Your component or offering may be considered a commodity by the OEM and thus marginalized as the OEM’s strategy changes
  5. Price becomes a major factor in negotiations as the OEM attempts to keep their whole product BOM within a target range

Licensing Agreements

A licensing transaction is when a third-party agrees to purchase the rights to use your IP for their own purpose.  In most cases, buyers who choose a licensing agreement (“licensees”), build and produce the end product or component as part of their “whole product” offering.

While OEM agreements are the “holy grail” for those manufacturing product, licensing agreements are the rocket fuel that can drive and monetize Research and Development efforts if you don’t have a go to market strategy as described above.  These deals can be complex but lucrative, and share some of the components with their OEM counterparts.


  1. Highest gross margin revenue
  2. Can create high lifetime value per end-user
  3. Based on historical R&D performance


  1. Trust but verify – you’ll need to have appropriate audit rights to ensure that you know your IP is being used and sold
  2. Agreements need to have strong workaround language or need to be able to evolve as technology changes
  3. Agreements can take a long time to execute
  4. The number of licensees is limited to those for whom your technology has strategic importance
  5. As the number of licensees increase, this Revenue Channel will require its own manager

Joint Ventures or Revenue Sharing Agreements

These relationships require careful thought and planning as they are generally designed to be long term in nature.

Joint Ventures are generally separate legal entities incorporated in the location where the business is to take place with their own (local) corporate governance guidelines.  In contrast, Revenue Sharing arrangements are not separate legal entities but a contractual agreement between two or more parties.

The nature of each agreement is customized for their respective market but you’ll need to agree on, at least, who covers what expenses, current and future product offerings, what type and how much technical support will be provided, product transfer pricing and legal liabilities.

Joint ventures are often created when the parties are bringing a new product or technology to a new market.  Revenue Sharing agreements are usually created when there is a decent product market fit in the primary market, but the operator is seeking to expand beyond is current target market or geographic borders and doesn’t want to commit its current go to market resources to this new target market.

While both strategies have an element of reduced execution risk because there is at least an additional invested party in making the business work appropriately, don’t be fooled.  If you want to make this arrangement successful then you’ll need to work as hard or more than any other revenue channel.  This seems counterintuitive because, while your partner is “invested” in this relationship (monetarily or otherwise), they’re not going to be as emotionally invested as you.


  1. Startup funds shared between partners reduces financial risk
  2. Local presence in market assists end-users and legal requirements (local “tenders”)
  3. Creates a legal buffer between parent company and the operating entity, thereby reducing legal liability


  1. Requires significant investment in personnel, training and support at the outset of the relationship
  2. Senior leadership must be part of the governance, decision making and audit process as part of its daily operations taking away focus on core operations
  3. Vetting and review process – as you’re gearing up for a long term relationship, make sure you know your partners and any challenges they might have
  4. Increased administrative costs – as JVs are separate legal entities they’ll have some of their own latent administrative costs

So Which Revenue Path is Right for You?

After reading this lengthy discussion you might be left with asking this question.  My answer is that it depends on several factors including:

  1. Product & business model maturity
  2. Capabilities of your team
  3. Desire to approach new markets (industries or geographies)
  4. Current financial situation
  5. Scope and size of addressable market

Bringing it all together

Because any dollar of revenue is a worthwhile pursuit, it’s easy to understand why you’d want to concurrently pursue all paths to Revenue as you’re launching (or relaunching) your business.  As you’ve come to appreciate from the above analysis, this simply isn’t true.

The initial and ongoing effort required to achieve your first dollar on any of these Revenue channels varies and is dependent on a number of factors including your current product-market fit, your internal team’s capabilities to manage the Revenue Channel and your current financial situation.

I’ll address each of these in a separate post in the near future, stay tuned.

Blair Carey is passionate about using data to help companies meet their mission and purpose which is why he created as a place where CROs can collaborate on anything they’re thinking about.

You can find him on his LinkedIn profile here.

It’s time to get serious about Revenue Operations

This is a 5 minute read.

Recently, I’ve seen a few articles, whitepapers and blog posts about the nature of Revenue Operations and the newly created executive role called the ‘Chief Revenue Officer’ or CRO.

I’m writing post to describe the framework from which I view the future of this emerging business unit. I intended to dig deep into my thoughts and research on the matter and will be sharing them with you over the next few months in the form of a weekly post.

While the role appears to be “new” it is in fact a mash-up of a bunch of functional responsibilities within organizations over the last two generations. That being said, the availability of sales, marketing, customer success and accounting data that, when combined, create an entire picture of an organization’s revenue cycle is completely new.

Revenue Operations. Really?

Despite what we read every day about successful capital raises, acquisitions or exits by start-up companies, Revenues are the life blood of the organization.  If companies cannot turn their ideas into revenues (that hit their bank account), then they’ll eventually die a slow, painful and ugly death.  The deal sheets and databases are littered with the carcasses of dead startups that were successful in achieve product market-fit, but failed to convert this to an ongoing business case.

In most corporations, traditional business functions (Marketing, Sales, HR, Accounting) are slotted into separate department Silos.  Inter-departmental communication only occurs between the most senior of the corporate leadership and it becomes the CEO’s role to align these functional teams around a common mission and purpose.

In reality, most CEOs spend most of their time fighting fires or attempting to mitigate internal and external matters and have little time to align their functional departments (which could be one or two people). So the coordinating job never really gets done.

In my view, any function that touches revenue is part of the Revenue Operations attack.

The Revenue Levers for any enterprise are found in Marketing, Sales, Customer Service/Success, and Accounting.  Each is, in some way or form, responsible for Revenue being converted into bank deposits.  To drive Revenue, your team needs to apply focus to the salient tasks, jobs and processes in each of these four levers.

This is a dramatically different thinking from the Sales-heavy method that has been predominant in the previous decades.  A company doesn’t need to just hire a “Rockstar” VP of Sales to drive revenue or a killer marketing campaign; they need a team of specialists with a highly skilled leader to focus on driving sustainable revenue.

Friction exists without a Revenue Operations Conductor

The existence of friction in any part of your business slows the ability to convert prospects and opportunities into deposits in your bank account.  I call the speed at which a prospective client converts into cash Revenue Velocity and the rate of change in speed Revenue Acceleration (I’ll discuss each in more detail in a future post).

In some cases, friction provides for checks and balance.  But from my experience, friction is created when you haven’t fully formulated what is required to make it easy for prospects to do business with you.

In today’s multi-channel, multi-media business environment, your prospects and customers are bombarded by messaging to entice them to allocate their budgets elsewhere, so if you make it hard to do business with your company (eg. friction), you can expect that someone who’s more been  frictionless  will be taking that customer’s budget from you (despite your hard work).

Processes, technology and people are the reason why friction continues to exist.  If you can’t convert new prospects into cash, you likely have misaligned processes, poor technology solutions or personnel challenges.

The purpose of a Revenue Operations team is to reduce the friction in your business and to increase Revenue Velocity and Acceleration.  So if you care about the amount and speed of which your bank account gets filled then you’ll care about Revenue Operations.

The Revenue Operations Business Levers

A lever is defined as “a rigid bar that pivots about one point and that is used to move an object at a second point by a force applied at a third” (

For Revenue Operations, the levers that are used to influence and build Revenues are the following:

  1. Marketing Operations
  2. Sales Operations
  3. Customer Success and Service Operations

While these appear to be straightforward, I’ll spend much of the next few months developing each of these in later posts, but in order to introduce the topics, I’ll summarize each below.

Marketing Operations

These tools, processes and programs will accurately describe and position your market offering, attract prospective customers to inquire and complete a purchase.  In general, marketing operations include market strategy and business analysis, demand generation, and message/brand management.

In describing your go to market strategy as warfare, marketing operations does the work that takes place before going to the market (Strategic battle preparations) and then iterates while you’re in the firefight (Tactical battle preparations).

Functionally, you’ll find brand and market analysts, graphic and web designers, strategists, writers and product specialists that will support Sales Operations.

Sales Operations

These tools, process and programs are used by your frontline team that interface directly with prospective customers.  This includes playbooks, scripts, cadences, dashboards and methods that your sales team will use in order to find, educate and convert prospects into first time customers.

Functionally, you’ll have business analysts, researchers, sales development reps, account executives, key account executives and data scientists in your Sales Operations team.

Customer Success and Service Operations

These are the tools, processes and programs that are used by your team with your new and existing customers.  Customer Success and Service relates directly to creating sustainable revenue.  Moreover, as the majority of the Customer Acquisition Costs are borne by the initial acquisition, the Customer Success team has the ability to create the most profitable Revenues in your Revenue Mix.  As such, the functional focus of these operations are on customer enablement, satisfaction and retention.

Functionally, you’ll have inside Customer Service Reps, Technical leaders, Onboarding Trainers and Product Support team members in your Customer Success team.

Data Drives Revenue Operations

During my time as an active investor in companies, I often heard that from the founders that they intended to hire a “Rockstar” VP of Sales to kickstart their nw market sales efforts.  Often these statements were met with skepticism because our investment committee felt that the hiring of one individual would not be the catalyst to launch an entire enterprise forward.  Rather it was a series of hires and execution of a business plan that would likely move the mountain.

The primary difference between how sales, marketing and customer service were run a decade ago and today is the availability of data.

In the same way that the marketing leader can determine which marketing campaigns are the most impact in developing business, today’s sales leader can pull statistical data from their Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) or sales enablement system and easily understand the challenges that the sales team is having in their sales process.  Thus the prevalence of data creates a mosaic of insight that allows thoughtful and caring executives to move the business forward.

Unfortunately this abundance of data has left some leaders unclear of their focus.  It seems to me that the main challenge amongst today’s Sales, Marketing and Success leaders is that they are either measuring the wrong metrics or don’t know which measurements are meaningful to driving their revenues so they’re measuring everything.  Thus this ocean of data has created situation where leaders are drowning and they don’t even know how to catch the life preserver.

One way to ensure that data becomes a servant to the leader is to use a systematic approach.  For many, the scientific method of creating hypotheses, developing and executing tests for these hypotheses provides comfort to manage the reams of data that result from standard operations.  For others, the scientific approach seems cold and unkind and is inconsiderate of the human relations and reactions involved in a real person to person activity like sales.

Who will coordinate all of these efforts and manage this data?: the CRO

Today’s Chief Revenue Officer is more than just the Rockstar salesperson who closes big deals and inspires other to do the same.  Today’s CRO understands how to use data to advance the company’s interests via a coordinated attack from Sales, Marketing and Customer Success Operations.  The CRO is the master strategist who launches the campaigns and battle plans to drive the Revenue Attack.

In addition, the CRO is the internal leader who relentlessly reduces organization friction.  As a result, the CRO makes it easy for prospects to work with and buy from their organization at every step in the customer acquisition and success process.

In smaller companies (less than 30 employees), the CEO acts as the CRO, but as the business grows in either complexity or scope, someone must be tasked with the role of coordinating the go to market attack.

Today’s CRO

A quick search on LinkedIn Sales Navigator for the terms CRO or Chief Revenue Officer results in 17,996 names.  Drill down a bit by selecting for companies with more than 50 employees and seniority (Director, VP, CXO) and you find that throughout the globe there are 3,566 names.

What do most of these senior CROs have in common?  They’ve been in their role for less than 5 years (most less than 2 years) and that they’ve acquired experience in all forms of sales transactions and teams (SMB, Enterprise, Licensing, etc.) and they’ve got an analytical background (either Engineering, Economics or Finance).

Why is this?

As a CRO you need a combination of the social sciences of psychology and behavioural economics and the deep analytical framework to appreciate the power of data.  They are essentially a “people-person” who loves to spend time looking at puzzles in  numbers and figuring out what’s really going on.

In summary

There’s a lot to unpack here and I intend to do so over the ensuing few months.  I hope that you’ll join me on the journey through your comments, please follow me here and you’ll get all of my latest thoughts and ideas.

Blair Carey is passionate about using data to help companies meet their mission and purpose. He is the creator the new site where CROs can collaborate on anything they’re thinking about.  You can follow him here or find him on his LinkedIn profile here.