If you are an experienced B2B sales leader or an entrepreneur with B2B offering, one thing you surely have been asked to achieve - sales targets that are exponentially higher than the previous year.   That’s where B2B sales acceleration comes into play. What is sales acceleration?   Sales acceleration is the process of increasing the velocity of the sales process of a company on a sustainable basis. It is a combination of strategy, tactics, processes, activities, technologies, and resources, utilized to shorten sales cycles, increase deal sizes, and increase win rates, thereby allowing an organization to achieve superior sales performance.   The question, of course, is how does one do this.   In this post, I will point towards the 8 levers that can be used to accelerate B2B sales. In subsequent posts, I will delve into each lever in depth and provide actionable tips that you can start using  right away.   So here are your 8 levers:             I am making a few assumptions here. You have product market fit and are now looking to scale up sales. Your business goals are in place, broken down by product, region, BU, etc. You have a well-defined and proven sales methodology and process.   Generating high quality leads   Generating high quality leads is a foundational pillar in sales acceleration. Finding the ideal lead i.e. customers in the right target segment, who are grappling with the problem that our product solves and ready to buy right away is a dream come true for every sales and marketing professional. Unfortunately, rarely does one get a lead so ripe. One has to do a lot of work before a buyer reaches this stage.   Content marketing is one way in which such leads can be generated and nurtured. A client feeling the pain of any problem, will be Googling the topic and its solutions. It is during this process and context that your brand or product has to be found. A potential customer who discovers high quality content from your website that is relevant for his or her stage in the journey as a buyer will view you in a positive light and may start an interaction from that point.   Of course, content marketing is not easy. There are millions of businesses doing it and you need to stand out in that crowd. It requires patience and expertise.   To accelerate sales through content marketing, you need to make sure   This entire process has to be thoroughly instrumented to collect data and analyzed regularly to find what works.   Content marketing is a vast subject and its not the purpose of this post to get into the details of it. There are tons of very good resources on the net. The one that I particularly like is the book ‘Epic Content Marketing’ by Joe Pulizzi.   Content marketing is a very dynamic field. The rules of the game keep shifting as Google keeps improving and fine tuning its search algorithms that best serve the interests of the user. There are also newer platforms and trends that keep emerging. I’m listing three trends that any marketer today should take note of:  
  1. Video: It is predicted that 80% of all content consumed by 2020 will be in the video format. Therefore, video should definitely be a big part of your content marketing toolkit. 
  2. Conversational marketing: This is an emerging but a very promising trend. It capitalizes on the fact that people increasingly do not prefer to fill forms on a website. They’d rather have a chat with someone. With the maturing of AI based chatbots, this is now possible to do this at scale. Chatbots can help you qualify buyers, send appropriate material to them and book meetings, thereby accelerating the rate at which relevant leads are generated. 
  3. Social media platforms: These platforms have really matured and now offer very targeted and flexible lead generation tools. It is a great place to get engagement with users going and then use that engagement to drive leads. Each platform is different and one should follow the best practices of engaging in each medium.
  Sales workforce planning   Given that you are aiming for a much higher sales target, you will have a commensurate increase in the number of leads and opportunities that your sales team will have to chase down and convert. You will need to figure out how many sales people you need and in which locations, focusing on which products or businesses. In other words, you will need to be engaged in sales workforce planning. To accomplish this in a somewhat scientific way, you will need to have some numbers in place e.g. conversion ratios, average number of dials/calls/meetings that a sales rep can realistically achieve, average sales cycles, and so on.     This is a critical first step to achieving your sales numbers. If done in a reasonably detailed manner, this will give you a good understanding of your people requirements. While this planning exercise should be fairly detailed, you should take care not to get too caught up in the rigor of the analysis, which might make it too time consuming.   Hiring an ‘A’ team   Assuming that the workforce planning exercise has thrown up a requirement for hiring additional sales reps and managers, hiring the right people at the right time is the next priority. There are three critical aspects of hiring that you will need to address:     Personalizing sales training to roles and individuals on a daily basis   Getting each new hire to be independently productive in the shortest possible time in a scalable fashion is critical for sales acceleration. Sales training, therefore, has to be handled and executed with care. Executing a highly effective sales training program will include the following key aspects:     Institutionalizing metrics-driven sales coaching   Sales coaching is one of the biggest drivers of sales productivity. But it is also the most often ignored lever. If sales acceleration has to happen, one cannot ignore coaching. Institutionalizing sales coaching requires the following:     Retooling CRM software to drive daily productivity of sales reps   Increasing the daily productivity of a seller is a big area for sales acceleration. If a sales rep handles 20 leads in a month, can we enable her to increase her volume to 30 or 40 leads a month. The solution lies in utilizing the latest in sales technology. Here are some examples of what can be done:     Driving the right behaviors required for sales acceleration through the right compensation plan   Compensation is a big determinant of the behaviors of the sales team. The compensation structure should be aligned with the business objectives. If these two are not aligned, the outcome is always sub-optimal for the business. As a case in point, a telecom company had structured their sales compensation with a base salary and a variable salary dependent on the gross adds in customers. This worked fine till the time industry was in a high growth and all that was required was the total number of customers added, even though there was significant churn. However, the moment a downturn came the company found that focusing on net customer adds, which represented consistent future revenues, was a better strategy. To drive this behavior, the variable comp was then tied to net customer adds instead of gross customer adds.   Getting marketing and sales on the same page   Marketing and sales are rarely on the same page. This is true for every organization. The degree varies. At the root of this disconnect is the definition of what constitutes a high quality lead. The consequences of misalignment between these two important teams can be disastrous for growth. Marketing can continue to fill the hopper with leads, which the sales team will chase down with very low conversion rates.   Here are some pointers for you to look at to bridge this divide:             Conclusion   The need for sales acceleration is an inevitable reality for all companies. As described in this post, there are specific levers that can be utilized to drive sales. There may be other levers as well depending on your industry. You may not require effort in each one but by and large addressing each of these will definitely put your B2B sales machine in high gear.