Alan Wright: Implementing the SPICED Sales Methodology for GTM Sales

Posted on Sep 02, 2021

About Alan

Alan Wright is the VP of Strategy and Operations at Rocket.Chat, a digital open-source collaboration platform focused on data privacy and security. Their customers are heavily regulated around security and data protection and include the US Navy, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bahn, the big railway networks in Germany. Alan spent five years in management consulting and then about eight years in sales strategy, sales management, and operations, first with Blackboard, working in their international group, and then at RB media.

Rocket.Chat just closed its Series A funding round, and is now looking to mature some of their sales motions and their product-market fit to grow internationally. In this episode, we discuss Alan’s implementation of the SPICED sales methodology and the key ingredients to successfully rolling out new go-to-market sales processes.

No One-Size-Fits-All Sales Process for Go-to-Market

  • Alan worked at large organizations with more involved processes and more resources, and now he’s with a younger startup in earlier stages. With this background, he knows what good sales operations look like. What’s he’s learned is that there isn't a one-size-fits-all sales process. 
  • We asked Alan how he defines and shapes a sales process that meets go-to-market requirements. He shared that one of his core responsibilities at Rocket.Chat has been trying to build a more rigorous formal sales methodology and revenue forecasting process. He knew he couldn't just take exactly the template he used before and apply it, plug and play.
  • He started by defining Rocket.Chat’s sales methodology, their industry, competitive differentiators, and the type of sales process they used. They had a consultative sales process, and they needed to have more predictability and a future-oriented view of their revenue.

The SPICED Sales Methodology Lays a Solid Foundation

  • Alan established a solid foundation for their sales methodology that’s simple and effective. He settled on SPICED as the sales methodology and basis for how they qualify progressed deals through the pipeline.
  • SPICED is a customer-centric sales framework that focuses on helping the customer realize the impact they are seeking to make. SPICED helps sales reps establish the customer’s situation, the pain that they feel, the impact associated with solving their problem and the benefit that your solution is going to bring the customer. C can be a few different things, but Rocket.Chat uses it in a compelling event context, as in, why would this customer make a decision now to buy your product and implement your solution. E stands for the critical event that forces that decision, and D is the decision process. What’s the customer’s sales motion, how are they going to get the budget to buy your product?
  • One of Alan’s practical tips for his sales reps in applying the methodology is that the SPICED sales framework is rarely followed in a linear fashion in SaaS sales, so meet your customer where they are, but it's super important to be able to qualify a deal, make it a real opportunity that you can progress and potentially win, to really establish the pain and the impact in the beginning. 
  • Applying a formal sales methodology tied to a more rigorous forecasting process is critical to understanding how you win, why you win, and why you lose. From this, you can iterate and improve to drive better win rates, faster sales cycle, and higher ticket values, the sort of things that really drive revenue.

Quick Wins That Contribute Value to GTM Sales Process

  • Time is often not on your side when you’re a startup. So, we asked Alan how he balances the need to iterate processes with the need to make an impact sooner rather than later. He shares that when you step into an organization with a clear mandate, it's really important to think about quick wins. What can you do that you can quickly contribute value and make improvements to the business right away? And then balance that with the depth of the methodology or problem that you're trying to solve. 
  • At Rocket.Chat it took about two months to understand the business, how their processes worked and didn't work, their biggest pain points. He also tried to understand the natural sales cadence, sales motion, and sales process used by the team. Based on that context, he saw what best practices were applicable to their consultative B2B SaaS sales motions that could impact their business and revenue opportunities and could have quick adoption and adherence from the sales team.
  • If people aren't going to do it, it doesn't matter how good it is. So you have to fit the culture and the context of the organization. He spent his third month doing a pilot of the SPICED sales methodology. First, he had to explain to the sales team why, what the benefit is, and what the impact is. Then he worked with different sales leaders and sales reps who were key to adoption to get buy-in by contributing to the process. After a month of getting feedback, they formally rolled it out.

Three Pillars of Establishing New Sales Methodology

  • Alan shared there are three pillars in establishing a baseline before setting up new sales processes. The first pillar is that conversations are important. Engage people from their experience and extract insights that can inform decisions like which sales methodology and programs to select. However, if you base it all on that, your chances of success would be limited.
  • He applies the other two pillars to whatever he does and they are especially relevant for revenue operations. The second pillar is analyzing data. Take the historical data and try to understand by segment, by industry, by geos, what are the critical factors that you look at from sales performance and sales productivity, such as average ticket values, sales cycle time, overall win rate, and close rates.
  • In startups, people often say their historical data isn't good, so it's not worthwhile to analyze it. Alan had a similar experience at Rocket.Chat, but he says even six, nine, 12 months of data is sufficient to be able to give you some direction.
  • The third pillar is external benchmarking. Do markets research to determine the best practices and methodologies that are transferable and applicable to your industry company context.
  • Alan shares that when he was with Blackboard they used the BANT sales methodology - budget, authority, need, timing - a traditional solution selling methodology. He felt that for a product-led growth company SPICED was better suited for Rocket.Chat.

Key Ingredients to Successful Rollout of SPICED

  • We asked Alan about the key ingredients to a successful rollout of their new sales methodology. What went well, and what did they learn from the process?
  • There were two things they did well and one thing that could improve, and these are universally applicable. The first thing that Alan’s team did well is getting broad alignment across the organization’s leadership. Rocket.Chat’s general manager and VP of sales have a lot of influence in the sales organization. Having their perspective and buy-in was super important. Buy-in from leadership in other parts of the organization that depend on the sales methodology, like pre-sales professional services and customer success, was also crucial.
  • The second thing that worked well is the manner in which he communicated to the sales organization. You might be right about what you want to implement theoretically, but when you think about adherence, adoption, and actual execution of that methodology, you depend on the people who are in the field, the sales team. It’s essential to have a proof of concept, some sort of pilot where you involve the people who are actually going to be responsible for delivering it in shaping, influencing, and testing out the methodology. Take their feedback and experience, and then improve the process.
  • Regarding what they could do better, Alan shares that it’s related to change management in revenue operations. It’s vital to dedicate time to training and enabling people who come on board, especially for a fast-growing company. What they didn't do well enough is having an onboarding and enablement program for their new sales reps like they did for their cohort of sales reps who were already on board. Doing this enablement in a cyclical fashion, pulling in the new people and giving them the same sort of context, background, explanation on why this is the methodology and why it’s implemented, would have improved the adherence to the process in the new salespeople.
  • When developing a training and enablement program aligned with what you're launching, consider the cyclical basis of how many new people you will be bringing in and how they fit into the overall program. Measure the sales KPIs around the efficiency of the education process such as ramp time, learning time, etc. Take the concept of time to value and apply it to the new entrance to the salesforce; measuring how productive they were during onboarding and how much adherence they had to the program is a lesson learned for the future.

Next Steps for the Evolution of the Sales Process

  • Alan shares that evolving the sales process begins with coaching. How does coaching fit in the context of the SPICED methodology and the sales process they're implementing? They’re taking time to investigate how well their sales reps are doing things like discovery. 
  • You have to do two essential things in the SPICED framework. The first understand what the customer’s situation is, understand their pain, and then map that to an impact and value that matters to them so that they'll be able to make a decision quickly. Alan is discovering that between demand generation, their SDRs, and the handoff to account executives, that discovery needs to improve significantly. Their sales process is maturing by having a sales enablement team and sales managers who are responsible for identifying gaps and areas of improvement, then building a program to listen to calls, analyze data, get feedback from the field on what's working and what's not, and then making sure they’re being tactical in providing tips, advice, and direction to the sales reps to improve how they use SPICED to do discovery calls.
  • The second thing is thinking more broadly. Implementing the SPICED methodology is intended to drive revenue and to improve sales rep productivity. And so, they are now tying in a more formal, more structured cadence around sales forecasting that reinforces the need to apply SPICED effectively. This is their accountability mechanism through which measuring, identifying progress, and coaching the sales team, strengthens their forecasting. That, in turn, produces better revenue results. 
  • Now Alan’s team is starting to create a feedback and communication loop back to Sales about using the SPICED methodology. In July, they did their first formal, quarterly win-loss analysis using data, and then tried to identify why they lost in certain contexts. They tried to identify the patterns, behaviors, and reasons behind losses. And then, through that, they were able to hone in on the need to improve discovery.
  • Now, they’re applying the lessons learned from a formal sales methodology and forecasting process. The accountability and responsibility for driving improvements in productivity and revenue results are on the field. They are still working on a strong and effective iterative feedback cycle. But Alan sees a vision forward where if they continue to do this in the right way, and they've established the cadences to reinforce, that feedback loop will be there.

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Topics: Technology, Executive Alignment