The Ins and Outs of Building a Performance-Based Culture [Webinar Recap]

May 31, 2023
June 1, 2023

While today’s uncertain macroeconomic climate has minimized resources and emphasized process efficiencies for GTM (Go-To-Market) teams, it’s clear that motivation-focused strategies are essential for cultivating high performance organizations that drive growth.

CaptivateIQ Co-Founder and Co-CEO Conway Teng recently sat down with Michael Duncan — Director of Revenue Operations at Gong — to discuss how organizations can establish the right expectations with teams upfront and drive initiatives that improve results, including first-hand accounts of challenges faced and successes won in the process.

The focus these days is really around how you grow efficiently. In the context of a sales org and a broader go-to-market organization, a lot of this translates to ensuring we're achieving the highest level of performance from every individual on our team.​​ — Conway

Check out the full on-demand recording to hear insights directly from Conway and Michael about how to effectively build a performance-based culture, and read the article below for our top takeaways from their lively conversation.

Shifting From a “Growth At All Costs” Mindset

Conway kicked off the discussion by stating that until recently:

A lot of companies haven't needed to be particularly diligent about cultivating a performance-based culture because everything was going up to the right. That’s no longer the case, and we’re uncovering a lot more problems that have always been there to some extent, but haven’t been as obvious because the growth and the market has been able to compensate for a lot of those problems.

While a “growth at all costs” may have been feasible in rosier times, business leaders today are having to look more closely at what’s happening under the hood, and ask themselves: How do we grow more efficiently? As Conway put it, “When the tide goes out, you see all the skeletons,” and to address those skeletons, organizations should take the necessary steps to ensure they’re achieving the highest level of performance from every individual on the GTM team.

While it used to be that companies could simply ramp up hiring to help achieve revenue goals, being more selective and strategic in that process has become crucial in these leaner times. “Now, you need to focus on cultivating the correct talent within your organization and be a little more picky about who you want to hire,” said Michael, adding that it’s also crucial to properly cultivate your existing talent to drive more efficiency and better performance. 

It comes with a little bit of retraining your existing sales folks as well. Companies are now making tough decisions. I'm getting involved in a lot more tool purchases because we want to consolidate our tech stack, and we have to make tough choices between buying another tool or adding headcount. So there’s a lot of give and take.

Defining What it Means to be a High Performer Today

Companies with high performance cultures intentionally reward behaviors that drive positive business outcomes. But what exactly does it mean to be a “high performer” in today’s environment? The answer will vary according to your unique organization, but tracking activities beyond the quantitative can help you determine where improvements can be made and playbooks should be built.

Beyond the more obvious metrics such as quota attainment, Conway asked, ”what are some of the other indicators that are perhaps more qualitative?”

He suggested identifying patterns between high and low performers throughout the sales process — by looking at how Discovery calls are being conducted, for example:

All of our closers demonstrate a very strong ability to think about the customer first and really unpack what their pain points are before starting to think about CaptivateIQ. Another pattern was around how they were managing the process. Were they organized? Were there clear next steps or action items coming out of each call?

By pinpointing these types of key discrepancies between high and low performers, business leaders can more thoughtfully define what high performance looks like within their specific GTM organization, and identify which qualitative skill sets they should be training, managing, and hiring for.

Building Your Performance-Based Culture Toolkit

Once you’ve a) shifted your mindset towards maintaining more efficient growth and b) defined what it means to be a high performer within your organization, you’ll want to c) determine which foundational initiatives need to be revisited in order to quickly move the needle and (re)build your toolkit accordingly. Michael advised that you shouldn’t bite off more than you can chew here, saying that “when you’re trying to instill strategic initiatives in your organization, be very intentional about them and select a vital few.”

How can you arm your GTM team to more efficiently drive success? Michael and Conway shared some examples of where to start, including sales decks, product demo structure, customer retention processes, and compensation plans:

  • Revisit your customer renewal processes: Michael shared one strategy they implemented to move the needle at Gong was that “renewals have to have an executive business review within 90 days of the renewal date. Very simple, 100% adoption. We tracked against it.” This quick-to-implement strategy more directly addresses the risk of churn in tighter economic times, and success rates can be easily measured.
  • Adjust sales quotas: “That's something that very rarely comes out of my mouth is lowering quotas,” said Michael. “However, in this environment, you need to retain the talent that you have and create that winning locker room and show success. And if you can't show that, then you're gonna have more people leaving and you're gonna have to start all over.” Conway added to this, saying lowering quotas can help keep sales reps accountable in a more difficult selling environment: “I think when you unpack what a quota is, at the end of the day, it’s a target – a measure of success. And if that target is unattainable, it kind of defeats the purpose.” In fact, CIQ survey data shows that quotas were the most common modification made in 2022, with 80% of companies making that change to their compensation plans.
  • Regularly review attainment trends: Looking more closely at quota attainment helps business leaders easily identify their high performers, as well as the reps who might need some extra support and training to reach their full potential. It also helps pinpoint individual recipes for success that can be teased out and documented as enablement materials to be utilized by others across the org.
  • Assess how the team collaborates: Michael advised being intentional about how you pair people up to drive results across your organization — Account Executives and Sales Engineers, for example — as well as reviewing what meeting cadences look like and how individuals across different teams communicate to determine what’s been successful and what needs to change.
  • Get creative — and flexible — with performance incentives: According to our State of Sales Compensation Report, 80% of sales managers want to modify their commission plans at least once per quarter, reflecting a desire to continuously review and iterate as certain business factors fluctuate. During the webinar, Michael shared a few specific examples of how Gong has evaluated and modified compensation plans, often in creative ways, to more efficiently drive performance and results as macroeconomic conditions shifted over the past year. In one such case, “last year, when we already had our quotas set — and I’m very glad we had a tool like CaptivateIQ at the time — when the economy started to go south on us, we had to introduce a multiplier on attainment, but we wanted to make sure we stopped at a multiplier at 100% attainment so it wasn’t unbelievably rich. So that was a creative way that we got around without lowering quotas, but increasing participation and payouts to our AEs without changing quotas mid-year.” 

Despite today’s challenging environment, there are plenty of opportunities to evaluate your GTM strategies and processes, identify what inspires high performance within your organization, and implement changes to drive more pipeline and revenue. Watch the on-demand webinar, “Motivating Behavior for Business Success: The Ins and Outs of Building a Performance-Based Culture,” for more insights, best practices, and real-life examples of how to inspire sales success.

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