Generating revenue is the objective at the core of every company, regardless of size or industry. Of course, it's not the sole objective. Building market share, servicing customers, launching products, and creating awareness are just a few of the strategic goals typically included in an executive's plan. But each of those is only as valuable as the revenue it generates.

Every team—from Marketing to Operations—is responsible for realizing an increase in revenue year over year. Revenue generation does not exist in a bubble.

That is why I believe in and advocate a sales-first strategy at companies.

Does that sound counterintuitive to the customer-first mentality most organizations have adopted over the past few years? It's not.

Moreover, many people will likely bristle at sales-first language, but I'm not suggesting that marketing, services, public relations, or any other team is second.

What Does 'Sales First' Really Mean?

"Sales first" is a method in which all functions of a business align to deliver a cohesive strategy with the message, solutions, and people necessary to enable sales productivity and drive increased revenue. With that level of alignment, your customers will experience world-class engagement—from the first meeting with a sales rep through to a won deal and beyond.

The practice of sales-enablement provides the framework for the method of being sales first. If you don't have a sales-enablement function, you must create one. Without the binding elements of sales enablement, your company will never be able to form that cohesive strategy necessary to enable sales and generate revenue.

As marketers, we are very aware of the problems regarding adoption and brand compliancy, but we are often not as attuned to the actual application of the collateral we create for sales and other customer-facing roles.

A sales-enablement function will bridge that gap between creation and application, implementing processes that ensure continuous feedback from the field around the success of collateral, sales methodologies, and other KPIs.

Along with adoption of content and collateral, we are finding an ever-increasing pressure to show ROI on lead generation.

Until now, we've nurtured potential clients through marketing automation and tossed them over a wall to the sales reps waiting on the other side, immediately losing all visibility into how that lead progresses through the pipeline.

The sales-enablement function adds processes that track the data provided by marketing automation tools and reconcile that information with CRM systems while pulling the content and collateral most relevant to the prospect based on previous behavior. That way, we stay involved in the conversation throughout the sales cycle and can ensure the success of our investment in lead-generating campaigns.

The Three E's of Sales Productivity

To best ensure this success and ROI, we must align behind the three E's of sales productivity: efficiency, effectiveness, and engagement. As the three key factors to driving sales productivity, each is related to different stages and situations in the typical sales cycle.


A SiriusDecisions study revealed that 65% of companies think reps spending too much time on non-selling activities. You must give sales reps back time that could be used selling rather than running administrative tasks, searching for resources, or creating custom material that's potentially off-brand. The systems guilty of stealing our sales reps' time—CRM, mobile, marketing automation, and other resources—are often those we purchased to help them.

By providing sales pros with processes and solutions to streamline their daily activities, you will ensure brand compliance and an increase in time spent selling.


Is your sales team doing the right things? And is it doing them correctly?

IDC found that despite the $5 billion annual investment in sales training, 80% of reps are still failing to retain anything beyond 30 days. That's a $5 billion tab on 30 days' worth of effective selling from your reps, at best. Sales-first companies understand that training needs to be reinforced consistently throughout the year and provide systems and processes to do so, ensuring ROI on training, content, and product launches.


With research showing that customers spend around 50-70% of the buyers' journey alone, every minute a rep has the attention of a prospective client becomes invaluable. There's no room for error or confusion; executives receive hundreds of communications every day. A solid engagement strategy supported by a sales-first mentality enables your sales reps to cut through the noise. Moreover, it puts the right content and collateral in front of the right eyes, furthering our ability to prove ROI on marketing investments.

Where to Start

This line of thinking has been four years of humbling failures and thrilling successes in the making. But a proven method for jumpstarting this sales-first strategy is simple. Equip your inside sales development team with the right tools and coaching, and consolidate their marketing materials. Provide only those assets that will help them successfully advance a lead. That helps ensure reps are drafting into the conversation at the right time with the right material.

As a result of this action, we've seen a 10% increase in conversion rates, and the average deal stage velocity has decreased by 50%.

So what are you waiting for? Start becoming a sales-first organization today to realize improved customer relationships and increased revenue.

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image of Kurt Andersen

Kurt Andersen is executive vice president of sales enablement and marketing for SAVO, a provider of sales-productivity solutions.

LinkedIn: Kurt Andersen

Twitter: @kandersen-savo