IT’S A MUST HAVE DISCIPLINE
The Sales Process is at the heart of the sales productivity discussion, and yet it is often misunderstood and not well executed. A 2015 HBR study determined that company’s who consistently implement sales process best practises enjoy a 25% higher growth rate than those who do not. This involves a clearly defined sales process, ensuring management spends time on the funnel every month, that sales managers are familiar with the process, and that they consistently manage and coach thru-out the entire funnel process.
I want to make it clear at the outset that its important not to take intuition, flexibility, and creativity out of the process. Especially in the larger face to face sales situations. Because you are dealing with people, human beings making decisions, every sales situation is typically different.
Someone once said that Selling is a series of small steps, I think that’s true in many respects
The sales process at a high level is an approach or a structure that is used to define the steps from the beginning of a customer interaction to the end of the sales cycle. There are different definitions but to me this is the most fundamental meaning. The details of the process can be different from company to company but from a high level they all have similar meanings with the same objectives. The sales process helps to enable consistency, efficiency and predictability in the running of the business.
I interviewed over 100 sales people and what these professionals told me was that the sales process helped them stay focussed on the right things, it helped them to take a consistent approach that led to more predictable results. The sales process helped them to determine what is needed to keep the customer engaged in each step of the process, and in the end, it can help shorten the overall timelines to getting a closed deal.
The key here is to get a series of commitments along the way. For each interaction with a prospect thru the sales process there needs to be a constant objective to get commitments at each meeting, email, or phone conversation, that moves the potential customer along the process to final close. Each commitment of time, resources, information, next steps or whatever it might be gets you closer to your objective of gaining a new client. If you don’t get this commitment embedded in the sales process you will inevitably experience a stale funnel. Without commitments to proceed your funnel will not move and will suffer from low conversion levels from one stage to the next.
This is a major coaching moment, to ensure all your sales resources are gaining the next step, unfortunately not gaining next steps is rampant. Don’t let this happen to you.
In my interviews with sales leaders, 32% did not have a formalized sales process, they pretty much left it up to the reps to do what they felt was best. In addition, of the leaders who did have a formal process, almost 25% of them were not happy with it and felt it was not helping them meet their objectives. Clearly there is work to do.
Optimizing and improving the sales process was among the top priorities that sales leaders identified during my interviewing process.
The sales process is also something that needs to be lived by the sales force and management in each organization as it will be different in every scenario. The buying cycle, buyer persona, objections, specific customer’s unique challenges need to be taken into consideration in developing and improving your sales process over time. It will also change as the market changes, new competitive threats, product life cycle, and other factors. This is why I always reviewed the sales process with the sales team or select team members on a regular basis.
Just like Jason Day or Brooke Henderson they train and work on their swing fundamentals constantly. It is a constant exercise in further development and ensuring its ingrained.
The sales process is a system that needs to be an enabler for the sales role, it should be as simple as possible and ensure that it doesn’t get in the way of selling but helps foster its execution. Any complexities or significant areas of work that are non-sales should be left to others to help to ensure the sales force is focusing on the right things, i.e. selling.
There was a study written up in the Harvard Business Review that suggested companies who had mastered pipeline practises saw a 28% higher revenue growth. What they showed was that you need to have a well thought out sales process, well trained and understood, as well as the ongoing management and coaching to back it up. That meant ongoing actual sales coaching, not simple inspections of the content. (1)
Could you use 28% more revenues?
A well thought out sales process has many benefits, it’s a tool that is used to manage the sales funnel. It helps to manage sales risks, if your funnel is weak in certain points in the process you can create actions or “course correct” (Jeff MacInnis, Polar Passage, Random House, 1989) to improve the results. For example, if the beginning of the sales process is weak or you have very few prospects then you are potentially going to be in trouble a few months down the road if you have not been cultivating new opportunities early in the sales cycle to fill in the sales cycles later on.
It helps management and sales reps themselves de-risk the business. It helps in being able to allocate the proper resources on the right opportunities. It helps marketing in determining how they can help sales increase their effectiveness by potentially creating programs and support tools specifically targeted at areas of the business that the funnel has indicated are necessary to be successful.
The process can also be reviewed to see what pieces might be taking up an inordinate amount of sales time or are overly complex. If this impacts sales ability to get out and see clients, there is argument to potentially offload some of these non-productive areas to a support group or a specialist team. The more time sales people have to sell the better.
The Sales Process standardizes the customer interaction, so that there is a consistent and professional approach to customer interaction. It provides the information needed to improve tools, optimize selling time, improve sales effectiveness and planning, and provides management with the necessary information to manage the business.
Having said all of this, it is also critical to understand and recognize that sales is also very fluid, it needs to be flexible. Customers have their own agendas, they change those agenda’s, they have budgets and timing and processes for projects and decisions. And guess what, all those things change, customer projects change, their priorities change, people themselves change, their decision timing and even process can change. And of course your dealing with people who have different personalities, needs, wants, and fears. Therefore, despite needing a sales process for all the reasons shared above, the sales rep and manager needs to always stay alert to the changes on the customer’s end that will inevitably change where you are at in the sales process.
Jeb Blount in his book Sales EQ talks about three processes of sales, “The sales process (how the salesperson advances the deal) and the buying process (how organizations..vet the deal) are linear, rational steps that cannot and should not be ignored.
The decision process, in contrast, is individual, emotional, nonlinear, and often irrational. It is the intuitive process through which each stakeholder makes commitments of time, emotion, and action. Ultra-high performers understand that the decision process is where strategy, logic, and human emotions collide.” P42
For more information, suggestions, and insights into sales process and other sales organization imperatives see my website, www.streetsavvysalesleadership.com, or to reserve an order for my upcoming book Street Savvy Sales Leadership, The Complete Guide To Building Best In Class Sales Teams.
Companies with a Formal Sales Process Generate More Revenue, Jason Jordan, Robert Kelly, Harvard Business Review, Jan 2015
Sales EQ-The New Psychology Of Selling, Jeb Blount, Wiley, 2017, page 42
Mark Welch | Founder
Street Savvy Sales Leadership
For individual sales or sales leadership coaching, workshops, contract work, advising, or speaking engagements please contact firstname.lastname@example.org