- You can’t manage what you can’t measure
- If you can’t see it you cannot measure it
- If you can’t measure it you can’t understand it
- If you can’t understand it you can’t improve it
Whether you have a formal sales process or not, most successful sales people actually use one even if they are not aware of it. The word “process” comes from the Latin procedure, to proceed is a series of operations or stages which lead to an end product or outcome. Regardless of the product or service your organization sells, or the size of your operation, it can benefit from identifying and defining the sales process.
Without having a sales process, how can you really manage your sales operation?
You know what is, or is not, achieved. You do not necessarily know how it was achieved, or why it was not. Management is about achieving results and doing so consistently. To do this you need to understand the how and why. These are the elements you can monitor, act upon where necessary, refine and correct. Achieving your results is an outcome of doing the right things right – and this is where your sales process helps. If you miss out on possible sales and have no clear sales process, you do not really know where it went wrong and, consequently, what to correct or improve.
Organizations which have a clear sales process and integrate it into the way they sell, their sales management and customer planning will be more successful in:
• Targeting prospects
• Qualifying leads
• Effectively presenting features and benefits
• Effectively cross and up-selling
• Sell value and discount less
• Introduce new products or services
Those with no process, or who do not make their process integral to their sales operation measurably under perform in these areas.
Experience shows that where you have an existing sales operation it is very effective to use the sales team, or a cross-section of them, to work together to identify the steps they go through and arrive at a consensus as a basis for your sales process. (It can help to have a facilitator for this.)
We identified a process with the following steps:
• Establish relationship
• Create opportunities
• Identify solutions
• Look after account
This example gives an indication of a simple process where the labels have been able to spell out a word which helps people remember the process. To move this process beyond what is a fairly obvious set of steps, and appears to be totally focused on the selling organization we have another level of detail. It is this which makes it unique for the organization where it is used. Against each of these steps are two additional, and much more detailed, stages. On the one side we look at what the customer’s expectations would be at that step and on the other we list the specific best practice activities and behaviors required from the seller. It is driving down to this level of detail which makes it a really effective tool, even if it goes into what might seem to be a statement of the obvious!
For many organizations trying to sell in the present market there seems to be a disconnect between their sales approach and the way in which customers are buying. Too often they come into the buying process once it is well underway, which makes it difficult to influence things. Developing the right sales process for your organization can help you to reduce the frequency of this happening within your team, and increase the possibility, or even probability, of gaining more sales.
As a sales management and a sales development tool a good sales process can help everyone concerned and improve the effectiveness of the sales operation.
For sales managers it can be built into both planning and reporting systems. Knowing where people are in the sales process can improve the accuracy of forecasting, and also help to identify any patterns where problems occur. By having a better grasp of the steps in the process the sales managers, and the sales people, can spot difficulties a lot earlier and take action rather than getting more irate after sales targets are missed. When carrying out field visits and sales coaching, the sales process provides a “template” or baseline to assess and coach against. If you have broken down the process to identify the specific behaviors and skills for each stage it is clear what is required for any training or development. When bringing in new sales people, a good sales process can help you to recruit; it enables you to be clear about what is expected so that the applicants can decide if it is right for them. The sales people can use the process to help them identify their own strengths and areas for development. As a tool it provides a huge support for all involved. The well-defined process does not have to restrict good and successful sellers as they will already be following most of it. However, even they might find that there are some elements where they can improve further!
There is so much evidence for the power and effectiveness of a well-defined (and utilized) sales process, it makes me wonder why so many organizations do not have one, or use the ones they may have.
Less than 40% of organizations have a formal sales process, and within that figure, many do not insist on it being an integral part of their overall sales operation.