Perhaps one of the reasons your sales force makes too much of following the sales process is that you as the sales manager make too little of it.
Any of us left to our own devices fall prey to doing what to us comes natural and easy, what seems logical to us, and what we believe to be effective–even when it may not be. This is true of your sales force. Making sure that the actions your sales force takes in pursuing opportunities are effective, that they achieves the outcomes that are necessary to winning the opportunity, and that they follow the best practices and iron laws of sales comes from making a whole lot more of your sales process.
Discovering How and Why Deals Are Lost
One of the highest value activities any sales manager can take is coaching their sales people on their opportunities.
One of the most powerful tools available for this kind of coaching is a copy of the sales process. Running the opportunity through the sales process to ensure that all of the objectives and outcomes at each stage were completely met will reveal the gaps in the sales person’s performance—and it may even help you to understand the gaps in your sales process that also need some work.
As you review the objectives of each stage, the missed objectives and the poor outcomes are very easily identified.
Your sales person is presenting, but hasn’t done a deep dive into the problems your solution is supposed to remedy beyond an initial meeting with one of the decision-makers. Your sales process requires a greater understanding during the discovery process, and not doing so means losing the opportunity or failing for the client if you were to win.
Or maybe your sales person already presented and was surprised to discover three members on the buying committee who he didn’t even know existed before he walked into the boardroom. Your sales process requires identifying all of the stakeholders so that your presentation is meaningful to them, that it helps them make the changes that they need to make, and that it takes into account all of their individual needs and preferences.
Maybe your salesperson is negotiating over the investment in your product or service and a few well-placed questions quickly indicate that the reason there is such a wide gap between what the prospect wants and what you can give them is that the prospect was never properly qualified.
Making a big deal out of your sales process means making certain that is being applied and executed well. Your sales force will never believe that the sales process can help them win the opportunities that they are competing for if you don’t use the sales process as a model for every conversation, every coaching exchange, and every other chance you make to do so.
Discovering What Your Sales Force Needs
Identifying the gaps and reinforcing the sales process is one of the fastest ways to understand what your sales force needs in the way of coaching, training, and development. In addition to helping your sales force gain the competencies in the technical skills required to win their opportunities, making a big deal about the sales process gives you the opportunity to share with the sales force something even more powerful: the meaning, the why.
Your questions, as well as the dialogue around the questions, holds the greatest potential for improved performance by demonstrating the values, the iron laws of sales, that are embedded in the objectives of each stage of the sales process.
Sharing the reason why that objective needs to be met and the cost of not having done so helps the sales force understand and buy into following the sales process—especially when the dialogue isn’t simply an academic discussion in a classroom setting; these lessons are more powerful and more easily learned when they are attached to the real opportunities that the salesperson is presently trying to win.
Sadly, a real understanding of why the sales process is a big deal is often learned through the painful loss that accompanies winging it and stepping past a few stages while trying to win the dream client opportunity where you were clearly the right choice, but where a failure to follow the process cost you the opportunity. Making more of the process means not missing the opportunity to capture the lessons that come with every loss.
Lost the opportunity?
Was it a poorly qualified? Now the value of targeting and qualifying is clear.
Was the diagnosis weak? Now the value of spending time to or three levels deep in the organization is better understood.
Did you fail to discover the individual needs and preferences of the buying committee members? Did you even know who the buying committee members were? Now these is an understanding as to the “why” in the stage of the process where we require that the buyers are identified and that we meet with them.
If you want your sales force to make more of the sales process, it begins with your making more of the sales process.
Is your sales process something that you and your sales force lives every day, or is it a PowerPoint presentation and a binder that is occasionally referred to during annual classroom training?
Do you use every occasion possible to discuss the sales process as it applies to the live opportunities that your sales force is engaged in winning? What opportunities exist for framing every discussion around the process?
Get a copy of your sales process and the checklist that accompanies it. Put it on your desk right next to your phone.
Get the digital copy of your sales process. Put it on your computer’s desktop.
How can you most quickly and most effectively share the values that are embedded in each stage of the sales process with your sales force? How can you make it something more than an academic discussion? How can you bring it to life? How can ensure that lessons derived from any loss—or win—are plied to future opportunities?
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