Don’t (blindly) Follow Your Sales Process If . . .

Most reasonably constructed sales processes are effective enough if followed. There are some sales processes that are less than they should be and less than they need to be to be effective. This is true when the process ignores the great principles of effective selling, violating the iron laws of sales.

When your sales process doesn’t account for these principles, don’t follow it straight to a loss; do something to improve the process.

When the Champion Isn’t Enough

The idea embedded in some processes is that there is a key individual within the organization that has the authority (formal or otherwise) necessary to move your opportunity through their buying process. And sometimes there may be a single champion or power sponsor, mostly in smaller, transactional client accounts. But the larger the opportunity, the more complex the opportunity, and the more visible the opportunity and the outcome, the more there is at stake and the more people there are likely to be involved the decision.

It’s not champion or sponsor, it’s champions and sponsors.

Checking the Box

Recently I discussed a sales process with a group whose process requires that they check the box confirming they have a champion. They know that their products and services are too complex to allow for a single champion, sponsor, or decision-maker, so they have created a separate checklist to confirm that they have obtained the contacts they need within the buying committee, which is usually spread across many of their dream client’s functions and departments. How did they learn this was necessary? By following their sales process—and failing to win some deals where they bet on a single contact within their dream client.

Checking the box isn’t enough. Neither is relying on a sales process that hasn’t been customized and modified to fit your company precisely, and that hasn’t been thoroughly challenged an reviewed at some expiration date to make sure it is still effective as conditions have changed.

When There Is No Box

Like the group I was talking to about their process, your company wants you to follow their sales process, as it outlines the best practices and the clearest way to a deal; they don’t want you to mindlessly follow the process, ignoring anything else that may be necessary to winning the opportunity.

This group knew they needed to beef up their efforts at obtaining all of the buyer’s and stakeholders involved in a purchasing decision, and they acted accordingly: they added some boxes, and the pursue the outcomes that they need to win.

The Great Principles of Sales

There are some great principles, or iron laws of sales, that are true and that cause you to lose opportunities when breached. Knowing who is involved in making the decision for your dream client, knowing who influences those decision inside and outside their organization, and knowing who the stakeholders are along with their interests, is fundamental to selling well and effectively. It is also darn useful later on when you need to execute your solution.

As decisions are being made more and more democratically, with a greater number of stakeholders participating in the choice, this great principle will only get greater. Your sales process is going to have to take account of greater and greater complexity in managing the many constituent groups and their interests, and a sales process that doesn’t take this into consideration isn’t going to be as effective as it could be.

If your sales process doesn’t take into account the realities of pursuing and winning your dream clients, review it, update it, and add to it all of the customizations that will allow it truly be a reflection of your company’s best practices and surest path to winning your dream client opportunity.


If you could add one thing to your sales process, the one thing that above all else would improve the likelihood of you winning your dream client sales opportunity, what would that one thing be?

ANNOUNCEMENT: On January 14, 2011, Future Selling Institute is being launched. It’s focused on sales leaders and aspiring leaders—sales managers, executives, general managers responsible for the sales function. It’s packed full of resources to help sales leaders excel! Any sales leader interested in their personal, professional and career development will want to join this community. Join us on January 14, 2011 for the kickoff conference.

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