I Won’t Use The Friggin Sales Process!


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I seems every time I write a post about the sales process, I get comments that it is not reasonable to force sales people to use the sales process. They include, “forcing someone to use the sales process removes their creativity from the opportunity,” or “I’m an experienced sales person, I know how to do deals, I don’t need to follow any company process,” or “it’s wrong to force high performers to do something different from what they are already doing.”

In some ways, I’m sympathetic. If a company has a bad or outdated sales process, then forcing sales people to use the process is counterproductive—fix the process first, then show the sales people how they can be more productive and effective using the sales process. With a great sales process, it becomes very simple, sales people close more business and make more money. The organization closes more business and makes more money. Simple!

But for every other reason, I am absolutely unsympathetic to sales people who don’t use the sales process or managers that don’t show sales people they can be more productive using the sales process. My reasoning is: If the sales process represents the best experience in closing deals, if it is based on maximizing the probability of winning, on reducing the sales cycle, on maximizing deal profitability, then it’s foolish for anyone not to use the sales process. If the sales process is the road map to success, helping sales people win more deals in a shorter period of time, then sales people should clamor to use the process. If the sales process maximizes the productivity and results of the sales person, then any manager not making sure their people understand and use the sales process is not doing his or her job.

In my view a sales process is not optional–at least if you want the highest levels of personal and organizational performance. It’s not optional for management. Managers must make sure they have designed a sales process that maximizes performance. Managers must make certain the process is current and competitive. Managers must train and coach their people in how to use the sales process to produce the best results. They must use the process in every review they do and set an example in their own personal performance. Any manager choosing not to do these things is telling his management and his people, “I am not trying to maximize the performance of my people and my organization. I’m not interested in my sales people being as successful as they can be. I’m not interested in making the organization as successful as it can be.”

It’s not optional for sales people either. Sales people refusing to use the process are the same, they are opting to perform at lower levels than they could.

“But Dave, that’s awfully simplistic, things aren’t that black and white. Sometimes our sales people do much better not using the process, or by putting their own spin on the process.” It’s a fair argument, but actually, I think when this starts happening consistently, it’s actually an indicator that the sales process needs to be reviewed and updated. When the sales process doesn’t serve the sales people and they start doing their own thing and producing better results, then the sales process needs updating. The faster things are changing–competition, market conditions, the way customers buy, the products and solutions offered, the more we have to update our sales process. In today’s markets, I tend to recommend the sales process needs to be formally reviewed semiannually.

There are no excuses for not having a good and current sales process. There are no excuses for management not to use the process. Likewise for the sales people.

Am I being too hard-nosed or simplistic?

As a side note, don’t forget to get your free copy of our Sales Process and Sales Process Self Assessment eBook. It’s a much more detailed review of developing, implementing, and managing your sales process. Click on the link to get your own copy!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


  1. Dave

    You’re being neither hard nosed nor simplistic, just as long as the sales process reflects current best practice and winning habits. Whenever sales people think they can do better by not following the process, it’s a sign that the process needs refinement and/or updating.

    In today’s climate, it would be unusual for last year’s documented best practice to reflect the current state of the art – so as CSO Insights point out in their studies, an evolving, dynamic process is what’s required.

    But equally, there’s no excuse for managers not enforcing the process. If they have any reservations about the process, you can be sure that their sales people will pick up on this. If the process is not optimal, managers need to take responsibility, work out how it can be improved, and get with the programme.

    Bob Apollo | Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners

  2. Hi Dave/Bob

    I would agree with Bob’s sentiment that you are not being too hard-nosed or simplistic – a sales process can truly drive success in a business. I would also agree that the process needs to evolve with the business and current best practice thinking.

    In my first CRM project I remember the journey that we had to take the sales people on to see the value they were going to get from the system and new sales process designed around it. The key was of course get high level buy-in in the first place – I can remember the Sales Director at the time being sceptical himself in the beginning. Well, at least until he got his first sight of his first “real” pipeline report and changed overnight.

    However, I think you and Bob are right to point the role of middle management that is consistently underestimated in its crucial role in the success of such initiatives. It is the Sales team leaders how have to be absolutely passionate about the value to the both business and the sales people themselves – being able to coach them on how to get the most of the CRM Solution / sales process. The team leaders are also in a great position to collate the feedback from the sales people on how to adapt the sales process and supporting CRM system in the next iteration.

    Of course it is not essential for a sales process to utilise a CRM system in its implementation but I would argue that it much easier for the sales people to visualise and obtain real benefits much more quickly and easily if a CRM as part of the plan. In fact, it can be a good idea to maybe develop the sales process simply and quickly (using paper based processes) in phase 1 to find out what works, and then feed the lessons learnt into phase 2 where a CRM implementation is planned.

    Anyway there’s my thoughts.

    Duncan Wood | Sage CRM Solutions
    Web: http://www.sage.co.uk/crm
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/sageukcrm

  3. Bob, Duncan: Thanks for your comments. A well designed sales process, with supporting CRM tools can add tremendously to success and productivity. It amazes me at the number of excuses managers and sales professionals use in not identifying a sales process and using it.

    Duncan, I really like your comment about the use of CRM. CRM can dramatically improve the productivity of managers and sales people in the execution of the process, however, it must follow the process.

    Thanks to both of your for your contributions to the discussion.

  4. Dave,

    I’d go further: unless you are confident that you’ve clearly defined your sales process – and got your users to buy in to it – there’s no point in implementing a new CRM system.

    Bob Apollo | Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners

  5. Hi Bob/Dave – yep totally agree.. like “GIGO”.. step1. Good Sales Process (buy-in + works) step2. CRM


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