Sales Process for the Anti-Sales Process Crowd

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Earlier this week, I was interviewed by John Radkins, for his Sales Machine Blog, and he asked me to explain sales process for those who don’t want to be restricted by sales process.  I’ll repeat the explanation here because it is a perfect analogy for people who don’t like the implication of a sales process, and it comes from a different perspective than I’ve previously shared.

Purpose:  A framework for consistent, predictable, repeatable results.

Construction: A formal, staged, milestone-centric, buyer-focused sequence of events.

Keys to Success: All best-practices milestones must be included and properly sequenced.

Think of the sales process as a journey rather than an adventure.  A sales adventure would suggest winging it or seat-of-the-pants selling.  A journey is planned.  There are stages to a journey, like driving to the airport, the airport check-in and wait, the plane flight, baggage claim, and the drive to your final destination.

Similarly, there are stages to the sales process.  In its most generic form, stages correspond to opportunities as they move from suspect to prospect to qualified opportunity, to closable and finally, closed.

The problem that people have with sales process is with the stages and milestones that make up the sales process.  They are of the mistaken belief that being forced complete a stage or achieve a milestone is restrictive and not consistent with how they want to sell.  In some respects, professional selling is akin to professional sports where everyone who plays must play by the rules. Let’s use baseball, my favorite analogy, for this example.  After a batter hits a pitch, he can’t run from home plate to third base, or from home plate to second base. He must run to first base or else the umpire would make the “out” sign.  The same thing happens in selling.  If you skip a stage and/or a milestone, you might not be called “out,” but you will probably lose the business.

Let’s return to our journey analogy for a moment, where milestones are like the signs on the road.  Here are six examples:

  1. Speed Limit sign – you might be going too fast so slow down
  2. Mileage Marker sign – where you are on this particular road
  3. Destination Sign – how far you are from your destination
  4. Directions sign – where you should go next
  5. Landmark sign – where you are right now
  6. Road Closed/Detour Sign in the image above – your path to the decision maker is blocked and you must find another way to get there

On the road, the milestones are signs that guide you along the way to help you confidently enjoy the ride, arrive without having a traffic accident, on time, and at your desired destination.

In the sales process, the milestones are also signs that guide you along the way to help you confidently enjoy the conversation, without being called out, in the appropriate time frame for your sales cycle, and finally closing the opportunity.

Milestones are anything but restrictive.  Within the framework, they are liberating because they allow you to have a great, two-way conversation while the road signs keep you on track and help to assure you don’t miss an exit, an entry ramp, or lose your way.

Generic sales processes can work but custom sales processes work even better.  The most important reason to seek outside help to create a custom sales process is that most home-grown sales processes lack crucial stages and critical milestones, without which, predictable results are difficult to achieve.  I have personally reviewed hundreds of sales processes and have never seen one that is close to being ready for prime time.  Usually, they lack the most important stages and milestones and often include way too many steps that have nothing to do with selling.

Consider the degree to which the sales organization depends on sales process and you’ll come up with at minimum the following ten subjects:

  1. Integration with CRM and the best one for sale process integration is Membrain and their Baseline Selling Edition
  2. Pipeline Staging and re-staging to assure that the opportunity is placed in the proper stage of the sales pipeline
  3. Useful Pipeline Reviews and once again, Membrain stands out for its pipeline analytics and insights for these reviews
  4. Effective Sales Coaching and this should always be conducted from within the context of sales process
  5. Opportunity Status – the only way to know exactly where in the sales cycle an opportunity is currently, is the ability to name the stage and milestone
  6. Appropriate Next Steps – without knowing the opportunity status above, it is not possible to identify next steps
  7. Identification of Sales Bottlenecks – sales process analytics from within CRM should identify the bottlenecks, by salesperson, for coaching.  Guess who stands out here!
  8. Training Requirements – outside of a sales team evaluation, which is the best way to identify training requirements, identifying bottlenecks is the second best method.
  9. Accurate Forecasting – what CEO on planet earth doesn’t want to see an improvement in forecast accuracy?
  10. Accurate Reporting – ditto.

An optimized staged sales process is crucial for the ten items above and YOU NEED HELP with sales process!

If you want to put the finishing touch on your custom sales process, it should include a sales-specific (not marketing) scorecard that objectively scores every opportunity for the likelihood it will be won.  The scorecard consists of six or seven ranked conditions that are each predictive of a win, that earn points for meeting those conditions.  Scores exceeding a certain threshold are to be pursued and scores below that threshold represent opportunities that should not be pursued.

You can look at sales process any way you want, but if you need more consistent, predictable results, in a framework that supports sales coaching, then you need a customized, formal, milestone-centric, customer-focused sales process and scorecard!

Image copyright 123RF

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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