Sales Process–Did You Develop It In A Dark Room?


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There was an interesting comment by Mohamed Saad at the Future Selling Institute LinkedIn Group. Mohamed raised an outstanding point about “Sales processes being defined in a closed room, away from the sales people…” His comment really resonated with me. Too often, I see organizations making real mistakes in developing their sales processes.

Some years ago, a very large client of mine had developed a sales process. Since it was a “process,” the process experts in the company had to take charge. They did a lot of analysis, they did talk to sales people, but they went into a back room to complete their masterpiece. 90 days later, it emerged, it was 9 pages long, each page was filled with single spaced activities the sales person had to follow to adhere to the sales process. You can guess what happened, most sales people never got past the first page, it didn’t recognize their reality, the whole effort was abandoned.

With another global multinational, I saw an enormous flow chart and decision tree. First, it took a whole wall in their offices, so it was a convenient tool for sales people. Second, it tried to anticipate every single outcome from each activity, then mapping the next actions based on each outcome. You know what happened with this process.

Finally, and this is what I see most often, the organization has adopted the “out of the box” process from it’s CRM vendor or it’s sales training vendor. Can you imagine this–the same process is used for a major multinational bank, a semiconductor start-up, a retail store, a marketing research firm….. Something seems wrong here.

With these methods, it’s no wonder why so many organziations have ineffective sales processes. It’s no wonder sales people aren’t using the sales process–it doesn’t reflect their experience, or the customers’ buying processes.

Sales processes need to be developed in the open—with the full engagement of the sales people, actually with the engagement of customers. Don’t take this literally, I don’t mean every sales person or customer, but we need to get the people who use it involved in defining it. Not only do you get an effective sales process, but it developing it is much faster and easier than developing it in a dark room.

Developing the process is easy and fast, here’s how to do it:

  • Every top sales professional has a process they use, it may not be conscious. To develop the sales process, the quickest, most effective starting point is to lock a few of your top sales people in a room–people who are in the front lines, calling on customers every day. I also like to add the “laziest sales people, who consistently make their numbers.” They have reduced selling to the essence. These are the people that know how to sell and produce results. They have the knowledge of what works—in developing the sales process, leverage their knowledge, experience, expertise and pragmatism to develop your first draft of the sales process. Let them develop the first draft—give them no more than a day!
  • Next, engage your customers. Talk to them about how they buy, ask them how they want to be sold to—believe it or not, customer want to be sold to, they just don’t want their time wasted. They want sales people to help solve their problems in a meaningful, effective manner. It’s in the customer’s best interests that you have a sales process that’s aligned with how they want to buy–that even helps facilitate the way they buy! Make sure your draft sales process is aligned with your customers’ buying processes.

  • Test the draft process against your past experience, look at wins and losses, see how well the process aligns with this experience. Test the process with a wider group of sales people, get their input and ideas. You won’t be able to incorporate all of them, but you will start engaging the organization in having ownership in what is ultimately delivered. Make sure it fits what happens in their world. If it doesn’t, rework it until it does.

  • Finalize it using the original team. Keep it simple, roll it out, train people, incorporate it in all your tools, then USE IT! It’s not just for the sales people, it’s also for sales managers. Sales managers must incorporate it into their review and coaching processes. It should be used in every opportunity/deal review and every pipeline/funnel review.

If you want an effective sales process–it can’t be developed in a dark room, it has to be developed by and in front of sales people and customers. It’s actually much easier, much faster, and produces profound results.

If you want more help in developing your sales process, get our Free Sales Process eBook. It also includes a Self Assessment — look at your current process to see how good it is.

Mohamed, thanks for the great comment and insight. Thanks for provoking this post.

Reminder: This week at Future Selling Insitute, we’ll have Rebel Brown, author of Defy Gravity, and our strategic partner as a special guest in this exciting discussion. To get the most out of it, we suggest you look at Rebel’s Module in the Strategy–Breakthrough Thinking Section. She provides some controversial ideas that help leaders excel!

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 are dead on with your comments. When we work with clients it amazes me how complicated they all want to make sales. I really liked your comment regarding the laziest sales people making their numbers. I agree that they’ve boiled the process down to getting a response, getting the truth, and moving forward or moving on – and tuned their own process to be most efficient in all those areas.


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