My previous blog talked about Metrics that Matter and the good that derives from sales organizations with access to timely/accurate metrics. However, I ended with the observation that these metrics must be based upon an adopted (i.e., agreed upon and implemented) sales process. We’ve written frequently and in detail about sales process over the years. Our Sales Process Insights Series includes an introductory primer to sales process, a white paper detailing its impact when paired with CRM and a generic sales process template.
For our purposes here, suffice to say, there is generally an order by which sellers identify a potential opportunity, qualify that the opportunity is real, winnable and worth winning, propose their solution and close on an order. In parallel there is a buying process through which buyers become aware of a need, potential solutions addressing their need, a selection process for narrowing among alternative solutions and negotiating to make the purchase.
These parallel tracks of the buy-sell cycle should be documented to provide a roadmap for reps-and buyers-to determine where they are. To answer the questions: how much progress has been made and how much work remains? Too often companies map out the first part, the sales cycle, but leave out the buyer’s actions. In this case, our process steps are: identify, qualify, propose, and close. Pre- and post-sale steps should also be defined, but we’re focusing on the sales pipeline/funnel for now.
Figure 1 is a screen shot of one step (Evaluation) in a sales process. Key here is the formatting showing the name and objective of the step, seller and buyer actions to advance the sale, and desired result so everyone knows whether this step has been completed. However, what this process also provides is a standard against which to measure. Without such a document in place, everyone is really measuring in their own way with their own units. Rolling up reps’ forecasts is akin to rolling up their revenues with each rep using a different currency. This prevents shared learning, accelerated improvement and the gathering of metrics that were demonstrated to be so useful previously.
OK, so now we have a process. Is it consistently implemented by your sales team? We’ve defined four levels of process implementation:
1. Random: everyone has their own process and is doing their own thing.
2. Tribal Wisdom: we have a process reps are exposed to but it isn’t monitored, reinforced or enforced.
3. Formal: use of the process by reps is consistently monitored, reinforced and enforced.
4. Dynamic: same as formal but with more study of differences, trends and flexing as best practices are discovered.
Three years ago we plotted these four levels of process implementation against the five levels of relationship we’ve defined:
1. Vendor: you’re perceived as one of several sources they can buy from.
2. Preferred supplier: you’re a preferred supplier of the products you sell.
3. Solutions consultant: you’re seen as a value-added vendor of solutions and products.
4. Strategic contributor: you work with your customers to address their long-term goals.
5. Trusted partner: you help your buyers determine their future direction and plans to get there.
This resulted in the Sales Relationship/Process (SRP) Matrix as seen below. Once completed, it turns out that the SRP matrix neatly reflects key performance measures of firms. Next time we’ll look at these performance tiers and how they can help increase your sales effectiveness.