Why Sales Should Never be a Process


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Processes are good, right? They capture what we do well, and allow average people to do better. The argument may be that they prevent exceptional people from being exceptional but we are looking to be an exceptional organization.

There are few disciplines that has seen more failed efforts to create a process than the sales arena. Most process creators blame it on that undisciplined sales crowd that just doesn’t know what is good for them. In fact, most process (Lean, Six Sigma) practitioners are firm believers that all we have to do is create a value stream map or process map for sales and it would create a more effective and efficient sales process. Worse, we sometimes think we can define the role so well that we attempt to be outright manipulative of our customers. Read my blog post, Value Stream Mapping  Should be Left on The Shop Floor.

Speaking of failed attempts I have had my share of them. I am a process guy through and through and have tried more different types of processes and maps than you could ever imagine. So much that often I feel like I am talking about process more than what is important, sales. There is a reason that we do this, when we talk about processes it frees us from responsibility of mastering complexity of sales and allows us to simplify. We follow this process; improve on it and as a result sales get better. Or, so we think. Process coordinators would certainly justify this but can a sales and marketing person tell me they have seen a direct correlation between creating an efficient process and as a result, more sales?


The problem is that sales is more than a process. Sales is a system of interactions, different forms of communications, finding influencers, and events that are all part of a continuously changing ecosystem per se. When we limit ourselves to a certain process, we are limiting what makes our sales effective.

There are several ways sales interacts. We sometimes take an authority role such as expert in the area. Another time we may have to take a coaching role or an evaluative role or even a supportive role. As a result, each role can hardly fit one process and, therefore, every time we define a process we limit the role sales can play.

Sales is complex, and there is no one or no simple approach that always works. Sales may take on several different roles during a sales cycle and needs skills such as engagement, creativity, strategic thinking, patience, reassurance, cheerleading and a host of others. If we shoehorn our sales people fitting them into the process, we understate the complexity and value of what we can and should bring to our sales people.

Thought Provoker for this post: Beyond Neutrality: Confronting the Crisis in Conflict Resolution

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Dager
Business901 is a firm specializing in bringing the continuous improvement process to the sales and marketing arena. He has authored the books the Lean Marketing House, Marketing with A3 and Marketing with PDCA. The Business901 Blog and Podcast includes many leading edge thinkers and has been featured numerous times for its contributions to the Bloomberg's Business Week Exchange.


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