If you read this blog regularly, you know I am a big proponent of having a sales process; I also have stated that I think sales is more science than art, although both need to be present to succeed consistently. Having said that, while it is science, it is not, nor does it have to be rocket science. Meaning it does not have to be complicated, complex, overly involved and time consuming or heavy, to work well.
Now as soon as you say process, you notice most sales people roll their eyes and check for the exit. Who can blame them, more often than not, sales processes introduced by consultants are very layered, cumbersome and unnecessarily complex. It seems the thought is that for the process to work in a “complex sales environment”, it has to be complex. (On the other hand, maybe it is a case of old habits, of selling things by the pound, the heavier the process the more it may be worth). For me the opposite is true, that is for a process to succeed it needs to facilitate execution, not to add elements to the sale, no matter how decorative they may seem.
When you view things through the filter of execution, it simplifies things, the right activities brought to bear to move the sale forward one step at a time; properly completed within predictable time. In other words is it done or not done, is it done right or not done. Very binary.
The most effective sales processes are based on activity, where the litmus test is “was it completed?” If yes, great; did we achieve the necessary and desired outcome? Great, we can move on to the next step. If not, “why not, what do you need to complete it, and when will it be completed?” Is it worth completing based on other opportunities available? And if can’t be completed (in the right timeframe) then “why haven’t you moved on to something more productive?” The answer to the latter is usually an absence of other viable opportunities, which make resurrecting a dead one almost productive.
Once the above is determined, you can quickly have a GO/NO GO review, and either move forward with the opportunity, or move on to the next one if it is a NO GO due to lack of completion or quality.
To make this approach stick, and really focus sales reps on what you want them “getting done”, notice I didn’t say doing, because it is easy to “do things” and look busy. Getting the right things “Completed”, ensures opportunities are moving forward both in the right measures and for the right reasons.
By focusing on specific activities and measuring things in a binary way, “successfully completed” or “not successfully completed”, you can take much of the subjectivity associated with selling out of the mix. This way sales people can still bring “art” to selling, but the only thing that counts is successful completion; with style relegated to a distant nowhere!
To make this really work, you can take one simple step and uncouple your process from your forecast. Rather than associating weightings or percentages to each stage of the sale, just look at one simple thing, is it completed or not. No stories, no promises, just done or not; the binary approach to sales success.
What’s in Your Pipeline?