The Pipeline Guest Post – Alan Nieslen
Most companies have one; a sales process that is. The process can be anything from a definition of sales stages used in pipeline discussions through to a complete manual on how to sell product x or service y. In the move to CRM’s, often the steps are named out as “stages” and assigned a % likelihood of closing a deal.
As I visit with sales organizations, it surprises me how few of them get ongoing value from their documented sales processes. Sure they use the stage names in forecasting and within their CRM’s, but beyond using the terminology most companies aren’t getting value.
Companies that get value refer to their sales processes daily. Sales people refer to them when creating call plans, manager’s coach sales strategy using outlines from the sales process. There are many examples. You get the idea.
If this is not happening in your company, it is a good indicator that it’s time to revisit and revamp your sales process.
The best sale processes, or maps, are those that resonate with your sales teams, add value to daily sales activities and are used by your sales people. The best maps help draw prospects into the pipeline, accelerate them through the value identification and value creation stages and ensure proposals reflect the value sought by the client, and the payback expected. The best sales maps reduce your sales cycle by allowing clients to buy easier, and your team to sell faster. Period.
The best maps are not just a series of stages for forecasting, but also guide and assist the sales team in planning, prospecting, and accelerating opportunities through the pipeline.
Ineffective sales processes reside in a drawer and provide common nomenclature for “stages” in a sales cycle. They may be hauled out periodically when someone asks if you have a process but they are not a part of daily activities within the sales team.
How can you make your sales process an asset?
- Ensure it represents the best practices for your company, your product, and clients preferred way of purchasing. All too often a sales process is a generic set of milestones that are only loosely related to your products or services. Your sales process should reflect the best practices of your best people. Your best people should recognize that their actions have been captured and shared in your sales map.
- Use your map to guide the sale. Great sales maps provide linkages between steps. For example does your, “first appointment stage” provide suggested questions that should be covered? Does it go further and highlight questions that gather information to be used directly in your proposal? Going further = meaningful.
- Make it a part of your sales culture. Use your sales map in your hiring process by looking for people that have similar methodologies and approaches. Use the sales map to define your induction process, and link your induction activities to your sales map. Use your sales map in your team meetings, in your pipeline discussions, in your strategy meetings, and of course in your forecasting meetings.
- Revisit the map often. Street maps are published annually because roads are added, things change. Your sales map should be open to change. As you bring on new products, as technologies change, as your customers change, as the economy changes, your map should change. If your map does not reflect the changes that your sales teams face… it is bound for the drawer.
- Make it customer centric. While you many not show your sales map to your prospects and clients you should not be concerned if they see it. Your sales map should be set up to help the client see value, select the appropriate products or features, assist clients in obtaining internal buy in…. and so on.
Where does your sales process lie on this spectrum?
About Alan Nielsen
Alan Nielsen is the Managing Director of AdAlta Group, a sales consulting organization. Alan works with his clients to increase their sales productivity and effectiveness by ensuring that all aspects of their sales force are aligned and then applying targeted improvements to meet his client’s objectives and expectations for return.
With over 25 years of experience in sales performance improvement AdAlta Group works to enhance a client’s sales foundation with targeted improvements that are readily adopted by the sales force. Rapid adoption increases returns and maximizes a company’s investment in improvement.