All too many people confuse activity or action with productivity or results. Think of how many times the best thing you can say about a movie or a game is that it was “action filled”. In sales, many often confuse activity with moving the sale forward or execution, bringing to mind the saying about the deck chairs on the Titanic. And while action is at times better than no action at all, it is not always the case. The difference would be in the intent and purpose.
Execution should be the tactical manifestation of a strategy, or more accurately strategies. An overall corporate sales strategy, territory and account strategies, and then a strategy for every encounter with a laser focus on logical next steps. Execution is not, or should not be, a means of formulating your strategy by trial and error. It is often those sales leaders who rely on the trial and error method that complain that their sales cycles are too long, and are looking for a way to shorten the cycle. Well, start by not doing unthought-out things that don’t directly support your goal, and more importantly that of the buyer.
Now don’t get me wrong, more often than not, it is good to put (new) skills into practice or action. This way we can review and adjust, and bring improvement over time. The key is the action being taken is in context of specific goals, one supported by a strategy (or at minimum a plan), and the execution is driven by a clear process.
Now before your roll your eyes – Anderson Style, like many do at the mention of process, consider how a dynamic process can make selling, if not easier, more straight forward. The challenge is that most confuse process with a series of predesigned steps.
While there may be a logical path or sequence in well thought-out sales processes, it is not the end all and be all, but a start. A process should allow you to best engage your buyer around their objectives, leading to the business impacts they were looking for, or more when they deal with a good sales person.
A good sales process is one that evolves with your market, one that is dynamic and reflects the market, rather than a static process that expects the market to bend to your view, which it usually does not.
As such, a key feature of a process, is not in telling you exactly what to do in each circumstance. This leaves one exposed when circumstances change, which is daily, or when we encounter circumstances our process, and the folks who designed it, did not take into account.
The best processes are those that encourage people to think about the specific situation they are facing. The means and steps with which to evaluate, and then respond or act, rather than many of the processes that send people off to do something and then try to figure out why things went wrong, after the fact.
The best sales processes are those that encourage you to stop, step back, evaluate, come up with a course of action based on the here and now, and then act. Ones that allow you to not do something for the sake of doing something, and instead execute those actions that drive value for the buyer, and move the process forward. It’s OK not to do something, and sit back and think instead.