Even companies that enjoy the luxury of clearly superior products, realize that those products will not sell themselves. As a minimum, companies need a sales force comprised of skilled professionals who understand the application of the product range, have an in-depth knowledge of their customer base, market sector and of course the competition But even all these elements together are not sufficient to ensure optimum performance levels and profitable sales.
We must have a sales process.
So What Is A Sales Process?
Put quite simply, it is a set of procedures, which determine how a company wishes it’s sales team to operate – “The way we do things around here”
The most successful organizations have implemented a process and an all-encompassing framework for defining performance standards. This involves assessing, appraising, developing, reviewing, providing continual feedback on performance, as well as implementing efficient and relevant process tools.
From the Sales Director’s/VP Sales perspective, developing a consultative sales process means developing a comprehensive, formal, realistic, and step-by-step outline of what salespeople are expected to do. This is just as appropriate for internal and totally reactive sales teams as it is for external pro-active ones. This outline includes the activity and calls they must make, the relationships they should establish with prospects, the documentation they should use in sales calls, the issues they must discuss and resolve with prospects and the tangible goals they must achieve in sequence along the path to each sale in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.
It’s only when such an outline is in place that sales management can be in a position to:
- Monitor the sales force’s activity, progress and results,
- Assess issues as they arise and take appropriate action,
- Redirect individual sales representatives’ efforts efficiently.
Although many organizations appreciate the importance of being customer-focused and talk in vague terms about their “consultative sales process” surprisingly few sales leaders invest the time and energy required to develop a formal sales process – a sales process that is at once detailed and resilient enough to guide their salespeople and permit effective management of their efforts.
Overcoming Implementation Inertia
Even when a consultative sales process has been developed, understood by sales managers, written down and circulated, it’s often not enough. No matter how brilliant, a sales process will only be effective to the extent it is followed and used by front-line sales staff. And this is where most organisations fall down: overcoming inertia – among managers and salespeople alike – and implementing the process. The hurdles that must be cleared in order to get people throughout the organisation to actually implement it, are enough to cause Sales Directors to tear their hair out. But a select few, of the very best, have found some innovative strategies that have enabled them to achieve the Holy Grail: Sustained sales growth achieved efficiently, reliably and by design.
Can there be a downside to sales process? Yes, if it restricts, and if it suffocates creativity, and if it removes individual identities.