The Necessary Evil Part 2
Categories: Sales & MarketingBy Tim Miller | April 1, 2020 << Back to Articles
In the September 2019 issue of ISSA Today, we discussed how to meld marketing strategy and tactical programs to provide specific deliverables to address defined prospect pains. The result is a vastly improved value proposition to take to market.
The next step is to understand how to utilize the sales process to drive your value proposition in the market. Simply improving value proposition without improving (or creating) a sales process is an exercise in futility.
The simplest way to understand the sales process is to imagine a new sales hire on their first morning working for your company. They are well-scrubbed, dressed just so, and bouncing off the walls with excitement. They say, “I am so thrilled to be working here in sales. I just know that I will be able to fulfill all my hopes and dreams and do great things for your company. Can you tell me, step-by-step, what I have to do to be successful in sales here?”
The answer to that question is your sales process.
More fundamentally, the sales process may be thought of as the stages in your sales pipeline. More broadly, it is all the institutional knowledge, scripts, processes, and methodologies that your company has developed for success in sales from start to finish.
According to Objective Management Group (OMG), a company that has assessed over 1.9 million salespeople in more than 28,000 companies, the percentage of salespeople utilizing a sales process has grown in recent years, but is still at only 20-25%. What is more concerning is that 70% of executives claim that their company has a sales process!
This is a critical issue to get to the bottom of because having a sales process in place can increase average sales revenues by almost 20%. And, there is a massive difference between having a process and having an effective process that is being enforced and followed consistently by all.
If you have ever felt that what happens in the sales department is somewhat mysterious, this is why. The reality is that without a process, you are at the mercy of whatever sales process your salespeople come up with.
What’s wrong with that, you say?
Your sales team is a mix of people. Some of whom are stronger salespeople than the others. Statistically, 50% of them probably ought to be in another profession than sales. Another 20% will be “serviceable” and the remaining 30% will be strong to elite.
But without a clearly defined sales process that they are held accountable to and which ties into their Contact Resource Management software (CRM), salespeople fail to see where they are and where they are going during their sales calls, meetings, and sales cycles. And since most companies do not have their sales processes properly integrated into their CRM applications, navigation is difficult even when there is a process.
If you are a president or CEO and you often feel frustrated because you feel that your sales team should be producing more than they are, then finding out what sales process is being used is a major indicator as to whether your fears are justified.
Wander into the sales department one morning and ask one of your reps what they are planning to do today. If they say something vague, like, “I’m going to go out and see some people,” follow up with, “Who, exactly?” At this point, you may see the bumbling, fumbling, and tap-dancing start as they struggle to articulate something remotely like a reasonable day’s plan to give you.
If you want to put the nail in the coffin, say, “Hey, you know what? I’ve got the rest of my morning free. I’ll ride with you until lunch. Let’s go!”
When salespeople don’t have a formal, structured, milestone-centric sales process to follow, they can’t possibly know where they are and where they need to go. What can be equally frustrating is that most existing processes are missing key stages and key milestones and are not properly sequenced so that the process can build on itself.
Since most readers of this article will be attempting to close accounts who will provide on-going business as opposed to a single product close, let’s look at the fundamental components of an effective sales process.
Hunting and farming
The sales process will be divided into two major components: Hunting and farming.
Hunting represents the process of prospecting, qualifying the opportunity. Do they have pains or challenges that you can solve? Are those pains a compelling reason for them to change whatever it is they are doing currently? And can you determine whether they see your solution as a viable one to solve their problems?
To put this in more accessible terms, prospecting would include building a database of suspects and then engaging in a sequence of prospecting activities to determine and then speak with a decision-maker. Research indicates that this will require 8-12 attempts and that utilizing varied contact methodologies (phone, email, text, fax, bulky mail, social media, face-to-face calls, etc.) within a compressed time period (2-3 weeks) will deliver the best results.
The initial conversation must find pain like a heat-seeking missile. There is very little time and the scripting must be on point, rehearsed, and delivered naturally.
If the prospect identifies a pain (or pains) it is time to start asking questions to really understand the pain and to identify the economic value of the pain. Done properly, this should lead to an “at the desk” meeting to discuss these issues further and to present your solutions to the problems.
The next logical step of this process is the close, or that the prospect decides to do business. This may be to enter a service contract or buy a certain product or product line, etc. There may be additional steps in the process, but in general terms, this is how the process should flow.
The farming aspect of the sales process depends on the requirements of the position. In some cases, salespeople do nothing but hunt and then turn accounts over to account managers or other customer service people. Some are assigned to grow the business with a limited number of major accounts.
But many times, salespeople are expected to hunt, close a relationship that creates a customer or client, and then manage that account to maintain and grow it. In these cases, the sales process must include stages and methodologies to help the salesperson to deliver ongoing value to the customer, build the “know, like, and trust” relationships that foster long term growth in addition to finding new opportunities, as well as delivering customer service.
Close the circle
Whatever the specific nature of your business, you need a complete process that is customized for your business, what you sell, who you sell to, and the challenges that you face. If you already have a process or think you have a process, you can grade it for free using OMG’s complimentary Sales Process Grader (see the end of this article to find out how).
Your sales process must be integrated with a CRM application. Your CRM should ideally represent your sales process in easy-to-understand stages and with an interface that your salespeople will not only use, but live in. There are a limited number of options that fit this description and these must be selected based on the specific nature of your business.
The right CRM and sales process are not optional if you are looking for world-class outcomes. CRM without the sales process and the sales process without CRM yield the same poor results.
The great news is that building an appropriate sales process, and integrating it with the proper CRM, will lift the performance of your “serviceable and good” salespeople in the same way that a rising tide lifts all boats. And statistically, that can result in a 20% increase in sales.
Now the problem is identifying which of your salespeople are elite, good, serviceable, or should be doing something else. But that’s the subject of our next article.
About the Author.
Tim Miller is the president of Business Development Associates, Inc., specializing in cleaning and restoration industry sales development and marketing strategies. BDA creates direct sales programs for contractors, distributors, manufacturers, and others. Contact Miller at 847-386-6556, or email him at [email protected]