How? Use a well-defined, buyer-focused Sales Process. What’s that – you already use a Sales Process? Give yourself a check-point on how well you’re doing with its use and how well you can predict your future by using our Sales Process Assessment tool here.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into what makes a sales process work and why you should care. First, what a sales process is not:
- A Sales Process is not an out of the box, one-size-fits-all, generic methodology.
- A Sales Process is not just extra work with no benefit – a well-defined sales process, used consistently and aligned with your buyer results in shortened sales cycle, more accurate forecasting and increased close rate.
- A Sales Process is not simply a way for your boss to micro-manage you. A Sales Process gives you needed clarity and the ability to predict your future. And the same goes for your boss and their boss.
So, what defines a sales process? When CRM systems like Salesforce.com were but a gleam in the eyes of their developers, I worked for a VP of sales that had a clear vision of what a sales process was and why it was important. He knew how it would help sales executives in all arenas get more focused and effective. He showed me how it could ultimately support my need to consistently beat quota and earn more money. He didn’t use a software package – just easy to use Excel files. But his Excel files contained the stuff that defines a sound sales process that works:
- There were clearly defined steps to the process with specific, BUYER actions for entry into and exit out of each step. At SBI, we clearly link our client’s specific Sales Process to buyer actions, not seller actions. You can burn valuable time submitting a proposal after pressing the prospect into receiving it. If a proposal isn’t invited by the buyer because they see your solutions as a viable and possibly preferred option, forget about the close.
- All opportunities have date stamps on entry and exit by steps. Your time and talent are your most valuable resources. Measuring how long opportunities get stuck in the pipeline and where you have leaks allows you to speed forward to buyer decisions and move on to the next deal.
- Each step in the process forced me to come to a “go/no-go” decision. Did the guy I thought was the decision-maker have the budget, authority and the expressed need to buy what I sold? If not, move on to find out who does.
Every year, SBI talks to thousands of sales pros and we’ve heard all of the objections about a sales process. “It’s just another way for management to keep a microscope on us.” “I’ll lose valuable time in front of customers.” And so on. And our thousands of interviews of sales reps every year tell us this: consistantly using a process that aligns with the buyer delivers more revenue per sale, more closes and faster movement through the pipeline – in short, more cash in your hand.
Once I knew implementing a sales process was important to my boss, I stuck with it. I took a few minutes after each prospect or customer interaction to determine where the opportunity was in the buying process. I met with my VP weekly to review my Excel spreadsheet at a customer level. He’d ask questions. We’d determine next steps for key opportunities. This kept me coming back to the buyer’s behaviors. Once a month we’d meet to discuss my sales pipeline, volume, velocity and adherence to a process focused on the buyer.
Over the next 5 months, I started to change how I operated. Proposal quantity went down but the speed and volume of opportunities moved through the pipeline increased. My closing rate went up – significantly (from just below 20% to nearly 35% in my case). I stopped wasting time going down rat holes that lead to the dreaded “no-decision”. I listened to the buyer – really listened – and acted accordingly. I beat my quota. Next year, I crushed my number and I knew I would well before the year ended. The following year I got promoted and my boss got bumped up to EVP.
How’s your sales process? Can you rely on it to predict your financial future? Are you using it to take the blindfold off as you drive to earn more in 2012? Use the Sales Process Assessment tool to see if your vision of your financial and career future is clear. Use a sales process that’s defined by and focused on the buyer. Reduce your anxiety, take off the blindfold and gain control.