sales process missing pieces

  • Was it complete?
  • Was it effective?
  • Was it flexible?
  • Did it cover all the major selling environments?
  • Was it oriented to each sales channel?
  • Did it cover active and latent demand?
  • Was it aligned to my customer’s buying process?


If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’ or even ‘I don’t know”, you may have a deficient sales process. Well that just begs the key question: “how do I know if my company has a good sales process?”


They key is en ensuring that your sales process boasts each of the following components. For a similar list of components of a Solution Selling process, click here.


Sales Process High Level Flow Phase 1 resized 600


  1. A high level Process design. This is the most importance ingredient in the mix. The process design shows the phases, the objectives, and the steps that the sales team needs to be complete. It provides the framework on how to conduct a sales campaign, but it is not the detailed roadmap. Other components flow logically from the high level process design. It should be crisp and clean and easily visually identifiable.  See the example above, which shows phase 1 of a sample process design.


  2. Buyer-driven Exit criteria. Anyone can develop a multi-phased sales process, but the ‘trick’ is how to determine when a sales Opportunity moves from one phase to the next. Since this is often the way that sales managers use to track progress of a deal, this dividing line between one phase and the next can be hotly contested. Until recently, exit criteria tended to reflect actions on behalf of the sales team (e.g. submit proposal or conduct demonstration). Best practices now dictate that exit criteria should be defined in terms of buyer actions that represent a change in their behavior. A richer discussion of this part of sales process can be found on an earlier blog post of mine.


  3. Job Aids or Sales Tools. In each phase the sales team needs to make use of certain tools (i.e. Job Aids) to enable the buyer to progress to the exit criteria. Job Aids can be internal (used only by members of the sales team) or external (shared with the customer). A richer discussion of this part of sales process can be found on an earlier blog post of mine.


  4. A Detailed sales ‘Playbook’. When sales reps and sales engineers see a high level design their eyes sometimes glaze over.  Some inevitably mutter, “Another blue sky design without the details necessary to execute.” And many times they are right. What a Playbook does is address the need for specific guidance on exactly how a specific sales step should be implemented. Playbooks cover who does what, when, how, in what order, in what periodicity, with what Job Aids, and using what automation. Typical Playbooks for an enterprise sales process run to 20 pages in length – enough to ensure that all sales reps have the detail they need to get it right in each sales campaign they run.  


  5. Courseware. The design and Job Aids and Playbook are not enough, though, to ensure sales team behavior is changed to represent desired state, nor is it sufficient to train new hire staff. What is needed to close this gap is an interactive, modular, curriculum-based (i.e. 101 level, 201 level, etc..) courseware. Such a courseware is an artifact of Instructional Design, complete with group and individual Exercises, handouts, presentation slides, video references, pre-work for attendees, quizzes, follow-up enablement work, and role plays. Taken together, a courseware with these elements, especially when wrapped within a certification scheme, will teach the sales team how to sell effectively, enable them to retain key concepts, and it take the initiative in refreshing themselves on core capabilities.


  6. Sales Performance Management (SPM) framework. Sales team respect what is inspected and a new sales process is no exception to that rule. Accordingly, a complete sales process includes elements of SPM to govern and guide it. Such an SPM framework encompasses leading indicator metrics (e.g. pipeline-to-quota ratio), introspective metrics (phase regression rates), and process output metrics (e.g. sales cycle length). In addition to baselining and tracking these metrics, an SPM framework changes the dynamic of forecasting – no longer are sales reps asked to predict the likelihood of a deal closing. Instead, these probabilities are all deterministically calculated from past sales campaign history. What a relief for the individual sales professional!.      


  7.  A Continuous Improvement program. Lastly, a sales process would not be complete without an embedded program to ensure that each element was continuously improved. Such a program might include a quarterly win-loss analysis, some form of release cycle (i.e. version 2.0 of the sales process issued in Oct 20110, a means of capturing recommendations for improvement, and, most importantly, the assignment of a resource who explicit accountability for improving the sales process over time.


What isn’t CRM on the list?

Ironically, the one element (a CRM or Customer Resource Management system) many believe is elemental to a sales process is actually not. Such systems are useful tools that aid in the reporting, management, and automation of a sales process, but they are not part of the process itself. Instead, they are a helpmeet to a well-designed process.




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Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.
Mike has led every function at SBI – Delivery, Sales, Talent, and Technology. Now he is a leader for Account Management, Private Equity Partnership, and long-term business development at SBI.


He has personally led over 100 projects for SBI over his decade+ time since its founding in 2006.


This starts by earning trust – of clients, of PE firms, of prospects. Mike obtains this by leveraging deep domain expertise, with more than 25 years in sales, competitive intelligence, sales management, marketing enablement, product management, pre-sales and sales operations. Mike relishes the idea of living in the field. So he does.


As a founding partner, Mike built out SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Mike built himself many of the solutions now part of the Revenue Growth Methodology. And whatever he touches gets adopted. This is part of his commitment to making it happen in the field.
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