McDonald's built an empire on processes. So have Amazon and many other major brands. Processes are the key to replicating success. The same applies to your sales process. The goal is to gain the greatest return on your investment of time, energy, and resources from your process. If it's not providing you with the results you want, you may need to give your sales process a shock to its system.
Here are a few ways to do it...
1. Ensure there is alignment between Sales Steps and Sales Activities.
Sales Step: a combination of activities connected by a single purpose that achieves a specific milestone in professional selling.
For example, the purpose of the Qualifying step is: to determine the validity of a prospect based upon a pre-defined set of characteristics.
Sales Activities: individual tasks or actions within a step of the sales process that satisfy the purpose of that step.
Here are a few examples of sales activities within the Qualifying step:
- Identify all players (decision-makers, influencers, advocates, users, etc.)
- Determine level of decision-making urgency (delivery date, contract date, etc.)
- Define budget (pricing, funding sources, terms, conditions, payment schedule, etc.)
The process for acquiring this information will come from a standardized set of qualifying questions you'll ask the buyer. For this example, you might ask yourself, How many of these qualifying questions should I ask in a preliminary call prior to my first appointment to determine if I should even meet with this prospect?
Once you document each step and identify their corresponding activities, use the questions below to help you evaluate their effectiveness and make the necessary changes.
- What are the fewest number of steps needed that will drive sales?
- Which steps can I eliminate?
- What steps need to be added?
- Which activities are best suited for each step to fulfill its purpose?
- Which steps do I need to redefine?
- Are there any activities that need to be added to my existing steps to improve results?
2. Modify Sales Steps and Sales Activities based on each sales role.
Different sales roles don't always need the same sales steps or activities in a sales process. Some roles are transactional, while others are quite complex. Some sales cycles will be shorter than others.
An easy example is the vast differences between the Inside Sales, Outside Sales, and Major Account Sales roles. Most Inside Sales processes have fewer steps, fewer activities, and shorter sales cycles. Major Account Sales have more steps, more activities, and longer sales cycles. In some cases, they can use the same number of steps, but more activities would be required due to the complexity of major account sales. In other instances, Inside Sales would have fewer steps and certainly fewer activities. Here are a few tips:
Transactional Sales Roles
For many Inside Sales and Call Center Reps, scripts and a linear process can be ideal. Each question the sales rep asks the caller drives the process forward to its logical outcome. Creating an "If-Then" script, which aligns with your sales process, works very well. For example, if the prospect's response to the sales reps question about urgency is "Yes", then the rep jumps to question #5 and continues the process. If the prospects answer is "NO", then the rep moves to question #2 and proceeds with a different set of questions to determine if the prospect is qualified.
Outside Sales Roles
For Outside Sales, the combination of prospecting, selling, and (in some cases) account management, requires clearly defined steps with a healthy need for time management. The sales process requires managing steps across multiple opportunities over a quota period (ie. month). This is an element that is usually not as pronounced in Inside or Major Account Sales. Not that the others don't require time management, but Outside Sales requires prioritization between prospecting, face-to-face appointments, presentations, and closing with travel time. All of which must be constantly evaluated to ensure some activities, like lead generation, don't get ignored during an abundance of presentations and closing appointments. This is one reason why many Outside Sales reps struggle with rollercoaster sales. When prospecting is high, the results yield plenty of sales over the next few months. While tending to these multiple sales opportunities, prospecting declines and leads dry up resulting in lower sales over the following months.
Enterprise Sales Roles
For Major Account Sales, the sales process (steps and activities) should align with the strategy for landing large opportunities over a long period of time. One step can take months and closing a deal may require senior executives, IT leaders, lawyers, and government regulators to complete the deal. That means your sales process must take into consideration the different variables that a complex sales process encounters.
- Which steps and activities can be standardized across multiple sales roles?
- Which activities need to be reordered within my Inside Sales process to increase the buyers' value perceptions earlier in the call?
- What activities in the Outside Sales process can be delegated to a support staff to free up more selling time?
- What resources do I need to add to my Major Account sales process to acquire more intelligence about accounts we're targeting?
- How can I build in flexibility in the Major Account sales process to account for fluctuating market conditions?
3. Evaluate your updated Sales Steps and Sales Activities and solicit feedback.
After making adjustments to the steps and activities within your sales process, take time to observe your results. Sales reps, sales leaders, and especially customers are excellent sources to learn how effective your changes are. Of course, sales numbers and quota achievement will speak loudly as to the effectiveness of your changes.
Finally, ask yourself the following questions to help you determine the success of the updates you made to your sales process.
- Are my overall sales improving?
- Are my margins increasing?
- Are my individual sales larger?
- Am I achieving my sales quota more consistently?
- Does my pipeline contain more qualified and fewer unqualified buyers?
Following these three steps can break you out of a rut if your sales process is keeping you trapped into practices that have become ineffective. Taking the initiative to make just a few simple changes can make all the difference in sales goal achievement.