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What Do We Do Next?

by David Brock on May 2nd, 2012

Every year, I sit through hundreds of deal reviews.  They all seem to go the same way.  The sales person talks about the deal, the competition, what the sales person or team has done.  Too often, too much time is spent reviewing and discussing past history.  However, at some point in the review, the discussion shifts to, “What do we do next?”

Often, there’s a bit of an uncomfortable silence.  Then a lot of random ideas start surfacing, “We should probably meet with…..,”  “Maybe we should do this……, ”  “Let’s do a demo…..,” “Let’s have one of our executives call on them…..,” “What if we tried this…..”

I’m always struck by the seeming randomness of the discussion.  Lots of brainstorming, lots of (and some very good) ideas, but they sometimes seem unfocused or like we are grasping at straws struggling to identify the critical next steps in improving our positioning, and moving to winning a deal.

There’s simply no reason for this.  There’s no reason to be guessing, there’s no reason for the randomness in thinking.  The next steps must always be purposeful and have a strong direction.  They must be based on our experience in winning deals, knowing what’s most effective in producing results, and how we win.

Guess what, the tool that we use to do this, executing our best practices consistently is the Sales Process.  The sales process provides direction and context to our discussion on what’s next.  While the specifics will vary deal by deal, the Sales Process provides a structure and framework that’s based on our best practices and knowledge of what wins.

The conversations that are random brainstorming sessions, the confused discussions about what to do next are the result of not having a Sales Process–or not using it.  In the absence of a sales process, we have to “invent” a way to win each time every time.  We have to invent it continuously as the customer executes their buying process.  We aren’t leveraging our experience of what it takes to win, so we put our ability to win at greater risk.

One of the best things about a Sales Process is it provides a structure and a framework that helps us win!  It helps us understand what it takes to win and provides us a starting point to answer the question, “What do we do next?”  Why not focus the next steps based on what we know causes us to win, rather than guessing?  Why not use the process as the starting point to identifying specifically what advances us–yest we have to adjust what we do to the specifics of the situation, but we do in a structured, efficient and effective context.

I don’t know about you, but somehow winning–and winning fast is important to me.  I can’t imagine having to guess.  I can’t imagine putting my ability to win at risk–in fact I want to minimize that risk.  I can’t imagine not leveraging our best practices to give me direction and insight into what to do next.  I can’t imagine not leveraging the Sales Process for it’s maximum impact.

Are you comfortable with guessing and putting your ability to win at risk?  If you are, then you don’t need a Sales Process.  If not, then the answer should be clear.

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2 Comments
  1. Again, great article, thank you. Our sales process took some time to define and we are all committed to it. This process was done some time ago, and I don’t believe our team is committed to it as much as when we launched it. The question is, does one need to review the sales process? If so, how often? What dictates this review?

    • Paulo, this is a great question for everyone. Sales processes become outdated. Our customers change, competition changes, our own strategies change. These drive the need to change and update the process. You describe an interesting symptom. Originally people were committed to the process, not much less so. It probably means the process isn’t helping them, and may be hindering them. It’s a certain sign the process has become outdated.

      There are no good rules of thumb for updateding the process, but some ideas:

      1. Review the process annually. Test against your latest best practices and update.
      2. If there is a major change in your business, you probably should review and updated the process. For example, right now I’m working with an organization completing a major acquisition. Prior to the acquistion, the process was appropriate. We are finding we have to do some tuning and tweaking to the process.
      3. If there are major changes in your competition, in your markets, or other areas, you probably want to review and update your processes.
      4. If you are announcing major new and very different product lines, if you are moving from products to services, if you are attacking major new markets—all signs to review and update your processes.

      Remember the sales process is based on your best experience in winning business. Look at the trailing 6-9 months and see if there are any significant shifts in what your people did to win.

      Great question, thanks for asking it!

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