That’s what I hear from lot’s of sales people—not in the meetings, but when we’re having a cup of coffee or a quiet one on one. To a large degree, I agree with them–but for completely different reasons.
Too often, sales processes are designed, implemented, and mandated from the top down. The sales process is put in place to respond to management’s (legitimate) need to understand the state of the business—whether it’s a deal or an opportunity. Or it’s not a process, but a methodology that’s been taken from a sales training vendor and is being twisted and tweaked to become the “sales process.” Sometimes it’s people trying to be overly prescriptive and overly controlling of what sales people do–” Do Step A, if this outcome, go to Step B, then to Step……. Under no circumstances never ever deviate from this, we know better than you.” Finally, there’s the case of the sales process that was designed in 1997 that’s still accepted/mandated as gospel–even though everything about the business, customers and competition has changed (true story)
Most of the efforts are well intended (though I have trouble with “big brother is watching), but all completely miss the point. In these cases, I’m right with the sales people in declaring, “We don’t need YOUR stinkin’ sales process!”
The primary “customer” of the sales process is the sales person. To be effective, the sales process has to do these three things for the sales person:
- Help win more business! (increase win rate)
- Help win more business faster! (decrease sales cycle time)
- Help win more business faster and more profitably! (increase margin or average transaction value)
If the sales process doesn’t do this for the sales person, then the sales person should refuse to use it! If the sales process doesn’t do this, you have defined the wrong or a bad sales process and you are hurting the ability of the sales people, not helping them.
On the other hand, if your sales process does enable these three things, then the sales person would be a fool not to use it—it’s a basic intelligence test—win more, faster, higher margin—who wouldn’t sign up for that?
The primary purpose of the sales process is to help the sales person! Too often we lose site of that. In designing our processes, we exclude the people who are to be the users, we don’t incorporate their experience and knowledge. Your sales people already know the “right sales process,” To define it, you need to extract what may be unconscious, making it conscious and explicit. Your highest performers know the sales process, leverage their collective experience to find something that works. Yes, it has to be aligned with the customer buying process–but your highest performers are already doing that.
As you finalize the sales process, ask your sales people these three questions: Does it help you win more business? Does it help you win faster? Does it help you win it more profitably? If they give you a resouding “YES” then you’ve got a great process, turn them lose in executing it. If not, keep working it until the say Yes. Compliance will never be an issue because good sales people will do the things that make them more effective—-duuuuh.
Oh, by the way, once you have a sales process that helps your people achieve these goals and they are using it everyday, then as a manager, you have the most powerful tool in place to help you understand the state of your business.
Try it today, ask your sales people the 3 questions. If it’s a resounding yes, you’re in good shape, if not, you have some work to do. Get it done before year end.