I seems every time I write a post about the sales process, I get comments that it is not reasonable to force sales people to use the sales process. They include, “forcing someone to use the sales process removes their creativity from the opportunity,” or “I’m an experienced sales person, I know how to do deals, I don’t need to follow any company process,” or “it’s wrong to force high performers to do something different from what they are already doing.”
In some ways, I’m sympathetic. If a company has a bad or outdated sales process, then forcing sales people to use the process is counterproductive—fix the process first, then show the sales people how they can be more productive and effective using the sales process. With a great sales process, it becomes very simple, sales people close more business and make more money. The organization closes more business and makes more money. Simple!
But for every other reason, I am absolutely unsympathetic to sales people who don’t use the sales process or managers that don’t show sales people they can be more productive using the sales process. My reasoning is: If the sales process represents the best experience in closing deals, if it is based on maximizing the probability of winning, on reducing the sales cycle, on maximizing deal profitability, then it’s foolish for anyone not to use the sales process. If the sales process is the road map to success, helping sales people win more deals in a shorter period of time, then sales people should clamor to use the process. If the sales process maximizes the productivity and results of the sales person, then any manager not making sure their people understand and use the sales process is not doing his or her job.
In my view a sales process is not optional–at least if you want the highest levels of personal and organizational performance. It’s not optional for management. Managers must make sure they have designed a sales process that maximizes performance. Managers must make certain the process is current and competitive. Managers must train and coach their people in how to use the sales process to produce the best results. They must use the process in every review they do and set an example in their own personal performance. Any manager choosing not to do these things is telling his management and his people, “I am not trying to maximize the performance of my people and my organization. I’m not interested in my sales people being as successful as they can be. I’m not interested in making the organization as successful as it can be.”
It’s not optional for sales people either. Sales people refusing to use the process are the same, they are opting to perform at lower levels than they could.
“But Dave, that’s awfully simplistic, things aren’t that black and white. Sometimes our sales people do much better not using the process, or by putting their own spin on the process.” It’s a fair argument, but actually, I think when this starts happening consistently, it’s actually an indicator that the sales process needs to be reviewed and updated. When the sales process doesn’t serve the sales people and they start doing their own thing and producing better results, then the sales process needs updating. The faster things are changing–competition, market conditions, the way customers buy, the products and solutions offered, the more we have to update our sales process. In today’s markets, I tend to recommend the sales process needs to be formally reviewed semiannually.
There are no excuses for not having a good and current sales process. There are no excuses for management not to use the process. Likewise for the sales people.
Am I being too hard-nosed or simplistic?
As a side note, don’t forget to get your free copy of our Sales Process and Sales Process Self Assessment eBook. It’s a much more detailed review of developing, implementing, and managing your sales process. Click on the link to get your own copy!