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Is Your Sales Process Producing Results?

by David Brock on November 18th, 2010

The Sales Process is the cornerstone to sales excellence-for both individuals and organizations.  Recently, I reread Miller Heiman’s 2010 Best Sales Practices Study.  One very interesting result shows that in 94% of World-Class Sales organizations, executive leadership is actively engaged in the sales process.  For all other organizations, only 48% had active executive engagement in the sales processExecutive engagement in establishing, leading and coaching a sales process is critical in driving high sales performance.

Most businesses continue to struggle to fund business, to make sure they are competing for each opportunity–maximizing their ability to win.  The results of the Miller Heiman study indicates that a strong sales process is key to high performance.  Yet, over 50%  of organizations don’t have a sales process, and another large percentage don’t use the process they have in place.  It’s inconceivable, in today’s changing buying environment that leaders seeking to maximize their performance don’t put strong sales processes in place and train/coach their people in executing them with precision.

Yet, I continue to see lots of resistance to establishing and coaching sales processes.

Sales people tend to be very independent, we hire people for that quality of independence.  Some sales people chafe at being required to use a sales process, they want to do their own thing, they “know,” how to sell.  However, as sales leaders, we can’t let everyone do their own thing.  It’s our responsibility as leaders to lead.  We have to make certain our people are performing at the highest levels possible.  It’s rare that people achieve their highest levels of performance by “doing their own thing.”

If our sales process is the representation of  the collective best practices of winning business—and winning as effectively and efficiently as possible, great sales professionals should embrace the process.  It just makes them more successful!  If you don’t have a sales process that reflects current best practice, that helps your sales people win, then you are doing them a disservice.  You aren’t helping them be as successful as possible–for themselves and for the company

From a management point of view, if we don’t have a sales process, if we let everyone do their own thing, we are presented with an unmanageable situation.  It’s the functional equivalent of chaos.  Our job as managers is to make sure our people are performing at the highest levels possible, and that they are achieving the goals we have established.  Without a strong process, managing is impossible.  In the absence of a strong process, to be confident the people are going to deliver on their commitments, you have to be involved in everything, you have to understand each deal.  Without a strong sales process, as managers and leaders, we can’t perform at the highest levels possible.

The sales process is about producing results and achieving the highest levels of performance possible.  As we finish up the current calendar year and are finalizing our plans for 2011, it is critical that management teams reassess their sales processes.  It’s useful to ask yourselves:

  • Is it based on current market conditions and customer buying processes?  The world has changed in the past few years. If your sales process hasn’t been updated, it probably isn’t serving you.
  • Is it based on our best experience in winning business as effectively and efficiently as possible?  Do we see win rates increasing (or at least stable)?  Sales cycles reducing (or at least not increasing)?  Are we able to maintain or increase our profitability in each deal by having a sales process that creates value for the customer?
  • Do our people understand the selling process and how it enables them to win more, more effectively?  Are they using it?
  • Do our managers incorporate the selling process whenever they do a deal review or pipeline review?  Are they coaching the process at every opportunity?

To help you do this, I’ve developed afree eBook The Sales Process and Sales Process Self Assessment.  The eBook provides a collection of articles on developing, executing and managing the sales process.  It also includes a self assessment-a tool you can use to assess the competitiveness of the sales process and your organization’s ability to execute the process.  Hundreds have used these to tune and improve the performance of their organizations.  Concurrent with the launch of the eBook, we are introducing the Sales Process Health Check.  It leverages on the experience our clients have achieved in using the Self Assessment, but includes our expert analysis and recommendations on how the sales process and overall organizational performance can be improved.

Make sure you enter 2011 with your sales teams executing at the highest levels possible–take the time to inspect your sales process and make sure it is producing results for you!Book CoverFor a free peek at Sales Manager Survival Guide, click the picture or link.  You’ll get the Table of Contents, Foreword, and 2 free Chapters.  Free Sample

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  1. Hey Dave,

    I have always believed the role of the sales manager is to make the bad days as good as possible. If your minimum output level is of decent quality your good days will be a bonus, not a requirement.

    With that said, some salesmen might do better “doing there own thing”, some might quit if you tell them they have to follow a sales process. But the average salesman at the company will produce better results, that way lifting the value of the whole department.

    Sure working with your eyes set on creating truly brilliant salesmen is great, but the most important thing is that you create a department management can trust to day after day, year after year, produce results.

    I look forward to reading your ebook!
    Thanks for sharing it with us.


    • Thanks for the comment and perspective Daniel. I may disagree with you a little. It’s the responsibility of sales managers to maximize performance as well as to set a positive, healthy, motivational work environment. These aren’t conflicting goals. Using the company’s sales process–it it is well designed and current (which in too many cases is a BIG IF), cannot be optional. If the sales process is designed around performance excellence, it is incomprehensible that a sales person wouldn’t embrace it or that a manager wouldn’t be able to demonstrate how each person would be more productive and effective using it. If some people are doing consistently better doing their own thing, then their experience might be incorporated into the sales process, and “their own thing” mirrors the selling process.

      The sales process cannot be optional. We cannot allow people to opt in or out of this—and other things just to keep the from quitting. It’s like letting them opt into performing at the highest levels or not.

      There are many that claim the sales process limits the creativity, innovation, and the ability of the sales person to respond to specific issues. If it does, the sales process is poorly designed. A great sales process provides a framework that enables and empowers the creativity of the sales person.

      Thanks so much for the thoughtful perspective, it allowed me to clarify some of my views. Hopefully it is helpful to the readers.

  2. No Process = No Sales = No Revenue = No Commissions!
    Thanks for the article.

  3. Dave, the lack of comments on this post may be due to self conviction, not the quality or relevance of the post. Bottom line driven management coupled with the lack of coaching is a trend of great concern to me. High expectations from minimal or limited hands-on investment are unrealistic.

    • Thanks for the comment Gary. I am also concerned by the same issue–it seems many want to lead from a distance, rather than get their hands dirty with their people.

  4. Dave,

    I agree that process is very important unless it gets in the way. I have seen reps get chewed during quarterly reviews more for not following the process closely than not getting a deal.

    For big companies, process is everything. They are reluctant to hire if a candidate does not come from a strong process oriented company.

    Not sure if you are seeing this with your bigger clients.


    • Jay, I think we have to separate the process from the implementation of the process. Having said that, I’m not sure what “chewed out means,” but if people follow the process their win rates will be much higher. Reps that are not using it are not maximizing their ability to win. So it merits strong coaching from the managers. Likewise when they lose, it’s important to understand (not chew out) why the loss was incurred, and how to avoid it in the future. If it was because they weren’t using the sales process, then this needs to be corrected.

      I person consistently not/refusing to use the process, in a company that has a strong process, is not maximizing their productivity and ability to win. They are, undoubtedly not performing at the highest level possible. IF they are, and doing so consistently, then it’s useful to understand what they do and look at incorporating elements of what they do into the process.

      I do not see the “process is everything” view in larger companies (at least beyond lip service). If we did, then the performance rates would be significantly higher, but when we see overall goal attainment in large companies at 53%, then there is likely a process problem.

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