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Your Selling Process–It’s Not Optional, It’s A Condition Of Continued Employment

by David Brock on March 18th, 2010

Everyday I speak with sales executives and professionals about how to improve sales, both driving more sales and improving overall productivity and effectiveness.  One of the first things I ask them about is their sales process:  Is it current?  Are they using it? 

Not surprisingly, this is where the “Well, uh……kinda sorta….”  I’ve written about this issue extensively, I won’t repeat myself.  If you want, re-read the article, But We Have A Sales Process…….  I’d like to focus on another issue–critical for sales executives in leading the organization, critical for all sales professionals in maximizing their performance in the organization.  Using the sales process cannot be optional!  Using the sales process must be an element of how we evaluate and measure people’s performances in our organizations.  Using the sales process is a condition of continued employment!

“But Dave, that’s awfully draconian, you can’t be serious!”

Actually I am, and yes, as a sales executive, I have fired people who have refused to use the selling process.  No, I’m not being dictatorial, I want to stimulate creativity and innovation in the sales organization.  However, the sales process represents the best practice execution of our business and sales strategies.  It represents the best practices in aligning what we do with our customers’ buying processes.  It is a guide to showing each sales person how to be most productive and efficient.  It represents our collective experience in what makes us successful in winning business!

If the sales process truly represents all these things we want to achieve, as individuals and the organization, why wouldn’t we want to enforce using it — not just for the sales people, but for management?  Aren’t we focused on achieving the best results possible, as effectively and efficiently as possible?

Unfortunately, too many people seem to think of the sales process providing a suggested—use it if you want, but as long as you are producing the numbers.  That argument just doesn’t make sense to me, yes they may be making the numbers, but if they are doing it at a tremendous cost to the organization, is that sustainable?   From a management point of view, the sales process is a cornerstone to our ability to manage the business.  It’s what we base forecasts on, it’s what we look at to make sure that we are achieving our goals.  If people aren’t using it, how do we know what’s happening?  How can we commit a forecast that has integrity?

I’m all for creativity and innovation, but letting everyone do their own thing is chaos–not creativity.  Being part of an organization, means executing the strategies and processes the organization has identified as critical to achieving its goals.  Hopefully the strategies and processes (particularly in selling) are not so narrowly defined that they restrict all creativity.

What happens when I find someone that’s not using the sales process?  First I try to understand why they aren’t using it?  Maybe they don’t understand it, maybe they don’t know how it makes them better sales people (or more effective sales managers/coaches).  I look at their performance, perhaps they are doing something that should be incorporated into our process–we should always be seeking to improve our processes.  I work with them in getting them to understand how they can be much more productive and effective by using the process and help them develop an execute a plan that gets them back on target.

But what if they don’t do it?  Well, if after understanding, diagnosing, coaching, they still aren’t using it, they are gone.  If they won’t execute the sales process, they either don’t have the skills/capabilities or they are not aligned with our goals and strategies–choosing not to be as productive as possible.  We can’t afford this in the organization.

Would you do this even for the top performers?  The short answer is, Yes.  But the question doesn’t really make sense, if they aren’t executing our strategies, if they aren’t aligning what we do with our customers’ buying processes, if they aren’t being as productive and efficient as possible, how could they be a top performer?  Sure they might be producing big numbers, but at what cost?  Are they doing that by creating all sorts of exceptions within the organization?  Are they pissing customers, or the people in our organization off?  Are they booking bad business?  Are they making commitments that we can’t or don’t want to deliver on? 

In my experience, consistent top performers use the process rigorously.  They are the one’s I count on to help continually improve the process.

If we are serious about personal and organizational effectiveness, then the sales process is not optional.

What do you think?

  1. You are absolutely correct! And it’s good to know, I’m not alone in spreading the “not optional” message.

    Adding to the train of thought… Metrics that correlate execution of various parts of the sales process to results produced prove empirically that “not optional” is the only way to go. (For example, there’s a high correlation between total value of qualified opportunities in a rep’s pipeline to sales closed.)

    • Todd, thanks for taking the time to comment. Without having corresponding metrics, the sales process is not as helpful in managing personal, team, and organizational performance. The sales process lends itself to a number of great “forward looking” and process based metrics. Some of the other articles in this blog refer to them.

      Great comment, thanks for visiting! Keep coming back, sales process discipline is a soapbox I can’t get off of.

  2. Hello David.

    I agree that a good process is necessary in keeping things organized. I agree that it is essential to have folks on the same page so that the organization can be best managed. However, is process really the secret to achieving actual sales goals? Process has nothing to do with the customer unless the process has a customer facing component. It is only then that the process will result in the achievement of sales objectives. As an example, Todd posted about metrics. If the metric revealing the value of having a certain number of qualified opportunities in your pipeline results in a certain number of transactions closed, than the process needs to facilitate the identification and development of Qualified opportunities. Then, the process needs to give the rep a consistent and systematic method of working with the client, helping them resolve their issues so that they will buy. This has nothing to do with the vendors sales process and requires the flexibility to reflect the differences in how our prospects and customers make buying decisions. Too often I think Sales Leaders get hyper focused on a sales process that measures activities or that promotes compensation plans that pay for administrative process oriented objectives that have nothing to do with helping people buy our solutions. If we can agree that consistency in process makes sense than we must agree that the process needs to be designed with the Buyer in mind, NOT our back office in mind.

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