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Surprising Reasons Why Sales Process Matters

by Karen Jackson | on Jun 04, 2012 | 8 Comments

Last week I was talking with the CEO of a small software company struggling with driving revenue. Looking for a possible solution, she wanted my thoughts on where in the sales engine she might zero in. When I mentioned lack of defined sales process as a typical culprit for lagging revenue growth, she remarked, “I don’t see that as an issue for us. I’ve hired very experienced sales people; they certainly ought to know what to do.”

Uh-oh.

Many small-biz CEO’s, particularly those without sales backgrounds, perceive sales process as little more than lowest common denominator management. The rationale is, if they hire seasoned sales people (hard in itself but that’s a different conversation) then they shouldn’t need to create a sales process. After all, isn’t the purpose of creating a sales process really just for baby-sitting?

The answer is no.

At its most basic level, creating and following a sales process does ensure that everyone is following a best practices approach to sales. It also creates a method, particularly if a CRM or other reporting tool is utilized, for sales people to organize themselves, and for management to track and measure activity. All well and good and valuable. But, if that’s the only rationale, then this CEO may be right to think she can do without.

When B2B companies ignore sales process, here’s what they’re really choosing to live without: data. Data to inform any number of strategic and tactical decisions, to identify trends, to help us answer questions like:

  • How well do we really understand our clients’ buying process?
  • Where in the sales cycle are we having difficulty closing?
  • Is there something we could do differently to push our prospects into the next stage?
  • Are we jumping stages therefore finding it hard to close?
  • What’s the quality of our pipeline?
  • How predictable are our forecasts?
  • What danger are we in of elongated sales cycles?
  • Where can the cycle be shortened?
  • Are we chasing the wrong leads?
  • How efficiently are we deploying sales and support resources?
  • How can we refine our tactics for better results?
  • What customer stakeholders are we failing to convince / convert?
  • Do we understand the key moment when a prospect will become a customer?
  • Have we become “proposal happy?”
  • What skills training do our reps need right now?
  • How quickly can we bring new hires up to productivity levels?

Top-performing sales engines utilize well-structured and repeatable sales processes that leverage best-practices and identify true milestones in the buyer’s journey. The process isn’t a baby-sitting tool, though it’s true that the process helps each of us stay focused and disciplined. Rather, it’s because the process provides key data that elevates the performance of the sales person and the entire organization. If you can’t answer the questions above, it’s time to start thinking process.

 

| Categories: B2B Sales Strategy, Business Planning, Growth, Sales, Sales Marketing Strategy
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8 Comments to Surprising Reasons Why Sales Process Matters

  1. john stuart
    June 4, 2012 6:09 pm

    good writing/good comments Karen!
    as a sales and marketing person, I agree wholeheartedly.
    this is not an area ceo’s are familiar with. but assuming that
    ‘everything is ok’ with or without a process is a mistake!

  2. Marty Aronow
    June 4, 2012 6:19 pm

    Excellent.

  3. Ellie Becker
    June 4, 2012 6:52 pm

    This is a very important post. I have two thoughts.

    First, I am a VAR/Partner for HubSpot, a marketing software company that has been able to put about 7000 customers on the books by using a very well thought out sales process. Over time they have honed it and they have analytics in place to measure its efficacy. Recently they put partners through sales training based on the process. Some of us were skeptical at first as we all have our own consultative sales methods. But guess what? In giving the process a chance, it turns out that it works!

    Second, we’re in a moment where the functions of sales and marketing are shifting because of the Internet and the way prospects search for information and take more control of the buying process. It’s particularly critical today to define the sales process – or re-define it – to take into account the broader roles of marketing and the ability to turn over to sales far more purchase-ready leads.

    Thanks for getting the juices flowing on this, Karen!

    • Karen Jackson
      June 4, 2012 7:24 pm

      Ellie thanks so much for your comments. First, let me say I am a huge HubSpot fan. They put out amazing, impactful content. Second, your point about the shift in sales / marketing fiefdoms is spot on. More than ever it’s imperative that these 2 sides of the organization are aligned.

      In the small to mid-size business space, there is little money spent on marketing. Equally important, there is a lack of understanding of the difference between these 2 disciplines.

      Many think that “process” squashes creativity. I’ve learned that it simply provides a solid platform from which creativity can blossom.

  4. Christine Juneau
    June 4, 2012 8:55 pm

    What gets measured is what gets done, and what gets done is what gets rewarded. So it all comes down to measurements — the right ones, that is. With the right measurements, CEOs can get to the heart of the great questions you have raised.

    • Karen Jackson
      June 4, 2012 10:41 pm

      You’re right….funny how we all bristle at the notion of “measurements.” But the truth is that measurements bring us information and from there we’re in control. In this context, the truly wisest are the sales people who get that good data gets them the sale. It’s not for baby-sitting, it’s for problem solving and deal creation.

  5. Joe Pawlak
    June 4, 2012 11:03 pm

    I appreciate this post Karen.

    What do you have without a process?

    Unpredictability ….. A killer in small businesses.

    Thanks again.

    • Karen Jackson
      June 5, 2012 2:34 pm

      Thanks Joe for weighing in. Unpredictability is truly a killer and yet it’s a norm in small businesses. By replacing chaos with process not only are the chances for success much higher, but scalability and efficiency are possible – essential for resource constrained companies.

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