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.”
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.