Despite multiple studies and articles including this one from the Harvard Business Review that show high performing sales teams use a structured sales process the biggest push back, I get from salespeople and sales leaders is, “every situation is different.”
What that excuse really means is “I don’t want to be accountable to following a repeatable process.” Totally understandable. I had a similar reaction early in my sales career because I was drinking copious amounts of “hopium.”
This excuse popped up recently in a coaching session with a sales team who sells industrial equipment globally. Their sales manager told me they couldn’t create a structured sales process because “every job,” from the technical requirements to the end client to the culture to the negotiating team on the buyer’s side is different.
Through a couple of probing questions my client came to understand that’s all a sales process is – a series of check boxes. Do we know the technical requirements? Yes or no. Do we know the end client? Yes or no.
While it is true that every situation is different, because for now we still sell to human beings not robots, the information you and your team require to determine if a prospect is qualified doesn’t change.
The solution to “every situation is different” is simple, but not easy.
- Co-create the steps in your sales process with your team – the exercise I do with my clients is have everyone write down the “chapter headings” of their sales process (e.g. 1st contact, discovery meeting, proposal presentation, implementation), have everyone share their steps then come to a mutual agreement on the number and names of the steps in your process. In my experience a sales process will be no longer than 6 steps no matter how complex the sale because what someone perceives as a “step” (e.g. “learn when prospect wants solution implemented”) is actually “information,” which is addressed next.
- Mutually agree on the non-negotiable information everyone is required to learn at each step of your process before advancing to the next step – using the example from my client, it may be non-negotiable to know the technical requirements and end client before submitting a proposal. Non-negotiable means non-negotiable. If a box isn’t checked, then the sale doesn’t progress to the next step in your process. Expect a lot of debate on these points because your reps will feel handcuffed when you are actually giving them freedom.
- Hold your reps accountable to gathering the non-negotiable information before moving to the next step in your process – this is the hardest step, for you and your reps, because of that “hopium” mentioned earlier. You will hear a lot of excuses from your reps about why “this one is different” when they want to skip a step or not gather a piece of non-negotiable information. Make sure your sales process is excuse proof.
What reps often fail to realize is following a structured process with non-negotiable check boxes sometimes makes their sale move faster because they know exactly what information they need to determine if a prospect is a good fit.
Some of the salespeople I work with shortened their time from first contact to close by more than 60% after implementing a structured sales process because their process eliminated guesswork from their selling activities.
Sales leaders I work with told me that implementing a structured sales process, especially one they co-created with their team, gave them a lot of time back in their day that they previously spent reviewing proposals or planning presentations for unqualified prospects because both they and their reps had clarity on what was required before they would invest time and resources in a proposal.
Every selling situation is different, but that doesn’t mean your sales team has to operate in chaos.
Until next time, go lead.
Hiring More Effectively
When: Thursday November 29th, 2018
Crash our regularly scheduled Sandler Management Solutions Class.
Successfully putting the right people in the right roles in your organization is a science that requires a systematic approach. It’s estimated that a bad fit hire costs your organization between 4.1 and 6.2 times base salary regardless of role. Even for an entry-level position that’s into the hundreds of thousands.
The tools you will receive are:
- A three-part formula for quickly determining if a candidate should advance based on their data
• Tools to support good fit hiring
• New mindsets, activities and techniques that limit time wasted on bad fit candidates
• Opportunity to network with fellow business leaders
Whether you’re hiring your 1st team member or your 1,000th you’ll gain insights that will save you time and your company money when hiring.
Reserve your seat today. Seating is limited.