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Ready, Fire, Aim---Who Cares About Having A Selling Process?

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Dave Brock

Many sales managers I meet don’t want to talk about their sales process. Their focus in on activity. They measure their sales people by numbers of sales calls they make, how many meetings are scheduled, how many proposals are generated, how many leads the sales person follows-up. These managers often confuse activity with producing results. Many activities their people undertake are the wrong or unproductive activities. Talking about selling processes is frustrating to these sales managers because it gets in the way of more activity.

Many sales people and managers confuse a process-based approach with bureaucracy. A reaction we often get is: "I don't have time for all that stuff, my job is to be out selling!" However, all successful sales people use a sales process. They simply are doing the things that they have done in the past that have made them successful. After all, isn't that what a process is?

Consciously or unconsciously, all successful sales people use a sales process. They consistently repeat the steps that they have successfully used in the past. Recognizing the patterns of success with your best sales people is the first step to understanding the importance and impact of a sound selling process.

Developing and managing your sales process is critical to the success and growth of the sales organization. The selling process focuses the organization on executing only the activities critical to creating value to your customers and to closing sales. It leverages both the best practices of the sales people in the organization and identifies uncompetitive practices. The selling process not only enables the organization to improve its focus, but it improves the effectiveness and efficiency of communication within the organization.

The sales process provides the organization a consistent language to review opportunities and forecasts. It helps the organization focus on growth, because the nature of managing the process is forward looking. Many traditional sale measures are lagging indicators. Identifying critical sales process activities maintains the focus on the leading indicators--Are we doing the right things the right way?

Each organization has a unique selling process. Sure, there are elements that are common to all sales people, but the most effective organizations identify and manage the activities critical to achieving their desired objectives. Critical elements of any organization's selling process include:

  • A thorough understanding of the customer critical business problems, issues, and needs-to-buy.

  • Understanding and communicating our value and differentiation in helping the customer solve their business problems.

  • Quantification of the impact of the customer business problems and the value of our solutions in solving their problems.

  • Identifying and validating the customer buying process, their buying criteria and how we demonstrate value in each step of the process.

  • Matching the critical steps of the customer buying cycle with the sales process.

  • Identifying the critical steps and activities necessary to progress through the customer buying cycle and where we are with each opportunity in the cycle.

  • Identifying our odds of winning and critical exposures to our solutions strategy.

Establishing the selling process can be as simple as creating a simple checklist of the steps critical to success. We do this buy examining why we have won or lost in the past, common patterns we see in our customer buying cycles and benchmarking best practices within and out of our industry. An easy way of developing the process is to identify critical activities in each major phase of the buying process. Figure 1 demonstrates a potential approach.

The critical activities identified in Figure 1 become the yardsticks by which we measure our progress through the customer buying cycle and our selling process. Skipping any of these steps increases the likelihood that we will not satisfy the customer's business problems and that we will lose the sales opportunity.

These critical activities also provide a common basis for forecasting all opportunities being addressed within the sales territory or organization. Forecasts are no longer made by the "gut feel" of where an opportunity is in the selling cycle, but on criteria based on demonstrated success. For each opportunity, we know precisely where we are, based on the activities completed and those activities remaining to be successful. We can now look at all opportunities, where they are in the selling process, identify our odds of winning and forecast the business we will generate.

This process also gives us important productivity measures including sales cycle, conversion and win rates, business balance and other indicators.

Finally, this process gives us an ability to focus on critical activity, creating a selling process that better enables you to hit your targets. Stated otherwise:

Ready, Aim, Fire, Win, Grow


Figure 1

Customer Buying Cycle

Sales Process

Critical Activities

Problem Identification Contacting
  • Customer appears to have a real business problem that we can solve.
  • The customer is interested in pursuing discussions.
Identifying Explicit Needs or Requirements Qualifying and Discovery
  • The real business problems and their impact on the customer's business have been identified and quantified.
  • We have solutions to the customer business problem.
  • We have identified our differentiated value add.
  • We have identified all people involved in the customer buying process, their criteria, and priorities.
  • The customer is committed to invest in a solution and has approved funding for the project.
  • We understand the competitive alternatives available to the customer and our strengths and weaknesses relative to each alternative.
  • We are working with the customer in building a justified business case for the solution.
Evaluating Alternative Solutions Proposing and Presenting
  • We agree on our best solution to the customer problem.
  • We have identified all personal and business benefits derived from our solution.
  • We have satisfied all the buying criteria established by the customer.
  • The customer will make a decision within X days
  • We have submitted our final proposal and addressed any open issues.
  • The customer agrees to our differentiation and value.
  • The customer agrees with the business case and return generated by our solution.
Selecting Solutions Closing
  • The customer and we have agreed on the final solution and the expected benefits.
  • The implementation plan and resources have been committed by both the buyer and seller.
  • We have agreed on the methodology for measuring and tracking the desired results.
Implementing Solutions Implementing
  • We are teamed with the customer in implementing the project per agreement.
  • Early results are being demonstrated.
Continuous Improvement Growing The Account
  • We are tracking customer satisfaction and identifying opportunities for improvement.
  • We are identifying enhancements and modifications to the solution that create greater value to the customer.
  • We are identifying other opportunities for solving related customer business problems.

© 1998 Partners In EXCELLENCE. All rights reserved.

Partners In EXCELLENCE provides many training programs that improve the effectiveness of professionals executing their selling process.  For information on the Dimensions Of EXCELLENCE training programs, follow the link.

Dave Brock is President of Partners In EXCELLENCE, a consulting and training firm. Partners In EXCELLENCE assists its clients in re-inventing their sales and marketing organizations. Its mission is to have a profound impact in improving the quality of its clients' sales and marketing processes.

Partners In EXCELLENCE supports a diverse clientele ranging from Fortune 50 through start-up companies. These clients are in a variety of industries including: consumer products, computer hardware and software, telecommunications, industrial controls, scientific instrumentation, semiconductor and electronic components.

Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.

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