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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
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
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
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
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
This process also gives us important productivity
measures including sales cycle, conversion and win rates, business balance and other
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
- Customer appears to have a real business problem that
we can solve.
- The customer is interested in pursuing discussions.
|Identifying Explicit Needs
||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.
||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
- The customer agrees to our differentiation and value.
- The customer agrees with the business case and return
generated by our solution.
- 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.
- We are teamed with the customer in implementing the
project per agreement.
- Early results are being demonstrated.
||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
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.