Sales process. Did you cringe? When we say those two words, the most common reaction we see from some salespeople is that they either wince or grimace. Then when we recommend implementing a formal sales process, we often hear “I don’t want a script,” or “I don’t want to be a robot,” or “well there goes my personality.” However, that’s not what a sales process is. It’s not something to be afraid of. It’s just formalized best practices.
Let me explain; we do this with almost every client. Generally, a standardized sales process is something everyone needs, but they don’t know it. When we bring up this topic, our clients’ minds go straight to sales training, which often involves questions and methodology. That is not what we are talking about here.
What we do is help you formalize the steps that move a lead from a prospect to a customer and document it so that everyone can leverage those same best practices.
Those best techniques already come from your top performers. They, like others, can be resistant when you talk about the sales process and don’t think they need one. But, when we ask them what they do when selling to an account, they often say something along the lines of “I do this first, this second, and this third.” They even have great explanations as to why they do each step and what they try to accomplish in each level.
When we compare their approach to the salespeople who are struggling, we find that they have vastly different answers. What if we write down those best practices from your top performers and have everybody do that? We then take those steps and then standardize them. Guess what? That’s a sales process!
The reason we talk to your champions is that they have already created a proven method for success. They know what works best for your target audience, and if much of the content comes from them, the rest of the team will be more likely to adopt it because it has been proven to work.
Now let me take a minute to make a distinction as to how this sales process is different than the sales methodology taught in sales training. In many sales training programs, they teach you an approach to asking questions, an approach to establishing value, etc.
These are all good, but they never get down to real specifics like “Step 3, get the prospect in for a plant tour.” That is something that might be very specific to your company with excellent reasons for doing it but is not written in their training books that have been distributed to thousands. A valid sales process is specific to you and your company.
For each step of your process, there are a few things you need to define, such as:
What is the goal of this step? The first time you talk to a prospect, it is typically not to sell them something. Instead, it is to qualify them to see if you are a fit for each other. Make that the goal for that step and create a goal for every level after that.
What activities happen at each stage? This can include information you need to gather, meetings to conduct with various decision-makers, materials you need from your client, demonstrations, or presentations of your solution. What do those top performers do consistently? Write that down as essential activities.
Are there tools you use? We often find that some top performers create tools like ROI calculators, presentations, cool 1-page slides, etc. The problem is that nobody else has ever seen them or knows how to use them. If they are accurate, standardize their use.
What are the toll gates? This is a part of the process that is often overlooked and typically not taught in sales training. This is the rule that says, “I don’t leave this step in the process until…” The until part could mean “…until I have completed all my discovery” or “… until the customer has agreed to a demo with all the decision-makers.”
Without this Toll Gate, less experienced salespeople often skip steps in the process. When a prospect shows a little interest and asks a price, they jump right to that step and give them a price. The toll gate prevents that. It helps the salesperson not jump ahead until they have established value.
Documenting the process alone will not help sales. It must be reinforced. We want the sales leader to go back and ask their sales team if they hit all their commitments, what tools they used, next steps, etc. This ensures that each step isn’t missed. No cutting corners here. It’s up to the sales leader to reinforce and implement this process.
Why is it essential to have a standardized sales process? It adds structure and accountability to your sales activities leading to a higher win rate, and shorter sales cycles. Not only that, but everyone will talk the same language, which means it’ll be easier to assimilate new salespeople, not to mention a documented and consistent way to sell to prospects.