The purpose of a sales process is to provide clarity around an organization’s sales approach by mapping each aspect into a defined sequence that is easily followed and replicated. The presumption is that this level of definition and documentation will drive consistent sales force execution, leading to better sales results, more effective pipeline management, and more accurate and predictable sales forecasting.
At Greene Consulting, we work with financial services firms to develop sales processes, the training strategy and delivery to support effective introduction, adoption, and execution of the process, and the sales management structures needed to drive the intended results. While virtually everyone in the business has a defined sales process and understands the importance of having one, there are two major flaws that we consistently see.
#1 A Sales Process Focused on You (P.S. – It’s Not About You!)
Most sales processes are entirely focused on what the salesperson is to accomplish at each sequential step of the engagement. This overlooks a critically important facet of sales reality – the buyer’s perspective. While we all contend that we are “client-centric” in the development of our sales processes, we, in fact, are completely ignoring the realities of the buyer’s state of mind and his or her preferences in the buying process! (Could it be that we have earned the general distrust affluent clients have for our industry?)
Your sales process must be developed not around how YOU want to sell, but on how buyers actually buy. This calls for a focus on the buyer’s perspective at each stage of the sales engagement continuum. Doing so will transform your sales process into a sales experience that will overcome prospect skepticism that you are just trying to sell them something, but instead into clearly trying to help them address their issues and meet their goals.
#2 Failure to Establish Objective “Exit Criteria”
Once you have defined the key aspects of your clients’ buying process, you can then use those to establish the core metrics by which to assess sales effectiveness and pipeline management. Doing so will help to better clarify true prospect progress through the process and eliminate subjectivity in the assessment of the pipeline. Rather than assessing how well the salesperson did, say, in the discovery process to determine if they have moved to the second call or stage of the process, you are now measuring progress based on the specific information gained about the client and his or her buying criteria. We refer to this as Stage-Gated Exit Criteria.
Instead of the salesperson throwing a bunch of names into the pipeline that languish for months based on his or her own subjective interpretation, you now have concrete criteria by which to assess how a certain prospect is moving toward closure. For example, to validate whether or not you have moved from discovery to the presentation or solution stage, the sales professional must confirm for you the prospect’s specific needs and that the prospect recognizes the importance and urgency of addressing the need.
Incorporation of this step provides several advantages, including more clear and accurate pipelines, better pipeline forecasting, shorter sales cycles, and certainly more focused sales professionals.
Every firm wants to have a structure in place that their salespeople follow to support maximization of sales capacity, deliver a consistent sales experience, and help the firm leverage best practices to support efficiency and effectiveness of all professionals involved in the sales process. Analyze your current sales process and ask the following questions to determine if your approach to documenting and describing your sales process meets the criteria that define effectiveness in supporting these goals. If not, look at how you can refine your approach and enhance your sales process – or call Greene Consulting and we can discuss with you our role in supporting you in that effort.
- Does your sales process begin with a definition of the buyer’s process?
- Does each step of your sales process relate directly to the actions that are required to support the buyer at each unique stage based on their stage in the buying process?
- Does any aspect of your sales process allow for subjective assessment of the deal efficacy by your sales team?
- Do you have objective criteria that allow salespeople and management alike to assess the realities of where a given prospect falls in the sales process or buying decision?
These are just a few of the questions that you must be able to answer effectively in order to get the most out of a sales process, deliver a truly client-focused sales experience, and achieve the three goals of sales capacity maximization in your organization, efficiency in execution, and effectiveness in close ratios.