I write often about sales process. After all, one can't accurately predict outcomes of sales calls, meetings and cycles without a formal, structured sales process to follow. I present my Top Articles on Sales Process:
Are you old enough to remember driving cars that didn't have seat belts? Prior to seat belts you probably felt quite safe in your car; but how do you feel today if you are driving and your seat belt isn't secure?
Are you old enough to remember driving cars prior to cell phones? Prior to being constantly connected by mobile phones you felt plenty safe in your car but how do you feel today if you are driving and you don't have your phone with you or the battery dies?
I could continue - anti-lock brakes, all-wheel drive, traction control, power steering, etc. We don't feel unsafe until we have experienced the enhanced safety of those features and then suddenly lose them.
Selling works in much the same way...
According to Objective Management Group's data on more than 8,500 companies that have evaluated their sales forces, 91% do not have an effective sales process - if they have one at all.
On the other side of the coin, the companies possessing an optimized, formal, structured sales process that everyone follows experience tremendous security in having a proven process in place. They know that if they do what they're supposed to do, the results will be there. An effective process yields consistent, predictive results, which translate to revenue and profit. If you took their processes away, they would feel unsafe, out of control, and at risk. LIke the picture above, the chances of an opportunity crashing increase dramatically!
Much like the automobile drivers of decades past, the salespeople in companies lacking a formal, structured sales process don't know what they don't know. They aren't aware that they aren't as safe as those with the process. They don't know they are out of control and at risk every time they conduct a sales meeting or call.
As with cars, the sales technology is there and it's been there for a while. And as with cars, you can have a mechanic look under the hood of your sales force or you can upgrade your sales force. And as with cars, you probably shouldn't try doing this yourself!
It's true. Executives brag about their processes. "Oh, yes, we spent the last 15 years developing our process and it's wonderful - wait until you see it!" It never matters whether they're talking about a recruiting process or a sales process, the common denominator is the pride they take in what they created.
It reminds me of the very first house my wife and I lived in nearly 20 years ago. We had designed and planted gardens and the next project was a large perennial garden we wanted to plant. We were quite proud of what we had already done but were unsure of what plants to include and how to arrange them for a spectacular look. So we invited a professional landscape designer to come by and his first words were, "Oh yeah, typical homeowner landscaping", loud enough for the entire town to know we were incompetent. Thanks to my wife's great vision, we've gotten much better at landscape design (read - she designs quite impressively and I can dig holes). But I try to keep this incident in mind whenever an executive begins to brag about their process(es).
Invariably, these home-grown processes are primitive. Yes, they can put the process label on them, but only because there is more than one step. But steps don't make a good or effective process. Whether it's a recruiting process or a sales process, it should always include a combination of best practices, milestones, steps and stages conducted in the proper sequence, with the proper expectations, in an appropriate time frame.
So what makes you think you have a sales or recruiting process?
Speaking of processes, I'll be featured on a webinar, How Not to Screw up Your Sales Hiring in 2010, hosted by the EcSell Institute on Monday, January 25, at 1 PM ET, when I'll be discussing the Sales Recruiting Processes with founder, Bill Eckstrom. More information and to register.
(c) Copyright 2010 Dave Kurlan
My friend, Rick Cayer, sunk his first-ever eagle putt today and I saw it all. While I've been golfing for only a few years and suffer from tremendous inconsistency on the course, Rick has been golfing for more than 20 years, knows what he needs to do, and executed perfectly. On the 455 yard par 5 6th hole, he hit a driver about 280 yards right down the middle of the fairway. He followed that with a pefectly stroked hybrid for 175 yards to within a foot of the pin and tapped in for an Eagle.
Veteran salespeople are capable of pulling off the same heroics, but only when they execute the sales process perfectly. Today, one veteran salesperson told me about all of the short cuts he took to reach his lofty goal. He used an internet web site to do his closing, skipped over important questions to uncover compelling reasons to buy, and failed to qualify, all because he was selling something more transactional than normal. He not only used short cuts, he used crutches despite having the ability and track record to flawlessly execute the sales process. His result? He failed to hit even 10% of his goal!
Last year around this time, I wrote this article about how easy it is to get away from the sales process and other things you must do to achieve consistent results. In these difficult times, the one thing you can't do is attempt to do it without systems and processes because they are about the only things you can rely on.
You know the Capital One ad where the Vikings ask, "what's in your wallet?" Well, what's in your sales force? Do you have salespeople who have and faithfully execute an effective sales process? Or do you have salespeople who are constantly selling by the seat of their pants, doing what's comfortable instead of what's effective, doing what's easy instead of what works, doing what they did last time instead of what they should do this time, and using shortcuts and crutches?
Congratulations Rick! It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan
If you invest in sales training, especially now, you also need it to work now, not in 12 months. Why does it take so long for most sales training to make a difference and why does most sales training fail to make the difference you expect? There are a lot of possible reasons and I'll attempt to explain them here.
- Sales trainers want to sell sales training so they skip or gloss over the more important issues like
- a sales force evaluation to determine the real issues and answer questions about possibilities;
- helping you create the appropriate sales infrastructure including a customized sales process; a visual, criteria-based, staged pipeline; and proper metrics to drive revenue;
- development of a proper sales culture;
- development of the sales management team so that they become masters at coaching, accountability, motivation and development;
- recruiting and selection process and tools.
- Sales training is too difficult to understand and apply and trainers make it even more difficult with their complicated processes, non-intuitive tactics and tricks. Instead, they should make it as simple as possible by making it memorable, intuitive, and easy to apply.
- They tend to demonstrate their strategies and tactics through role play, which is fine, but their role plays demonstrate more tactics than what they have already taught. They should never include more in the role play than their audience has learned from them. Here is an example. You take a seven year old to the movies. If it's an age appropriate movie, rated G or PG, all of the previews are age appropriate and the seven year-old gets it - all of it. However, if you take the seven year-old to a PG-13 movie, then the previews are a bit overwhelming. The seven year-old can tell you whether it seems exciting, funny or scary, but the seven year-old doesn't understand the theme, content or mature dialog. They haven't been exposed to that stuff yet. Same thing with your salespeople. If the trainer has already exposed them to the basics, and includes only the basics in role play, the salespeople get it. It's age appropriate. But if the trainer includes material that the salespeople haven't been exposed to, they can only tell you whether they like it or it seems scary. The role play is a bit overwhelming because they haven't been exposed to that stuff yet.
- Some of the sales trainers just aren't that good. They fail to relate, engage, understand, entertain and change the salespeople they are training.
- Much of the content isn't that good. Some of it is just plain outdated while much of the other content around isn't complete, only focusing on certain parts of the sales cycle.
- Some of them only know strategies and tactics but they don't understand the laws of cause and effect. They can't get to the real reasons why salespeople fail to execute the strategies and tactics.
There are at least as many more reasons but this article is already longer than it should be. We'll just call it part 1 and I'll circle back with part 2 at a later date.
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan
Topics: sales assessment, Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales training, sales leadership, Sales Tactics, sales management training, sales evaluation, sales trainers, Selling System, sales strategy, selling skills, sales test
I was at the Deli counter yesterday and I couldn't help but notice a few things.
There was the veteran Deli guy - short fast strokes on the machine and quick results to go with them.
There was the stoic lady - she didn't really use her arms as much as she just rocked her entire body back and forth to slice the meat. It took her longer, she repeatedly put her meats on the scale and continued to be under weight and she had the most waste. However, it seemed like very moving experience for her.
There was the new girl - she fumbled everything she touched and it was clear she hadn't developed her own way yet. She was able to wrap and unwrap, place the meat in the slicer with direction, but her slicing was inconsistent.
And there was the older lady - she was all arms and had to stop periodically to rest them. Despite her experience, her long arm strokes were not efficient, she took a long time but she got the best physical workout.
So, of course, here's the question that relates to the sales force.
Do your salespeople sound like these folks working the deli counter? Three of the four had some kind of process, but are the processes effective?
- Do they consistently get the desired results? (desired weight to the customer in as little time as possible)
- Are they efficient? (delays from selecting the wrong meat for slicing?)
- Are they all doing it the same way? (transferrable and repeatable?)
- Do they know where they are in the process? (how close to the desired weight are they?)
- Does the process allow them to upsell? (premium cut for just 20 cents more?)
- Are they able to cross-sell? (would you like cheese with your turkey?)
You get the picture. If an efficiency expert was there when I was there he would have been horrified in much the same way I am when I uncover how ineffectively a sales force is using a process for selling.
It should come as no surprise that I use the Baseline Selling process with my clients and combine it with their steps, to-do's and milestones. This integrated process is then used in the sales cycle, Workstyle Management or CRM, in the staged, Visual Pipeline, and as a timeline and as an opportunity confidence rater. An effective, formal, structured sales process is designed to achieve consistent, predictable results while providing salespeople with feedback relative to where they are in the process and what they must do next to succeed.
(c) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan