On a recent trip for the Inbound Marketing Summit, getting out of New York City was a painful process. We left by 3pm expecting to beat the traffic, but had an entirely different experience on the return trip to Boston.
You may be wondering how traffic and ice relate to sales process. Before I discuss this, I want to comment on the Summit. If you haven’t been paying attention to “Inbound Marketing”, I suggest that you do. Consider what I heard: 80% of the world’s data has been created in the last 2 years. Assuming this number is off by 30%, it’s still a head-popping statistic. Recent research shows that prospects have made up to 60% of their buying decisions prior to speaking with a salesperson.
Consider the implications of these data points and the profound impact which they have on the sales profession. I ask sales and sales leadership professionals this question: When they first begin talking to a prospect, “How often do their prospects have incomplete and or inaccurate opinions about the best way to solve their problems?” The answer is always, “Very frequently.”
If 60% of the buying decision has been made prior to the salesperson entering the conversation and the prospect's planned solution is lacking, salespeople must first help prospects to understand what they missed in their research. Said differently, they need to unsell them prior to helping them determine what the best solution is.
How many of your salespeople, even the most productive ones, can do this consistently and effectively?
Now back to ice, traffic and sales process. What frustrated us the most was how one minute we were whizzing along at 70mph only to be stuck in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic the next minute. This continued for close to 100 miles.
Several years ago, there was a study which reported that ice freezing in streams is a good model for predicting traffic congestion. Ice forms first in the slow moving, shallower pools along the banks. A small disruption in the flow of water there changes the main current and causes it to cycle through, slowing down and accelerating.
Back to the sales process. Many of the delays experienced when attempting to close a sale can be attributed to 2 things:
- The prospect lacked a compelling reason to buy and
- Something changed.
The most impactful elements which we can control are:
- A properly defined sales process,
- Consistent execution of the process,
- Great sales coaching in the context of the process and
- Improved recruiting and onboarding of new salespeople.
The best way to determine how effective your salespeople really are, is to accompany them on random, unplanned sales calls and only observe. Experience shows the following will happen.
- If there was a call strategy, it will be only partially executed.
- Major milestones will be skip or missed.
- Your sales process will not be executed consistently.
- Your salespeople will begin presenting much too early.
- Follow-up questions will go unasked or will be ineffective.
- The prospect will control the process.
The biggest problem will be how the salespeople interpret the results when the call ends. In virtually all cases, their perspective of how the call went will be overly optimistic.
Selling has changed and sales organizations must adapt. Science and process need to become the new norm. Sales leaders must be excellent coaches and embrace sales infrastructure with an operational mindset and your sales organizations must move toward a more process-oriented approach.
We have a few upcoming events targeted toward CEO's, VP's and Managers. At a minimum, they will be great events to learn about the services which we offer. The first one is our Annual Sales Leadership Intensive in Boston, MA on May 14-15. Contact me if you have questions about getting registered.
The second is our Annual Boston Area Executive Luncheon on May 21st. If you are going to be in the Boston area, please plan on joining us. Contact me and I'll work on getting you a discount code for free registration.