Salespeople make too much of their sales process, and sales managers too little. Having a sales process and not using it is the same as not having a sales process. It means you aren’t following your best practices for stacking the deck in your favor, and there is no reason not to do so.
Where Sales Are Lost
Sales are rarely lost at the end of the sales process. They are almost always lost far earlier in the process, when the things that needed done weren’t done.
We as salespeople feel that certain signals allow us to move forward past certain commitments that we need, to go without certain information that we need, and to move forward without the certain consensus that we need. Later, having gone without what was needed, the opportunity is lost.
We also move forward without what we need because we do a poor job of explaining the value of giving us the commitments built in to our processes.
The reason salespeople don’t gain these commitments is that they are difficult to obtain. Some of your competitors are also going without what they need. This can make your requests look far more cumbersome and intrusive than they really are. They can make them look unnecessary.
Following a process that helps you to win and creates value for your clients provides you an opportunity to be much more professional, more detail-oriented, and more committed. Pretending that you can succeed without the things that improve your chances to win is arrogant. It also means you are willing to compete against the few, top-notch competitors that have gained a tremendous advantage by acquiring what you did not.
Work On Developing the Advances
In most cases, the sales process a company uses is fine. I am agnostic and believe there is much to recommend a lot of the commercial processes and methodologies. But the commitment to using the process is normally weak. The salespeople don’t use it, and sales management doesn’t enforce it.
Real improvements can be easily made by focusing on the advances, the commitments that you need from a client that link one stage to the next stage of the sales process.
If you have trouble gaining the commitment to acquire access to your prospects team, spend time building the language and reasoning that can be used to persuade the prospect why it is in their interest to give you access (it allows a better understanding of their needs, acknowledges their importance, uncovers constraints, and builds buy-in). Instead of going without what will later be necessary to winning, work on finding a way to obtain it.
If you have trouble accessing information, build the language and the logic for providing the information. Many companies are fearful of giving salespeople information because they are concerned about confidentiality. Provide them with a pre-signed, non-disclosure agreement along with a request for information, and show them how you intend to use it. If you can demonstrate the value of your analysis, you can show your prospect what’s in it for them. Going without the information you need means losing later.
Salespeople aren’t avoiding the sales process; they’re avoiding asking for and obtaining the commitments that they need and that are embedded in the sales process.
Instead of ignoring the process and putting deals in the loss column, embrace it and work on building the skills that allow you to advance your opportunity. If you are in sales management, instead of allowing your salespeople to wing it, use every interaction to reiterate the value of the sales process, especially all of the commitments that advance an opportunity.
Is your sales process part of your standard operating procedure as a salesperson?
Does your company insist that you follow the sales process? How do they inspect it?
If you are a sales manager, how much of your time is spent coaching salespeople on the process and demonstrating your commitment to it?
Why do some salespeople resist the sales process, even without ever having really trying to utilize it?