Hope is Not a Sales Strategy

Sales Effectiveness, Sales Process
February 7, 2017

Hope is not a sales strategy imageHaving a sales PROCESS is just as important as using a certain sales METHOD. There. I said it. Some may be thinking to themselves, “What? Process – Method, what’s the difference?”

According to George Broten, founder & CEO of Membrain, a sales process is like a treasure map. It has a starting and ending point with lots of twists and turns in the middle and even obstacles to overcome. Overlay on top of that a sales methodology. Broten continues the analogy with the methodology as the skills and techniques to get you to the treasure at the end of the map. A map is great but if you don’t have the skill-set to use a compass you won’t get very far. But you can’t get to the treasure with only a compass and no map to help navigate the path.  You need both.

Process vs. Methodology

A sales methodology is easier to understand for some. You can LEARN skills and ACQUIRE techniques – it is very specific and any number of sales methodologies can be used. Examples are Sandler Sales, Spin Selling, Solution Selling, Challenger, etc. Methodologies focus on behaviors and tells you how to get from Step 1 to Step 2 and beyond. Think of them as IF/THEN statements.

A sales process can be more difficult to enforce. Some people just assume the process is there. Worse, managers assume everyone knows it. Management must DOCUMENT the set of step by step instructions that the sales team uses for every suspect they hope to move to a sale. Andy Miller, Sales Strategist at Big Swift Kick, likens the sales process to a baseball diamond. You can’t go from first base to third base without going to second base in between. You’d be out of the game if you did.

Step 1 – Write It Down

You may have spent significant time and money training your sales team on one of the methodologies. But there are tangible steps these methodologies require. In addition, there are pure blocking and tackling steps required to ensure your end sale meets the clients’ expectations and generates the expected margins the company expects. A process can provide the mechanics – now I generate a proposal, now I generate a PO, etc.

“Hope is not a sales strategy.” Sales teams can’t go into a sales opportunity on a wing and a prayer. They need to understand the chosen sales methodology along with the company process for bringing a sale to a successful close.

Step 2 – Test and Refine

If you don’t have your company process documented in a way that everyone in the organization can understand how do you know that it is being followed? My first advice for 2017 is to take the time to document your process. Include all areas of the company involved to ensure your process really is all encompassing. For example, is there a step that requires an operations signoff, if so make sure their process steps are included.

My second piece of advice? Test the process. Pick a sales person you believe will actually follow the process steps and have them use it for the next prospect they work. Next use it with your next new hire and call it a beta. It is a great exercise for answering a couple of questions. Does it really address all the steps and assist the new person in how to complete a step and move on to the next one? And just as important, did you hire the right person? If they have trouble with the process or do not see the value in following it, you may have a strong predictor of future success (or lack thereof)!

Your process should always be evolving.  Do not think it is finished and never to be looked at it again. One way I found to keep it up-to-date is by reviewing it every time a new person is hired. Your review and their feedback will help it stay up-to-date.

Read our blog “Change Your Knothole – Tips for Looking at your Sales Process” for tips and considerations on improving your process.

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