A Formula For Sales Success

Saturday, July 1 2006

Does your company have a formula for sales success? Do you have a step-by-step formula for advancing each sales opportunity?

If you ran your accounting department or manufacturing division the same way you run your sales force, would it work?

Imagine saying to your accounting department administrator, “Our goal is to count the money we take in and compare it to the money we spend and end up with a profit at the end of the year. Your job is to figure out how to do that most effectively. We don’t have any systems in place for invoicing, tracking accounts receivable, checking stock or checking our bank balances; but if you just do what you have to do on a daily basis, I’m sure it will all work out in the end.”

The Value of Processes

In most jobs, there are processes in place that will produce the end results you seek if they are followed. Moses’ stone tablets would have less weight than the strict adherence to the ISO process in most manufacturing facilities, So why is there not a more predictable, accountable, measurable process for the sales team?

Some companies do have them. In a July 2006 article in Harvard Business Review, Barry Trailer and Jim Dickie categorized sales organizations into four categories by level:

  • The first level are companies which don’t have a standard sales process and may, in fact, be anti-process. Salespeople do their own thing. It’s not that the company can’t be successful, but it does mean sales can’t be predictable.
  • Level two companies have a process and would like their salespeople to follow it; but there is no accountability to ensure compliance.
  • Third level are companies that enforce a standard process; but they tend to be looking backward and they miss opportunities.
  • Finally, level four companies have a process, monitor the process, tweak the process, and use the data the process generates to predict outcomes and trends.

Trailer and Dickie’s research concludes that Level 4 companies outperform all other companies by nearly double in their abilities to:

  • Accurately target prospects
  • Properly qualify leads
  • Effectively present features and benefits
  • Effectively cross sell and up sell
  • Sell value vs. lower price
  • Effectively introduce new products

If you have a process for your sales team, consider the follow suggestions:

Monitor and measure to ensure the process is being followed.

Gather sufficient data so that you can build business intelligence and inform your decision-making. Use it for predictive purposes, not just for policing individual performance. Use your data as a coaching tool to help salespeople understand where they get stuck in the process and what they can about it.

Convince the sales team that they need to follow the process and gather data not only for the company’s benefit, but also for their own. Salespeople are better able to predict the achievement of their own goals, self-correct ineffective behaviours, and maximize their own performance with proper information.

Make it a non-negotiable part of your agreement with salespeople. Salespeople may dislike being monitored or inputting data, but technology has made data collection much simpler. “Not liking it” is no excuse for withholding this critical information. Both the salesperson and the company need the business intelligence required for continuous improvement – especially in an increasingly competitive environment.

If you don’t have a process, you should devise one. To discuss ways you can develop or better manage the sales process in your business, contact us. We have tools and ideas that can help you to come up with a formula for success.