Does the sales process matter?

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Does the sales process exist – and matter?

A while back I got into a rather contentious discussion about sales process with a guy who calls himself a “sales research expert”. I was describing the sales process or framework-based approach that I use as a vehicle for sales organization improvement with my clients, and he asked:

“How do you know that your sales process even exists”

Now I know where he was coming from. Many in the more intellectual (and often less practical) quarters of the sales training and consulting field have latched onto the idea that the sales process doesn’t matter because the prospective customer is not on it. Rather, the prospective customer is focused on their own buying process, and a salesperson needs only to know that and follow that in order to be successful.

[NOTE: To be clear, I have always believed and practiced the idea that understanding the buyer and their process are an important part of a professional sales process (qualification and needs analysis specifically), but I don’t want to digress about that here.]

Now back to our sales researcher – his question really caught me off guard. The utility of the sales process as a model for excellence and improvement has been so self-evident to me for decades, I thought that maybe I should reflect on his question.

So I did.

So how DO we know if the sales process exists?

Let’s try to answer the question by analogy.

A similar question could be asked about latitude and longitude, or GPS coordinates if you prefer. Do they really exist? No, they are a conceptual framework to help us describe locations on the surface of the earth. They are not real, like a mountain or a river which can also be used to describe locations, but they are standard and uniform, and in spite of their conceptual nature, that makes them useful.

So how can a sales process be useful as a conceptual framework?

If we take a macro level perspective on the things that have to happen for any sale to occur…

  • Figure out who to try to sell something to (lead generation)
  • Get them into a dialogue about it (prospecting)
  • Figure out if they really need what we have, are capable of buying it and trust us enough to buy it from us (mutual qualification)
  • Learn about the situation (and buying process) of the prospect and what they might be willing to pay for as a solution to a real problem or to satisfy some desire (needs analysis)
  • Offer a suggestion to meet their need from among the things we sell (proposal or offer)
  • Answer any questions they may have about our suggestion (objections)
  • And work to reach agreement to conclude the transaction or deal (closing)

…we can see that there is a universality to sales at a general level. From that point of agreement, salespeople and sales management can then go through the process of optimizing the entire sales organization by:

  • Personalizing a generalized process like this to reflect their unique circumstances
  • Exploring how to do each step well or better
  • Learning how to tie them together better
  • Seeking to front-load the process
  • Adapting sales automation tools to capture these elements effectively
  • Supporting salespeople in the execution of this process
  • and holding them accountable for the failure to do so

And when we have done all of this – based on this conceptual framework called the sales process – we can more easily and effectively establish a solid, growth oriented, efficient and effective selling system in our sales organizations.

So does the sales process exist? Of course not – it is an idea. But when we use any tool like a conceptual framework with care and expertise we can more effectively analyze and optimize our efforts.

Now as fun as it is to philosophize, when it comes to my clients, optimizing sales efforts and results is something that does matter – a lot!

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If you’re a CEO or sales leader in search of improved sales team performance, feel free to schedule a call with me to discuss how our programs including The Sales Team Success Formula™ and The Momentum Selling System® can help you establish improved performance and transparency across your entire sales team plus a sales culture of growth and success.

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