This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From the Introduction – continued from last week:

So what does it take to effect real, positive, significant changes in a sales organization? I get that question a lot. Prospective clients ask me quite often if my sales consulting and trainings will help their sales people actually sell better. It is impossible to answer until several questions have been addressed.

Accordingly, I typically answer the question in this way:

If …

  • The right people are participating in the process …
  • And are learning the right skills …
  • within a well-defined, measurable and metrics based sales process …
  • and there is a skilled manager who is holding them accountable …
  • and who is helping those who make efforts to do better, OR …
  • helping those who don’t make efforts see (and experience) the consequences of their choices …

Then yes, sales consulting that helps to create the right culture and environment along with good sales training can improve the effectiveness of a sales organization ─ sometimes dramatically.

However, when these foundational elements are in place in a sales organization, the sales manager isn’t usually scratching his head wondering what one thing he can do to improve sales effectiveness.

Within an optimized sales environment, sales managers are already doing many things to improve the effectiveness of their sales performance. They are asking AND answering the simple but profound questions that separate top-performing sales organizations from the rest.

For those sales managers working in a non-optimized sales organization, it can be overwhelming to think about the entirety of their sales organizations because they don’t know what levers they should be pulling. It is easy to say, “I will do this one thing and see what happens.” In fact, from a diagnostic perspective that makes a lot of sense. Change one thing and you can measure the results. Change a lot of things and the challenge is determining which change led to which result and what changes you should do more or less of to continue improving results.

The problem with taking the “one change at a time” approach in a sales organization lacking a comprehensive sales management framework is that, first of all, it takes a lot of time for changes to settle in and for results to start to show. By the time one change has played out, so much time has gone by that several other things have probably happened outside of your control that also might be attributed to the change. If that is not bad enough, you most likely lost a lot of revenue during that time as well!

In his famous book, Winning, Jack Welch noted that during his tenure as GE chairman, the decision-making process for major decisions at GE was about six months. Unfortunately, in this fast-paced business world in which we all live, it seems like nearly everything changes in six months. Accordingly, decisions at GE could never be made with complete information, and the best that could be done is to try to make the best decisions possible given the circumstances and to then adjust to changing conditions as time rolls along. This is an important model to keep in mind as you consider the required pace for changes in your organization.

Second, in spite of what a manager may believe, a typical sales organization is not as complicated as most believe and most sales problems fall into typical and predictable categories. In other words, your problems probably are not as unique as you may believe!

Finally, changes should be made within a well-designed framework, a selling system. If there is no framework, then changes are random. The one-change-at-a-time method works within a system, so the best approach is to FIRST establish an organization-level selling system and to hold everyone accountable to it. Only then does it make sense to tinker, perhaps with one change at a time. Rather than adjusting the carburetor of an old, rundown car and expecting it to make a significant difference, you first must make sure that all of the car’s systems are in fundamentally good order. Then you can start to fine-tune each individual part.

Putting the cart before the horse never makes sense! You can’t tinker with a broken (or non-existent) system; you need to create a functioning system first so that your tinkering has a context within which the changes you observe can be accurately isolated and analyzed.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David