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 Chapter 3 – Doing the Right Things: Sales Process Customization

Now that we have established a definition of a sales process, let’s go back to the question I ask salespeople and sales managers: Describe the sales process they use. Often, the question is answered, between the hems and haws, with the qualifier that their business is somehow unique, special, or different, and in such a way that the development of a sales process somehow does not fit or apply to their specific situation.

(The expression “you are unique, just like everyone else” comes to mind).

When confronted with this objection ─ that a particular business or salesperson is somehow not suited to follow a sales process ─ I suggest that we look at the sales process at the most general level. With that in mind, one has to ask how is it that a sale can take place without these steps?

  • Find someone to talk to (leads)
  • Make sure the prospect is able to and interested in seeking a solution (qualifying)*
  • Understand what the customer would trade money for (needs analysis)*
  • Suggest something for the prospect to buy (solution)
  • Ask for and/or otherwise secure the order or deal (close)

It is simply impossible to imagine a sale that does not include these basic steps. They may be called something else, but these are the steps that need to be taken to get from not-yet talking about a deal to closing one.

*It is true that qualifying and needs analysis do not need to be a part of the sales process. Many salespeople try to sell to prospects they have not qualified, or to sell solutions to prospects without first trying to understand their needs. It should be self-evident, however, that skipping these things makes the likelihood of success and the conversion ratio of sales activity much, much lower than if these steps had been successfully completed.

The trick in using the sales process across an entire sales organization in a way that is useful for managers and salespeople alike might be called “mass customization.” In this context, mass customization means that the sales process should have the same basic pieces for each salesperson or each sales team or sales organization ─ this is the “mass” part. But for each salesperson, team or organization the specific elements of each step might be different. Why is that important?

Let’s start with the objection, that we are dealing with a unique entity. To the extent that there is some truth to this, the work in developing a customized sales process becomes that of asking the right questions around each of the steps in the sales process to ensure that they work for our unique entity.

  • What are the right lead sources?
  • If we use those lead sources, what is the best way to reach them to ask for a sales conversation.
  • Once in a sales conversation, what do we need to know in order to consider them qualified?
  • What information do we need from the prospective customer to know that we have done a thorough analysis of their needs to allow a proper and complete solution to be recommended?

If the steps in the sales process described above apply to every sale, and the steps are personalized for each salesperson, team, etc., then the macro process works for each of the micro elements in the organization.

So that answers the “customization” question. The “mass” part refers to the macro framework that is consistent across a team or organization. In other words, in spite of the customization, the main seven steps of the sales process are consistent across the entire organization. With a mass-customized sales process, the manager can not only work with each salesperson based on a pre-defined sales process but can compare performance between salespeople and/or teams. If the organization uses a CRM, the sales process can be the basis for the design of the CRM. We’ll discuss why this is important a few pages later.

Personalized customization of a standardized sales process then allows each salesperson to operate along a universal path for each sale, yet one that has been customized specifically for them, their team, or the service/product they are selling. Mass customization further allows sales managers to manage the salespeople according to a consistent model. The CRM system can be configured to the sales process, allowing managers to get reports to support their conversations with salespeople that are objective, and meaningful and actionable.

When the sales process is mass-customized and well developed, it serves everyone in the organization.

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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