What happens when there is uncertainty about the next step in the sales process?
Nothing – slow to no sales, no control of the sale, elongated sales cycles and management unable to ask anything more intelligent than “What sales have you got coming in?”
I was once asked to help a company raise their sales through sales training. They wanted to make more sales. Simple, right? So, the first thing I did was interview all the salespeople, the management and the owner. As part of my interview process, I asked what the sales process was. I wanted to see where I could assist and where the potential breakdown may be, so we can work on raising the skillset around each step.
As I went through the interviews I had a rising sense of what the problem may be. Of the 10 people I spoke with, I got 10 different answers about what they believed the sales process was. Yes, that’s right! I was interviewing the salespeople and management and no one was in alignment. This is a huge red flag but unfortunately quite common.
The main issues with everyone in the business having different answers to this question are:
There is no way to predict future sales.
Why is that important? Most businesses I work within the technology space require resources to deliver their solution from scoping, research, deployment and implementation, to name a few. If it’s a mystery what is coming down the pipe, it is impossible to have those resources ready to go. If you do not have the resources ready there could be a delay from sign off to implementation. Straight away your capabilities will be called in to doubt. The client will be looking for more areas you are dropping the ball and the grass will look a lot greener when a competitor comes along.
The only question management could ask in the sales meeting was “What sales do you have coming in?”
This is a result based question. This cannot provide any insight to management or the sales team regarding the areas that need improvement. Salespeople will then come up with their own reasons like the product, the market, the clients, the competition, the price etc.
No one can manage the activity that will result in a sale.
So, if you are looking to grow your sales how do you know what you need to do? How many activities need to be undertaken at each stage to win a sale? (Understanding that prospects drop off at each point).
There are many more problems that exist in not having a clear sales process that is known to everyone in the business. Yes, I mean everyone – from the board down to the cleaner!
So, what happens when sales and management know the sales process?
- They know exactly how many prospects need to be in the pipeline to make a sale.
- It becomes easy to identify where there is an unusual drop off in one step to the next with an individual salesperson and offer assistance and coaching.
- When the sales team ask for a pre-sales resource there is no longer panic in operations as they expected it.
- Management can start to identify when overly optimistic salespeople say “I have 2 sales coming in this month”, but reporting tells them that the salesperson has not done the work for that to be possible. The data says that it takes four proposals to close two contracts. But you know that the salesperson has not presented four proposals in the last few weeks, so two sales are not likely.
The best way to manage your pipeline, if you are a manager, is to identify all the stages of the sales process. Set KPI’s against each stage. By reporting these activities based KPI’s there will be no surprises at the end of the month.
Like getting abs, you need to know exactly what it takes to get there and then work on it every day. Having a documented sales process and not creating KPI’s and not measuring the lead indicators is almost as bad as not having a sales process at all.
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Here’s to your sales success!