Even companies that enjoy the luxury of clearly superior products, realise that those products will not sell themselves. As a minimum, companies need a sales force comprised of skilled professionals who understand the application of the product range, have an in-depth knowledge of their customer base, market sector and of course the competition. But even all these elements together are not sufficient to ensure optimum performance levels and profitable sales.
So What Is A Sales Process?
Put quite simply, it is a set of procedures, which determine how a company wishes its sales team to operate - "The way we do things around here"
The most successful organisations have implemented a process and an all-encompassing framework for defining performance standards. This involves assessing, appraising, developing, reviewing, providing continual feedback on performance, as well as implementing efficient and relevant process tools
Lack Of Direction
Far too frequently, competent salespeople are expected to channel their own activities into the areas that will produce the quickest wins. Unfortunately, left to their own devices, they don't develop and pursue a formal strategy for moving a sale tangibly forward during each prospect interaction, neither do they have a clearly defined set of goals against which to measure the progress they are making Typically, their judgment is based on gut reaction and is purely subjective i.e., "Oh yes, I'll get that order, he likes me", because salespeople have to be optimistic by nature. They end up "dancing around" with prospects, in the hope that eventually they will get to their chosen point on the dance-floor i.e. -the sale. In this scenario, the customer has complete control.
A Discouraged Sales Force Diminishes Sales Efficiency
When their efforts don't pay off immediately, even experienced salespeople tend to become discouraged. They spend more and more time struggling to meet their sales quotas and working less and less efficiently.
Feeling increasingly powerless to influence prospects, they may also begin to press for a sale in ineffective ways - for instance, by arranging formal product presentations to prospects that they have not even qualified or who haven't yet agreed that they need the solution. They allow prospects to milk them for information without getting a commensurate commitment first - and even worse, they fail to defend margin and make unprofitable sales in order to achieve quotas. The details of what goes wrong differs for each individual salesperson but the net result is always the same, a discouraged sales force, diminished sales efficiency (i.e. wasted investment of sales time and resources that fail to produce high quality sales) and, consequently, increased cost of sales which inevitably drastically reduces net profit.
What's the bottom line? Sales never result efficiently and with maximum revenue unless the sales process is continually and closely managed. But before the sales process can be managed, it must be manageable.
Developing A Consultative Sales Process
From the Sales Director's perspective, developing a consultative sales process means developing a comprehensive, formal, realistic and step-by-step outline of what salespeople are expected to do. This is just as appropriate for internal and totally reactive sales teams as it is for external pro-active ones. This outline includes the activity and calls they must make, the relationships they should establish with prospects, the documentation they should use in sales calls, the issues they must discuss and resolve with prospects and the tangible goals they must achieve in sequence along the path to each sale, in order to achieve maximum effectiveness.
It's only when such an outline is in place that sales management can be in a position to:
Monitor the sales force's activity, progress and results,
Assess issues as they arise and take appropriate action,
Redirect individual sales representatives' efforts efficiently.
Although many organisations appreciate the importance of being customer-focused and talk in vague terms about their "consultative sales process", surprisingly few sales leaders invest the time and energy required to develop a formal sales process - a process that is at once detailed and resilient enough to guide their salespeople and permit effective management of their efforts.
Overcoming Implementation Intertia
Even when a consultative sales process has been developed, understood by sales managers, written down and circulated, it's often not enough. No matter how brilliant, a sales process will only be effective to the extent it is followed and used by frontline sales staff. And this is where most organisations fall down: overcoming inertia - among managers and salespeople alike - and implementing the process. The hurdles that must be cleared in order to get people throughout the organisation to actually implement it are enough to cause Sales Directors to tear their hair out. But a select few, of the very best, have found some innovative strategies that have enabled them to achieve the Holy Grail: Sustained sales growth achieved efficiently, reliably and by design.
Today's News: What a great reception we received to our first two JF Uncut posts at the w/e: If you missed them, just scroll down.
The next Top Sales Experts ebook, has been delayed and will now launch next Tuesday - October 21st - I am certain the wait will be worth it!
Over on Top 10 Sales Articles this week, we again have a very strong ten nominees - so be sure to check them out here
Tomorrow: On the JF Guest Author Spot, is the very wise and very smart Kendra Lee, who last week sent me this message:
"Now for a story of how small the world is thanks to the internet and those of us who network. This week, I was working with a new client in a planning session for his sales managers. We had a facilitation session to get their buy-in and agreement on their next steps. During the session the EVP of Sales pulled out a definition of consultative selling "from a fellow named Jonathan Farrington" and quoted it to me!!!! It was so cool to say, "I know Jonathan well. We work together."
Now, that is cool!
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