When it comes to building a business many owners focus on their operations, customer service, and financial processes but the sales process is often left open to interpretation. This typically happens for one of two reasons, either because there is a belief in the organization that every sales event is different and therefore we cannot put a process around it, or the belief that sales people have to sell “their own way” to be successful. These beliefs then lead to inconsistent results and the inability to forecast accurately. If businesses want to break out of this inconsistency they need to commit to developing their sales process.
The first area that a business needs to look at is their strategy. What is the market vertical they are currently after, what kinds of problems does their product or service solve and what makes them different from all of their competitors? Too many sales people and business leaders cannot articulate the answers to the questions listed above. If we do not look and sound different from our competitors we end up being commoditized and then it is a race to the bottom on price as that is the only thing that separates us.
We also need to look at the structure we have in place for the sales team. Do we have a mapped out sales process that everyone in the organization agrees to? Have we created an account management plan? How about a prospecting plan? Are we tracking our conversion rates on such things as first contact to first meeting, first meeting to second meeting or are we just tracking our total sales. If the organization is able to create a playbook for the sales team that includes these elements it becomes a game changer and creates accountability for the team. Great professional coaches know that executing the play is the key to success. If the team executes the plays the score will take care of itself.
Another key ingredient in building a sales driven organization is staff. There was a recent article in the Globe and Mail about how difficult it is to find good sales people. Most people do not consider sales a profession and the experiences people have with so called professional sales people is less than memorable. Sales is one of the few professions where typically you get paid for performance yet it is surprising that very few people in this role invest in themselves to improve their skills. If you are going to develop a sales team make sure you are bringing people on who understand that their key to success is to bring in new accounts. These people should embrace failure and have the persistence to get back in the game when faced with rejection. If you are looking to hire this kind of person ensure that your hiring process has the right interview questions, involves some kind of competency assessment and definitely involves talking to their past managers.
The final area that you need to consider is the skills that the team possesses. When they get face to face with a prospect what is their sales process? Do they have a process? A player will be able to demonstrate a repeatable process which spends more time qualifying a prospect than trying to pitch them something they may or may not need. If the sales team you have spends 70% of the time talking, sends quotes out without being able to accurately forecast their potential to close, or has a close rate under 30% you may want to consider skills training.
If you are dedicated to creating a sales driven organization you need to have your strategy, structure, staff and skills in alignment. Once you do exponential growth is a realistic possibility. Mark Cuban may have said it best when he said “Sales cures all.”