By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for process and methodologySales Methodology
A well-defined sales methodology enables you to define and implement a sales process that ensures more objective input to SFA. Potential benefits of implementing standard sales processes include:

  • Shorter sell cycles

  • Increased win rates

  • Shorter startup times for new salespeople

  • Improved forecasting accuracy

  • Reduced cost of sales

  • Reduced discounting

  • Higher percentage of salespeople achieving or exceeding quota

  • Integrating marketing and sales efforts

  • Empowering sales managers to assess and develop their staff

The fact that SFA offers potential improvement in these areas supports the case for integrating sales methodology and technology. Before addressing integration, let’s take a closer look at what sales processes really are and how they can provide input to SFA applications.

Implementing a sales process requires the following five components:

  • Standard milestones that define the steps in sales cycles

  • A common skill set for the sales staff

  • Consistent positioning of offerings by salespeople to frame the outcome of sales calls

  • A standard way to document calls so sales managers can audit opportunities

  • Acceptance and adoption by the sales staff

Standard Milestones
Sales process milestones, also called “stages”, provide a road map to guide sales organizations through sales cycles. Even broad or nebulous milestones ensure salespeople share a common understanding of the steps involved in making a sale.

A common misconception of many organizations is assuming they have a single process. However, upon closer examination, most companies discover they have several sales processes—add-on business, professional services, maintenance agreements, contract renewals, new accounts, national accounts or global accounts. 

One of the challenges in implementing a comprehensive sales process is ensuring milestones fit your selling environment, and that milestone deliverables or tasks expected from the sales staff are commensurate with the size and complexity of a given opportunity. If expected deliverables are out of proportion, your sales staff will fight the process and would be correct in doing so. To avoid this situation, first define the steps in your most complex sales process, since milestones for other sales processes are usually a subset, and then reduce the steps for less complex sales. 

Set Milestones that Work for You
It is common even for a given type of sale to have varied deliverables based upon transaction size. An example might be having no requirement for add-on business with customers for less than $10K, a simple set of steps for transactions from $10K-75K, and additional steps for deals of $75K or greater. Senior management should set these thresholds. Allowing latitude to the field points salespeople down the road of anarchy. 

Milestones are helpful in enabling discussions between sales staff and management, but care should be taken to have some concrete, auditable steps. Managers often use milestones and year-to-date performance to project the likelihood of achieving quota. Asking or requiring a salesperson to have at least $250K in the pipeline at a particular milestone within 30 days virtually ensures the rep will attempt to convince his or her manager that, indeed, they have achieved that number in their pipeline. If there is no objective way to determine achievement of milestones, how confident can your managers be that the seller’s opinion matches reality?

Click here to read Part Three.

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