Sales Tips: What IS a Sales Process and WHY Is It Important?

By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling®

Those of you who follow me know that I’m a big proponent of process. However, I’m always surprised by the number of people I speak with who can’t define what a process IS or when asked, can’t give me an example of a simple process.

Defining a ProcessWhat is a process?
According to a definition I found online, a process is defined as: “A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” 

So now having established what a process is, think of those processes we engage in on a daily basis. Some of which we execute daily without even thinking about what we are doing. For example, brushing your teeth. There is a series of steps that we perform in order to brush our teeth. We take out our toothbrush, run it under the faucet to dampen it, apply the toothpaste, brush our teeth, rinse our toothbrush under water again to clean it, and then store it away for future use. Isn’t that what most of us do? 

Now think about how effective (or ineffective) that process would be if we skipped a step, let’s say we forgot to put the toothpaste on the brush.  Or worse yet, executed it incorrectly by putting the toothpaste on it before our next to last step and stored our toothbrush away with toothpaste on it! 

The irony of what I described is: 

All the steps in the process were performed, but they were performed in the wrong order.

Do you get my point? The process, the steps in the process, and the order in which the steps are executed are ALL important. 

Sales Processa series of actions or steps taken by a salesperson to take a prospect from initial interest to closure). Think about the sales process you follow, if you have one, and let me just ask you a few questions:

  • When you meet with prospects for the first time, whose needs are they most interested in processing, yours or theirs?
  • When you ask prospects about budget and timeline, whose needs are you processing, theirs or yours
  • What is more important – that your prospects have a budget and a timeline, or that they have a goal, problem or need that you can help them address?
  • Would you like to understand your prospects’ goals, problems or needs before you do a demonstration or after you do the demonstration?
  • If you fail to take the time to understand your prospects’ needs and requirements, is it possible you could fail to show them what they need and be eliminated from consideration?
  • If you showed them more than what they needed, could they conclude you are too expensive and too complex, and eliminate you from consideration?
  • If you chose to speak to only one person, is it possible that you miss important requirements of the other people involved in the purchase decision?
  • If you miss the needs of other members of the buying committee, could your opportunity fail to close as forecast?

I could go on and on, but I know you get the picture.

A sales process, the steps in that sales process, and the order in which you execute those steps in that sales process are ALL important!

Skip a step, perform them in the wrong order, and then prepare to be outsold by the salesperson whose execution is on the mark.

They will use your failure to execute as their leverage to outsell you.

Sales Growth from Using ProcessImportance of Sales Process
How important is it to have a sales process that salespeople can be taught to execute; management can be taught to monitor, inspect, and coach; and is aligned with best sales practices?  

CSO Insights conducted and published a report entitled, Optimizing Sales Performance for the High Tech Market, Three Strategies for Success. They analyzed the sales performance of technology firms based on the type of sales process they were currently using in the high technology sales sector:

  • Dynamic Process – A selling model is defined, sales rep adoption is actively managed and changes to the process are made proactively, as needed. 
  • Formal Process – A model for selling is defined and reps are expected to use it.
  • Informal Process – A process is recommended, but not enforced.
  • Random Process – Each rep is allowed to define how they sell.

The following table presents the win, loss and no decision rates for each of these four groups in technology sales: 

CSO Insights - Sales Process Comparisons

What does this finding tell us?
“In reflecting on Dynamic Process adopters, not only are they effective at competitive differentiation, they also experience significantly lower no decision rates. By defining the right way to engage prospects, getting the process and messaging into the hands of sales professionals and consistently monitoring their use, you can turn how you sell into a key performance lever.” 

Every time I write and publish an article, I try to provide you with what I call “actionable content” (information that you can immediately put into practice). In this article I provided you with the intellectual understanding of what a process is, what a sales process is, and why you should be following one.  If you’re a salesperson responsible for achieving your employer’s revenue goals by selling its product or services, or if you’re a senior sales executive responsible for achieving your employer’s revenue goals through the sales team that reports to you, isn’t it time you get serious about implementing a defined, “dynamic sales process?” You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

If you would like to provide your salespeople with a dynamic sales process you’re your salespeople can be taught to execute; management can be taught to monitor, inspect, and coach; and is aligned with best sales practices, I invite you to enroll them in my next open workshop September 12-15 (my June workshop is now SOLD OUT). If you don’t want to wait until then (or cannot afford to wait until then), email me and we can talk about your sales organization, how they are doing, and what you would like to accomplish with them. 

Please share this article with a colleague who would also benefit from this insight. Good selling!

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