1. What is a Sales Process………..1
2. What we all Hate About Sales Processes……….…1
3. Process versus Goals………3
4. Why We Should All Love the Sales Process………..4
5. The Elements of an Ideal Sales Process………..6
6. Using a Sales Process When Things Are Not Ideal……22
7. Sales Process and CRM………23
8. Sales Process and Recruitment……….…24 9. The Benefits of a Good Sales Process in a Nutshell.…25
1. What is a Sales Process
Let’s be clear what we mean by a Sales Process. Firstly, it’s not a list of prescribed activities you have to go through nor is it just software you use to record activities and keep your manager happy. We are talking about an action guideline based on best practices and a toolkit to increase the probability of advancing the sale, build customer trust and differentiate yourself through how you sell. Instead of just doing what the customer asks you to do, a good Sales Process helps you keep things under control.
If that’s what a good Sales Process is all about, why do so many people yawn when they hear those 2 words? Because there are a lot of useless Sales Processes out there. In fact very few Sales people tell us that their Sales Process helps them win business!
2. What we All Hate About
A Sales Process is not there to get in the way of Sales people who want to sell. This comment from a frustrated Sales
Professional sums up what many people feel “Every hour spent meeting a customer seems to require 1 hour in front of the computer putting information into the CRM system. But if I don't put all the information in, I don't get my commissions on the deals I close”.
The Sales Prevention Officer
Nobody actually has this job title but plenty of Sales People could name someone worthy of it. The problem arises when the people in charge of defining the Sales Process don’t come from Sales. They may have the best of intentions but if someone with an agenda that is not all about enabling sales is in charge, the outcome will have limited value for sales.
The Sales Process as control
Control is what a lot of frustrated Sales People think the Sales Process is for. Sales Leaders want to know what is in the sales funnel and give accurate forecasts to the CEO, production people want to know what demand is likely to be, and finance want to predict cash flow. But if the sole purpose of a Sales Process is control then sales forecast reliability will not improve.
A bad Sales Process focuses on control and tiresome reporting. A good Sales Process focuses on helping Sales Professionals sell and still gives other people the data they need.
3. Process Versus Goals
There are Sales people who think along the lines of – never mind about process just give me a goal to meet and a bonus to go with it and let me sell! That can certainly work in the short-term in simple B2C situations, but not in complex B2B sales.
A lot of Sales People like to compare selling with sport – that’s where the idea of a goal comes from after all. Think about a tennis player who really wants to win Wimbledon. That’s their goal. So does he or she just go out there and do their best on the day? No, they follow a process. Every day they do the training that will bring their goal closer.
Can you ignore the goal and just concentrate on the process? Probably, yes. Best is if you keep the goal in mind and
concentrate on the process. How often have you heard sports stars being interviewed on TV saying they don’t think about winning the big prize they just concentrate on their game. Sales Process is your game, winning the business is the prize you get as a result.
The other issue about being goal orientated is you spend most of your time failing. Every day you have not closed that big sale is a day you have failed. But if you are following a good Sales Process you can get closer to your goal with every step in the process that you get right. Getting the satisfaction of doing a good job at every stage keeps people involved in a long Sales Cycle motivated. Which in turn, is good for staff retention.
4. Why we should all Love
the Sales Process
Let’s remind ourselves what a good Sales Process is. It’s an action guideline based on best practices and a toolkit that enables you to increase the probability of advancing the sale, build customer trust and differentiate yourself through how you sell.
It’s not an off-the-shelf solution. The Sales Process has to be configured to your business then tailored for every pitch to each customer. Once it’s understood and applied by everyone
involved, your Sales Process differentiates you from the competition. It prevents you wasting time on “no-hope”
opportunities, increases your customers’ trust in you and helps customer-side people to sell your solution to other internal stakeholders. You get more value out of CRM information and even make better hiring decisions. And it takes about three months from deciding to optimise your Sales Process to having it up and running.
How you sell is why you win
Ideal Sales Process
Appointment One Pager
Opportunity Roadmap/Deal Pit Stop
Mutually Agreed Action Plan
Buying Center Analysis
Understanding Customer Needs
Individual Value Propositions
Request for Proposal
Closing Deals Profitably
Making it Stick
Sales Mind Set
5. The Elements of an Ideal
Your Sales Process is built around your business and the expectations your customers have of a vendor engagement at each step. You may have your own terminology and Best Practices so what is described below is only an example.
Each stage, along with the tools you need to support the stage is outlined. You may think that a variation is required in RFPs - we will come to applying an Ideal Sales Process in those situations later on.
Stage 1: Identification
The first element of this proactive stage is about working out what kind of organisation you want to talk to. It makes sense to target groups of similar companies so you can research a business sector and use the results of your research many times over. You may need to apply filters like company size and location to make sure your targeting is viable.
Then you need to identify potential challenges, the right person to target and a reason which motivates them to want to meet you. This is probably the toughest task of all - customers get plenty of calls from Sales people who want to talk about their own company and relatively few who want to talk about the customers’ company and the challenges they face. Use your research to identify a particular challenge and focus your approach email, calls etc. on how you can help them with that challenge.
There is a good example of how to do this in our
blog “3 Steps to Acquire More Leads”.
Obtaining a meeting in another division of an existing
customer’s business should be much easier, but the tools we recommend you to use are the same.
That crucial 1st meeting
It is almost impossible to over emphasise the importance of getting the 1st meeting right. But most of you aren’t getting it right. Here are a few quotes from customers that we gathered when we carried out research in conjunction with the Harvard Business Manager and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).
I really get angry when vendors come to meetings without proper preparation
Salespeople should focus more on the specific issues I am facing, not just bringing standard presentations that have no connection to my business
I am sick and tired of educating salespeople about our business and industry
If I feel my time is being wasted, I just switch off
You really need to concentrate on making a professional impression in first meetings. Which means using your
experience of the industry the client is in, plus the knowledge you have gained from research, to ask questions that will reveal the real needs of the customer. Then you use those answers to effectively present your company and a reference case study. Tool – The Appointment One-Pager
The Appointment One-Pager is a very powerful tool that helps you to plan the meeting in advance and demonstrate your professionalism to the customer. You may well have been using it already to get the meeting in the first place. It also works as an agenda for the meeting. Every Appointment One-Pager has similar elements.
• Mutual introductions
• Validate and deepen understanding – Customer business
– Potential challenges
• Possible solutions and potential results • References
• Questions and answers • Next steps
Your research comes into play in the second part. You start by showing you have an understanding their business and that begins to earn the trust of the customer. Then you go on to validate your hypotheses about the challenges they face and use questions to explore those assumptions with the customer.
There are 4 kinds of question:
A. Information Questions - are used to gather factual information that is not available from public-domain sources.
B. Problem Questions - uncover and develop needs in areas where you can offer solutions.
C. Impact Questions - expand the customer’s perception of the problem by exploring its effect on other areas of the business.
D. Benefit Questions - get the customer to quantify the potential benefits of addressing the problem.
Information Questions only benefit the Seller so the best way to ask them is a Credibility Statement followed by the question. For instance – “Based on my experience working with
professional service firms, there are different ways to organise the sales function…. How is it organised in your firm?”
Clever, well-prepared, informed questions based on your research earn the trust of your customer and enable you to uncover their real needs.
Tool – Meeting Summary
You have worked hard to get the meeting and hopefully made a good impression. The way to build on this is with a good
Memorandum of Understanding. This is usually an email with the following elements, along with the usual pleasantries:-
• Understanding of the customer’s goals and needs
• An outline of your likely solution and the expected benefits • Next steps – including your intention to follow-up
In some cases you may go on to include a Mutually Agreed Action Plan (MAAP) – see below.
The end of the Identification stage
You have targeted the right organisations and done what it takes to get a first meeting. You’ve made the most of that meeting and followed it up. Take a moment to congratulate yourself. You have completed the most challenging part of the Sales Process.
Hang on a moment! Have you met your Exit Criteria? At the end of this stage – and every other stage – you have to be certain that the milestone in the customer’s buying journey associated with this stage has been fulfilled. What do we mean by that? It is tempting to go through the Sales Process without checking your progress against milestones in the customer’s buying process. If the milestone hasn’t been accomplished then the opportunity does not merit being moved to the next stage.
The way to ensure that you and the customer are at the same stage is to set Exit Criteria for each stage.
• Identification – Concrete need defined with a deadline set to address it
• Qualification – Budget allocated and access to all stakeholders granted
• Buying Centre – All stakeholders involved in decision-making process
• Proposal – Supplier selected
Stage 2: Qualification
This is the point at which you take stock and ask the following questions:
• Is this Opportunity right for us?
• Do we have a viable solution with a distinctive value proposition?
• Can we realistically win against the competition? • Have we identified all risks?
It is vital to make a GO/NO GO decision as early as possible because your time and the time of people you need to support you is very valuable. If you spend that time going after
opportunities you can never win, you may miss ones you can win and end up spreading resources too thinly. And you will lose the trust of the people you work with by taking them along in pursuit of poorly qualified business. A negative example is described in our Blog “Don’t flog a dead horse”.
Once you decide to Go you need a plan. We call this plan an Opportunity Roadmap.
Tool – Opportunity Roadmap and Deal Pit Stop
The Opportunity Roadmap is a document that visualises all critical information in one place. Then you use that information to create a plan to win the sale. Everyone supporting you can refer to it and add to the plan. It’s a living document that you revise constantly as you progress through the sale.
One of the most important aspects of the Opportunity Roadmap is that it highlights what you don’t know and where you see problems arising. For instance you might identify that you don’t have a Coach supporting you or that you have questions about the individual needs of some members of the Buying Centre. You flag those issues and define a way to resolve them.
This is where the Deal Pit Stop comes in. You may call it an Opportunity Review but we have moved on from the sort of review that is all about grilling the Sales person to one that is all about removing roadblocks and moving the sale forward. The Sales Person who owns the opportunity has to be transparent and share the potential problems, then it becomes the
responsibility of the Sales Leader and the Opportunity Team to brainstorm actions and develop a winning competitive strategy.
Tool – Mutually Agreed Action Plan (MAAP)
This is a great tool because it works for you and your customer. In effect you are providing a Plan that includes all activities to make an informed investment decision, and that’s of real value to them. But of course it is built around the stages of your Sales Process so it puts you in charge. Our Blog
“Taking control of the sales process” describes a Mutually Agreed Action Plan in detail.
Stage 3: Covering the Buying Centre
In complex B2B Sales there are a lot of people involved, you have to discover who they all are. This important stage in the Sales Process is rarely part of the customer’s buying process. Then you have to discover what each person’s role in the decision making process is, what their needs are and what relationships they may have with your competitors. Failure to do all this effectively is the cause of a great many failed pitches.
This sounds relatively simple but in reality is a big challenge particularly in RFP situations. The individual Business Goals, Personal Goals and Decision Criteria can be many and vary greatly from person to person.
Taking into consideration all of the above you need to create an individual value proposition for every member of the Buying Centre, which meets his or her Business Goals and Decision Goals. It answers the question – ‘What’s in it for me?’ This stage may involve developing a Business Case and a Deal One Pager; we’ll come on to those later.
Much of the work of identifying the Buying Centre and their needs is impossible unless you have a Coach. Someone within the customer organisation who can guide you through the complexities of various people’s needs and the often complex structure of the organisation. Trust is the foundation of
developing a Coach – and Sales Professionalism is an important element of building trust.
Stage 4: Proposal
Ideally you should be allowed to present your proposal in person to all the key decision makers. We will look at the best way to do this shortly, but sometimes that’s just not possible. The key tool to use both in a face to face presentations and in situations where you may not get to talk to all the decision makers is the Deal One Pager and sometimes the Business Case.
Tool - The Deal One Pager
This is a management summary of all the individual value propositions including the customers’ goals and decision criteria, your solution, how it benefits all the key stakeholders and why they should buy from you – all on one page. This is very useful to refer to in a presentation and helps customer-side people to sell your solution to other internal stakeholders.
Tool – The Business Case
A Business Case summarises and quantifies all the benefits and costs. It has to be credible, it takes time and effort to
produce but it is exactly what senior decision-makers need – so it’s often the thing that seals the deal. That’s where the answers to those Benefit Questions are so crucial.
The Proposal Presentation
This is what customers tell us they like: A presentation that is to the point and talks about them and how your solution will meet their needs. They want to understand what differentiates you from the competition and they want the people who will deliver the solution to be involved in presenting it.
Stage 5: Decision
Customers rarely just say yes, they usually want to negotiate. Their starting point is often just to get the price down - which is the last thing you want. There are many things you need to do to prepare for and manage a successful negotiation but the aim is always to retain the profit in the deal.
The key to this is identifying things that you can offer that are of significant value to the customer but cost you very little – we call them Elements of Unequal Value. They allow you to give enough away to the customer to make them believe they have negotiated a great deal while protecting your price. For
concrete examples see our eBook
Nobody likes to lose. The best way to win next time is to find out why you lost this time – or for that matter why you won. There’s only one person who can really tell you and that’s the customer. And a simple question is not enough, you have to conduct an in depth interview to get feedback about your engagement approach. Fewer than 1 in 10 of your competitors do this according to our research so you have a real chance to get ahead of them by learning faster than they do.
No amount of feedback will help you if you do not have the right mindset to benefit from it. You have to be willing to self reflect and welcome feedback to the way you sell. You can only improve your skills, capabilities and knowledge if you are prepared to stop and reflect on yourself and see the areas that need improvement.
As we said earlier, this is an example Ideal Sales Process and your Sales Process will be built around your business, your Best Practices and in particular your customer’s expectations. Whatever your Sales Process looks like, if it follows these basic principles you will win more sales.
6. Using a Sales Process
When Things are not Ideal
Not every Opportunity fits into the Sales Process, but with smart work you should be able to apply the principles of your Sales Process and thereby make it winnable. An RFP that lands on your desk unexpectedly, especially a restrictive one from the Public Sector, might seem to make the Sales Process irrelevant. It doesn’t.
The first thing to do is Qualify the lead rigorously, if you can’t apply your Sales Process in any way at all, that may be enough reason to walk away. Remember that a lot of organisations – private as well as public – need a minimum number of
responses from credible organisations to make their process viable. You may be able to leverage their need for you to respond to get access to the Buying Centre.
Once you get to speak to people you can ask questions that will in turn cause decision makers to question the criteria in their tender and you are well on the way to taking control of the situation and implementing your Sales Process. Our Blog
“How to win RFP’s against the odds” describes a concrete example.
7. Sales Process and CRM
CRM systems are an excellent tool when they are fully aligned with the Sales Process and are not over-engineered. What technology does is reinforce structure and discipline. And importantly, it embeds the same language into the way every Sales person works. A couple of examples; by integrating the Opportunity Roadmap and the coaching questions asked by managers, the value delivered by the CRM system to Sales people is increased significantly. Our experience shows that supporting the Sales Process with fully integrated technology increases adoption to around 80%.
Don’t ask for too much stuff to be entered. What you need for a forecast is - What's the deal? What's the value? When’s it going to close? Don't give Sales people fields and fields of data to fill in, because they just won't do it. And if they don't enter the data (or only do it shortly before the deal is closed), the whole thing falls flat.
8. Sales Process and
A good Sales Process will even help you get the right people on your team. When you hire experienced Sales Professionals you want the ones who already use your Sales Process, or something very similar. If they do they will be more productive, more quickly. To improve recruitment, start by analysing your Sales Process and identifying the competencies required to execute it. Create a Success Profile for each role and then prepare your recruitment interview questions.
Getting the real STORY
We have refined this technique and created the Sales STORY structured interview. In short, you take each competency and ask a question about the candidates’ ability in this area and require they give you an example that demonstrates that competency and the outcome –the STORY.
ü Situation ü Task or ü Opportunity ü Role ü Yield
You ask the question and make sure you get an answer that demonstrates the competency, to ensure the candidate behaves consistently in the way you would like. For each competency you record the level of ability you judge the candidate has proved and
9. The Benefits of a Good
Sales Process in a Nutshell
As we said right at the start, we are talking about an action guideline based on best practices and a toolkit designed to improve the probability of you getting to the next stage, make sure it happens quickly and ensure you retain profit in the deal. The whole process differentiates you from your competitors by focusing on customer expectations of vendor Sales people.
Add to that the benefits of linking your Sales Process to your CRM to keep everyone on track and the advantages of using your Sales Process to build the right team and it’s hard to see why you shouldn’t love your Sales Process. Just make sure it’s a good one.
• Do you have a Sales Process?
• Having read this eBook – do you think it is a good one? • Does the Sales Team think it is a good Sales Process? • Does your CRM support and reinforce an Ideal Sales