It is time to expect more from your sales process. It is no longer enough that it delivers consistency and control in respect of sales.
Your sales process should also act as a magnet for your customers – it should add value for your customers and be capable of generating new levels of engagement and deeper relationships.
It is time to re-think the purpose of your sales process – its role in your success, as well as its value for your customers. Managers need to stop thinking of their sales process as set of steps that should be followed. The next generation of sales process is about customer engagement, as much as it is about sales consistency. That is key to its contribution to sales team success.
Does Your Sales Process Enhance Your Success?
How much does your sales process contribute to your sales success? That is a challenging question for any sales manager. An even more difficult question to answer is ‘How does your sales process contribute to your customer’s success?’
Most managers don’t see their sales process contributing significantly to winning sales. They seem to be happy to settle for a sales process that delivers increased:
Visibility – Predictability – Control
Uniformity – Consistency – Standardization
Efficiency – Productivity – Automation
These factors are important, but can a sales process do more to help win sales?
When most people talk about sales process there is little mention of the customer or prospect, or even the sales person. Little wonder that how the sales process contributes to increased sales is not clear.
Who Does Your Sales Process Really Serve?
Salespeople often complain that it is difficult to get their customers and prospects to open up fully and engage. They view with horror the rise of competitive tendering processes – where suppliers are kept at ‘arms-length’.
Salespeople resent being treated like just another salesperson who can be diverted to procurement, or left on hold. But most sellers have not given their customers a reason to want to engage more deeply and their sales processes don’t appear to help.
The question is: What does your sales process do for your customers and prospects? Just exactly how does it benefit them? The answer in many cases is little, if at all. This simply has not been a factor in how sales processes have been created. But your customers want more from your sales process. So too do your sales people.
Organizations need to re-think their sales process if they want their customers to open up and engage in a more creative and meaningful dialogue about their problems and how they can be solved.
How Does Your Process Help Customers?
Yes, it is hard to get excited about process. But that is exactly what is required. Your sales process has to excite your customers, as well as your sales people. It is at the very core of how they interact with customers, the level of engagement, the quality of conversations and the depth of relationships.
Your sales process is how you want to engage with your customers. The set of steps or touch points by which you gain the trust of, impress and even excite the customer. At its core are high quality conversations.
The basic principle is this: the sales process that adds value for the customer generates revenue for the business. The greater the value the greater the revenue. So the question is how much value does your sales process create for the customer?
The effectiveness of the sales process should be measured in terms of:
- The quality of customer conversations
- The level of engagement from customers
- The creativity involved in solving customer problems
- The depth of customer relationships.
These are all proxies for increased sales success – that is why they are an important measure of your sales process. You will find a test that will help you gauge your sales process at the end of this insight.
It Is Time To Expect More From Your Sales Process
It is time to expect more from your sales process. Here are 10 ways in which your sales process should contribute more:
1. Sales process has to be about more than selling your product – it has to focus on solving the customer’s problems. There should be no pressure on the customer and no hidden agenda on the part of the salesperson. That is key to ensuring a high level of trust.
2. A vital ingredient of any high impact sales process is that it focuses on the customer’s vision of success. Helping the customer to achieve increased clarity and confidence regarding their desired outcome is key.
3. It should make the buyer’s journey easier and help them to buy. So it has to take account of where the buyer is at in the buying process – for example whether they are actively shopping for solutions, or simply becoming aware of the problem. It has to address the growing need for any purchase decision to be justified internally and the requirement for a business case, or a set of numbers. It also has to help the buyer to meet the challenges of aligning stakeholders and managing risks.
4. It is a coaching process. That is to say it is not just about telling the customer what he she needs or telling them why your company and its solution is great. Rather it is a consultative process where the customer is engaged in the process of analyzing needs and exploring solutions. This is important because when the customer is involved in co-creating the solution their level of ownership and commitment is at its greatest.
5. It should be transformative – It is not just about sharing information – that is not enough. Today’s buyers have access to a vast array of information sources and can often end up in ‘analysis-paralysis’. The advisor or sales person should be able to offer insights and wisdom, not just information.
6. Your customer-engaging sales process should be a creative problem solving process – one that re-frames the buyer’s problems or opportunities. The process of interaction with the salesperson should result in new insights, new thinking and even break-throughs for the customer. That is the ultimate test.
7. It leverages the seller’s experience, wisdom and creativity. Most sellers (and their organizations) have accumulated significant knowledge and wisdom. The sales process should be the means by which the customer gets to access and benefit from that knowledge.
8. It should be packaged in a way that ensures that the benefits of engaging in it are clear. If you want the customer or prospect to commit their time then you need to communicate what they will get out of it. Here are some other considerations in packaging your process:
- Brand the process – how can you put a TM on the end of it?
- Create a visual representation of the process – what does it look like?
- Create some intellectual property around it – how can you integrate proprietary insights, research or tools into the process?
- Put science behind it – what reports, research or analysis can you leverage (either your own or that published by 3rd parties)?
- How to tangibilize the process – e.g. including physical reports and outputs?
- Clear outputs – what are the deliverables or outputs for the customer?
- Put a value on it – what will the process deliver in terms of time saved, opportunities identified, etc?
9. It should leave nothing to chance in terms of your customer’s experience. That means managing all the touch points – the website, the call, the meeting and so on – to create a consistent high quality customer interaction.
10. It should seamlessly integrate sales and service, or delivery, continuing after the sale has been made to cover the end-to-end process of customer engagement. It spans the full customer lifecycle with a view to capturing an increased share of the customer’s total spend, or wallet.
Are You Selling People, A Product or A Process?
If you are selling a service then the process around its sale and delivery is especially important. But an important question for any business to ask is ‘Are you selling people, a product or a process?’ Too often it is people, or product, with little attention given to the process that underpins it all.
The principles of process can be applied to any business – here are some examples:
- A company selling IT support to Data Centres then your unique value-adding process could be around how you audit compliance, energy, reliability and performance.
- A company selling Warehouse Management Solutions could have a unique value-adding process around how it sets goals for and tracks progress in terms of order accuracy levels, inventory levels and other KPIs
- A Wealth Management Practice could have a unique valued-adding process around helping clients to create a financial plan and vision and bring it to life.
- A recruiting company could have a unique value-adding process around helping to ensure the fit of candidates with client positions through role definition and behavioural profiling.
Putting a unique customer engaging and value creating process at the core of your business could add greatly to, not just its sales success, but also its value proposition. The process itself could be what your customers pay for next year – that would be a real indicator of its value.
Ideally your sales process should be a clear point of differentiation between you and your competitors. This is particularly important in commoditized markets.
Test: How ‘customer-engaging’ is your sales process?
The first generation of sales process was about greater visibility, predictability and control. The next generation must focus on engaging the customer more deeply. That is at the core of sales success in modern age.
Here is a test of just how customer-engaging or value–creating your sales process is. See if you agree with the statements listed below.
1. Our sales process adds real value for the customer – it ensures that the customer gets a lot out of engaging with us.
2. Our sales process helps the customer to bring new creativity to solving their problems.
3. Our sales process brings about new thinking on the part of the customer – it results in new insights and break-throughs.
4. Our sales process creates a high-trust environment in which the customer really opens up and engages with us.
5. Our sales process is centred on helping the customer to clarify and create their vision of success.
6. Our process results in meaningful high-impact conversations with the customer.
7. Our sales process packages up the accumulated knowledge and wisdom of our organization (or the salesperson) and makes it accessible to customers.
8. Our sales process is effective at positioning the salesperson as an expert, consultant and trusted advisor.
9. Our sales process helps the customer to confidently make a decision as well as to build a clear and compelling justification for the purchase.
10. Our sales process is aimed at addressing customer fears and concerns, including, risks, uncertainties, conflicting requirements, trade-offs, and so on.
Check Your Score
Count up you answers to arrive at the score for your sales process, giving each answer a value as below:
Absolutely Agree = 5
Agree = 4
Neutral = 3
Disagree = 2
Absolutely Disagree = 1
When you have calculated your total score, use the following as a guide:
40-50: Your sales process actively engages the customer. It is a competitive weapon and directly contributes to your sales success.
30-40: Whether your customers really open up and engage depends on the style of the salesperson, rather than the design of your sales process. That means engagement does not always happen and sales shocks and surprises can result..
0-30: Your sales process does not really help you sell and offers little to the customer by way of value, problem solving or relationship-building. Indeed it may be limiting your sales success.