Taking the Mystery Out of the Sales Management Process

In my two other posts (Sales Management Software and Sales Pipeline management), I referenced processes — reinforcing the fact that sales is a process and not a magic art only imparted to the gifted few.  This post details that process further.

If you’ve witnessed the construction of a house or commercial building, it appears to many of us to be a jumbled mess of materials, with workers chaotically strewn from end to end, doing who knows what.  (Can you tell I’m not a builder?)  What appears to be a jumbled chaotic mess is a finely tuned process that starts months or years in advance with a detailed plan.  More specifically, a site plan, floor plan, rough plan, electrical plan, plumbing plan, etc. – all reviewed and approved well in advance of construction.

The sales process is similar.  The sale doesn’t start for a sales rep when the curtain rises and they take the stage to dazzle the audience.  No, it starts earlier, when the market is first chosen (via a market feasibility study and testing).

So what exactly is the sales process? The process may vary somewhat from industry to industry, product vs. service-based sale, B2B vs B2C, etc., and in general looks something like this:

  1. Pre-plan: Determine your market, decision makers, competition, approach, potential obstacles or objections.
  2. Set appointments: Set a specific date and time to meet in-person, or virtually.
  3. Build professional trust and rapport: Rather than small talk and handshakes, build relationships with the decision-makers, and learn the decision-making process as well as the decision-makers’ buying criteria.
  4. Include a company image presentation: Present general capabilities to the company decision makers.
  5. Conduct analysis (or discovery): Develop a detailed Q&A on the prospect’s specific needs or requirements, understand the impacts of those needs (whether they are personal, financial or organizational), and determine the prioritization of those needs. Conduct this with each individual involved in the decision making process.
  6. Present solutions: Present the solutions to the impacts uncovered during the analysis – hopefully with some competitive advantages over whomever you are competing with in this sale.
  7. Handle objection: Understand, clarify and overcome objections to your solution(s).
  8. Prepare to close: Practice a trial close and prepare the final close with your solution being the ideal solution for that prospect.
  9. Convert the sale: Move the prospect to your solution.
  10. Build case studies and testimonials: Collect documentation from your new customer on the positives of business with you, and provide this solution over your competition.
  11. Remember referrals: Send referrals to other companies (and the contacts within them) that are similar to your newly-converted customer (industry, geographic location, vertical market, etc.).
  12. Upsell and cross sell: Discuss ongoing customer support and add-on sales.
  13. Provide ongoing customer support: Ensure all decision-makers are happy and that they will serve as a trusted reference for new prospects you attempt to convert.

Granted, this may seem like a simplified process, but this process applies to most sales organizations.  The important takeaway is that your sales reps have a sales process to follow, and that you use your sales management software/toolset to manage the process and the resulting pipeline effectively.  Failure to do this sabotages your sales efforts.

Each point is important and informs you about what works, what doesn’t work and where you to look to help fix the “leak” in your process.

Let’s take a quick look of what this looks like using Step #2 – Set Appointments.  Let’s say that your reps secure most of their prospect meetings through phone prospecting, and that you track (as you should) the dials-to-contact-to-appointment ratios.  Below is some sample data and what it tells you:

  • 50 dials – 20 contacts – 1 appointment. This ratio says that your rep cannot overcome the objection to setting an appointment.  Generally, this is a closing issue that can easily be solved with training on various closing methods.
  • 50 dials – 5 contacts – 4 appointments. This ratio says that your rep cannot get past the gatekeeper but when he does, he’s highly successful at securing an appointment with the decision-makers.  This can be overcome by some simple tactical changes to scripting, and by getting to the decision by circumventing the decision-maker through other communication methods.

When you map out your sales process and include the sales management tools described in previous posts, you find and fix problems well in advance of having sales reps not hitting forecasts!