We’re often asked by clients: “How can we replicate the results that are being achieved by our top sales performers?” In other words, they want to know what they have to do to get their whole team performing at the same level.
This question almost always comes from sales managers, and whilst it’s a valid question, it also fails to recognise an important truth – most salespeople fail in their roles because of poor sales management. Whilst most sales managers ask what his or her top performers are doing that the poor performers aren’t, a better question to ask is: “How effective are the processes that I have taught my sellers to use in their selling?”
This can be a confronting question. After all, sales success has traditionally been linked to the skill of the individual, not the guidance of the manager. Complicating matters is the fact that so many sales managers are so poorly informed on available selling process when a great deal of material has been available for many years.
But tackling this question isn’t as difficult as many might think. Selling processes are no different to any other process that we might put in place in other areas of business. The difference is that we simply don’t apply the same rigour to selling processes that we do to our other business processes – although we really should.
Could you, for example, imagine the national risk manager of a large corporation leaving his regional managers to deal with risk policy on their own? Of course not. The company would have a national policy on risk, and the manager would put in place a set of rules and processes for everyone to abide by. In this and other aspects of business life, people simply would not tolerate the absence of a structured functional framework.
And yet, when it comes to selling, many managers seem to view it as some dark art whose fate is in somebody else’s hands. They give their salespeople the price book and show them where the client database is, and then tell them to go out and do their job. As far as they’re concerned, that’s all there is to it.
You and I, however, know that this is simply not true. To achieve consistent sales results, selling requires a disciplined process that’s embedded across the whole team. To understand the sales processes required in any business, there are three categories that sales managers need to be familiar with:
1. Demand creation – These are processes around prospecting and lead management, relating to the activities that your salespeople need to regularly execute in order to generate demand.
2. Demand conversion – These are the processes that sellers need to use to convert the demand that has been created. Whether this demand has been generated from marketing campaigns or prospecting efforts, sellers need to have systematic processes in place to translate the demand into real business. These include putting in place a process for analysing complex sales, and for planning interactions with potential clients.
3. Demand maintenance – These processes fall under account management, and relate to maintaining and protecting key accounts that have already been won. Part of this is a systematic method of understanding the client, creating value for them, understanding their buying cycle, and being aware of how important your services are to them. Ultimately, demand maintenance requires a structured process that highlights the value of your relationship to the client, and paints a picture of how you can create even more value for them over a prolonged period of time.
The beauty of having a sales process in place for your team to adhere to is that you’re giving everyone exactly the same chance of success. Only after that can you objectively compare the performance of your sellers, and identify what needs to be improved. This philosophy underpins both the old-fashioned total quality management process and the currently fashionable six sigma management process, and today is relevant to any business looking to achieve sales success.
It’s really not rocket science, nor is it a groundbreaking revelation. But too many managers still fail to consider the processes that they might need to change, before thinking about the tactics their sellers need to change.
Eddie Smith is the Founder of Sales Schematics Australia, and an accredited align.me Funnel Coach. To read more of his insights, go to the SSA Technical – Sales Insights blog.