Glenn Guilfoyle, Founder & Principal of The Next Level, writes…

In the B2B environment where core products and services are becoming more and more commoditised, more often than not, customers make their supplier choices on the process outputs that are most tangible and visible to them. Therefore, as suppliers, we live and die daily by the output performance of these critical and inter-related processes, as perceived by customers.

The degree of inter-dependency between these two processes often lies in how well the order-to-delivery (or service fulfilment, for the services organisation) is operating.  If it is streamlined and customer friendly, then the sales people that drive the sales process can spend more of their time on the front foot driving proactive sales activity.  If they spend more than occasional time on the back foot, on behalf of their customers, sorting out issues at either the front end or back end of the order-to-delivery process, there is a natural trade off against maximising available time purely working the sales process.

Take-out #1 – If you want to give yourself the best chance of optimising your sales process, then focus on optimising the efficiency and customer friendliness of your order-to-delivery/service fulfilment process first. Our studies show that there is anywhere between 15-35% of Sales Execs’ time wasted on value-destroying activities focussed on fixing problems in the order-to-delivery process.

What would it mean if your Sales Execs had 15-35% more time on their hands to spend on the front foot working the sales process?

I have asked countless B2B sales managers this question, and have heard countless different answers. I am not saying that such an array of responses is good or bad. Nonetheless, I am convinced that too many B2B sales managers do not really understand their sales function and responsibility in terms of a sales process.

Michael Hammer, the super-luminary of business process thought leadership, defines a process as, “a collection of activities that takes one or more kinds of input and creates an output that is of value to the customer.” Many corporations manage their sales function as though it were an artform, dominated by personality, chemistry, relationships, entrepreneurialism and other idiosyncratic and episodic characteristics. Yet walk up the corridor to the Accounts Payable or onto the shop floor in the plant out the back, and you often find a very different management and discipline approach, with people and work managed as processes.  Why?

Take-out #2Manage, monitor and measure your sales process as a process, underpinned by the same business rigours and disciplines as the other business processes that we somehow think are more like processes than “sales” is.

Another manifestation of this kind of sales management mindset can be heard in language used; witness terms like hunters, farmers, trappers, minders, grinders, finders, keepers. This kind of vernacular is almost universally focussed on (sales) people and sales personality styles.  Sometimes the terminology may extend to role types. But rarely all the way to sales process.

Our view of the B2B sales organisation is that there is not ONE sales process, but two.  A farming (account management) process and a hunting (prospecting) process.  And the relevance of the process distinction for any given organisation is MORE important than the thinking that wraps around categorisation of any given Sales Exec (eg. ”He’s more of a farmer”, ”She is our hunter in Queensland”.

When we (at The Next Level) apply the principles espoused by Hammer et al in regards to defining a business process, we come to the conclusion that the farming or account management process is a stand alone, albeit parallel, process to the hunting or prospecting process and should be managed, monitored and measured accordingly; irrespective of how the members of the sales team are marshalled and charged with position descriptions and accountabilities to resource both processes.

Take-out #3 Recognise the validity of managing, monitoring and measuring the farming  and hunting processes as two interconnected, parallel, but nonetheless separate processes.

For more insights like this, check out The Next Level’s proven sales process.