sales process

Sales Success Requires Solid Planning

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In a complex sale, a good tactical plan is only as good as the strategy that led up to it.  The difference between strategy and tactics in sales is important—tactics refers to the techniques you use when you’re actually face to face with a prospect or customer in a meeting.  It includes the things you learned in “Selling 101” including questioning skills, understanding buying influences, presentation skills and so on.

The strategy for a sales meeting includes a series of less recognized processes that you use to position yourself with the customer before the sales call even begins.  Strategy is a prerequisite to tactical success.  You can only succeed in sales today if you know what you’re doing and why and you’ve created a methodology or process to support your efforts. 

One of my favorite books on this subject was Strategic Selling by Miller & Heiman. It was first published in 1985, and was the foundation for the training I received selling for a Fortune 100 company.  The book was updated and published again in 2005 by the title The New Strategic Selling.  If you can’t answer the question, “why are you successful?” then you may want to consider investing the time and energy to understand and document your strategy for sales success. 

Sales Plan Requires More Science than Art

Photo by  Louis Reed  on  Unsplash

Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash

When I started in sales for the Business Imaging Systems division of Eastman Kodak after college, my notion of a successful sales person was someone who could talk to anyone, had a good personality and was likeable.  Once I actually got into the position though, I quickly began to realize that true consultative selling is actually more about the science of selling than the art of selling.

The science of selling requires looking at the process from beginning to end, and defining what needs to happen at each step of the way to advance the process forward.  Most complex sales cycles take weeks if not months to come full circle.  This means that the incremental steps that advance the process need to be monitored and measured to insure forward motion is occurring. 

If your organization doesn’t have a defined sales process, consider engaging a systems oriented person in your company, or form a task team to analyze your sales process.  This should include an analysis of the sales cycle from beginning to end including the marketing activities that create opportunities and the success rates at each step of the sales process.  This analysis could also include interviews with your salespeople and perhaps a few customers to get their perspective.  The goal is to have a solid picture or framework of all of the steps that need to occur and some best practices around each of those steps. The time spent understanding the science behind your sales process will be well worth the investment as it leads to stronger sales results over time. 

In Sales—We Get What We Pay For

Photo by  Aidan Bartos  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aidan Bartos on Unsplash

I talk to a lot of business owners about their sales process and sales teams as part of our planning and performance work and I sometimes hear the complaint that the sales team is not focused on the right things. 

What I have found as a common theme among these organizations regardless of industry, is that in sales, we get what we pay for. 

Determining a comp plan for a sales team can be tricky and there are specialists who can help work out the finer points of a plan.  But it’s helpful to start with the simple question: “what are the most important activities and behaviors you need from your sales team?” 

If you’re only paying commission on new sales, don’t expect your sales people to spend a lot of time servicing existing customers.  If your sales people have a large book of business that produces enough repeat sales to sustain their income, then don’t expect them to go out prospecting for new accounts.  The key is to create alignment between your expectations, the activities you want and the behavior you’re rewarding.

Planning a Sales Call--More Than a Panic Attack in the Elevator

Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

We’ve probably all been there at one time or another even if we don’t want to admit it.  We’re in the elevator on the way to a meeting with a prospect, and we’re planning for the ‘sales call’ as the floors tick by.  It’s kind of crazy really when you think about how much money we invest in marketing, which is all about getting opportunities to be in front of a prospect.  Yet when we finally get that audience, we’re often not adequately prepared to fully leverage that time.

The antidote to this is the concept of the checklist.  If you have a background in aviation, you may be familiar with the concept of a checklist.  A checklist is a type of informational aid used to reduce failure by compensating for potential limits of human memory and attention. It helps to ensure consistency and completeness in carrying out a task.

The sales application would entail creating a checklist of those elements that you’ve identified as being critical to a successful first meeting with a prospect.  That checklist might include; 1) what you need to take to the meeting, 2) questions you need to ask the prospect, and 3) objectives for the meeting.

Although not every meeting with a new prospect is identical, a person will be more confident during the meeting if he goes in feeling prepared and confident.  Creating a checklist with your sales team is a good way to document one important element of your ‘sales best practices’.

Sales Growth Comes From Daily Discipline

Most of us look at sales success as a very complex combination of skills, techniques, attitudes, and actions joined together in a secret formula.   Scores of books have been written about ‘new’ selling techniques that will lead to greater sales success.

When I worked in professional sales for a Fortune 100 technology company, we received what was considered some of the best sales training in the world.  We spent six months at the corporate headquarters gaining product knowledge and receiving sales training based on the latest and greatest in the industry.

What I discovered in the field, however, was that the single most important characteristic I needed to master to achieve success was fairly simple—it was discipline.  It was the discipline to do the simple things, the steps that make up the sales process, and doing them consistently.

It takes discipline to plan, and it also takes discipline to implement the plan. Since most of us tend to get distracted and our discipline erodes, it’s helpful to find ways to remind yourself of your daily goals.

Discipline is not magical; it’s merely movement . . . regularly, consistently, purposefully.