Why good sales needs a good process...
But it’ll stop me…..
What do you think when you hear the word ‘process’? Putting that question to salespeople tends to elicit two extreme responses. Firstly, it’s often “love it, gives me structure, that’ll help” or, very frequently, an internal scream – “it’ll restrict me, I can’t be myself, I don’t want to be a robot”. Which camp do you fall into?
In a previous article, I spoke about how most people have a negative attitude towards sales and how only around 5% of buying experiences are truly a positive, value adding experience for the customer. How do you get into the 5% club? You need a process and you need to practice it.
Why a process helps you handle pressure
Sales can be stressful; numerous demanding customers, internal targets to meet, short of time. All these causes of pressure, and many more, are the common reasons given for why salespeople don’t need or want a process – “I’m stressed enough already, don’t give me a process to slow me down.” If you think your sales job is stressful, let’s think about something really stressful – conflict.
In the ‘Age of Sail’, naval warfare was a stressful business. To put it simply, navies used to maneuver to put their battleships side by side and blast the opposition. You may have seen a naval cannon ball, nasty things. But it’s not the balls that caused the most causalities; it was the needle-sharp wood splinters flying around at great speed that did the most damage. So, imagine, you’re cramped in a dark, damp 1 metre high space with razor sharp wood splinters flying around at pace. Stress? You bet. If you going to be successful in that scenario, you need to fire faster than the opposition. You need a process, well honed, to achieve that.
Eliminate the bad process, focus on the good
Firing 18th century naval artillery required a lot of manpower. Firing faster than the opposition, in a rolling ship & a highly stressful situation required standardisation, a process and training. The British Royal Navy (RN) took this seriously. Equipment was standardised, superfluous process was eliminated and training was rigorous. The net result was that RN ships could fire 3-4 times faster than the opposition. That’s 3-4 times as many wood splinters flying around in the opponents’ ship than your own. Normally, they won.
Whilst your impression may be of a rigorous, rigid process, the RN gunners were normally given autonomy to control their weapons after the engagements had begun. They were trusted to use their experience and judgement to best effect within the processes they were highly trained in.
Create a framework to think around, not give you the answers
However bad a day you might be having, it’s unlikely to be as stressful as naval warfare, but the principles apply just the same; what’s your sales process? If the word process is unhelpful, think about it as a framework.
It’s a framework that should support your thinking and give you more chance to be both creative & consistent. It should help you plan & prepare faster, with more effectiveness. It should help you cope under pressure because you know where you are within the framework.
For example, what about preparing for any meeting; your framework should be a series of questions to shape your thinking.
Some examples could include:-
- What are we trying to achieve?
- What could we do for the client?
- How would they benefit?
- What can I do to find out what’s important to them?
- How do they make decisions?
What about running your meeting? Any good meeting has a structure and flow to make it relevant and value-adding for all parties. What are you going to do to make this happen? How much are you thinking about the other person, your client? What is their style and personality? How does yours differ and how will you adapt to them? What’s your framework for running sales meetings?
It’s not until you hit the bumps….
Your framework is there to help you think better before, act better during and get it done after your client meetings. We’re dealing with people here, not machines. That’s good news because having a framework gives you scope to practice, improve & put yourself into it. It allows you to coach around and be coached.
If you don’t have a framework and you don’t practice, there’s a fair chance you’re using the most common technique in sales – ‘winging it’. That might get you so far but I’m reminded of a saying from an old ski instructor – “it’s not difficult to ski downhill but it’s only when you hit the bumps that you find out if your technique is any good”. It’s the same in sales. Without the skis.
3 steps to create an effective framework
- Be ruthless. Eliminate unnecessary processes. What are your salespeople doing? How much of the things they are doing is adding value to either your business or your clients? Get rid of everything that isn’t adding value.
- Set your framework for sales. Be equally ruthless in only including what is useful.
- Take action. Agree it, train it & coach it.
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