Using the Sales Process as a Blueprint for Rapid Behavior Change
#1: Establish a Common Language
There are two things that unite virtually every sales organization: 1) the desire to improve sales performance and 2) to achieve results as quickly as possible. In this series of posts, I will discuss three ways in which the sales process can be used as a blueprint for rapid behavior change that drives better results. The first in the series focuses on the importance of establishing a common language to be used within the sales process.
Common Language is Essential
Change happens when a majority of people begin doing new things repeatedly. For sales organizations attempting to achieve a step change in performance, it all starts with the sales process. An effective and intuitive sales process will introduce a common language that sales professionals and their managers can use to discuss opportunities and their stage-by-stage progression through the pipeline.
Language is important. It’s not only what people say, or how they say it, but what they mean when they use certain words. When people share a common language, they become more unified. They “get” what the other is saying. They’re on the same page.
This doesn’t mean everyone has to speak English or Spanish or German. It means whatever their native tongue, sellers should speak the language of selling. At Richardson, we focus on terms like verifiable outcomes to mean leading indicators of success at each stage of the sales process. We use the same words consistently to create understanding across global organizations about the steps that every seller needs to take, the outcome that should be reached, and how sales managers should be coaching their teams to lead them to success.
When sales organizations use a common language, it enhances communication. When they link this common language to the sales process, they begin talking about selling activities in similar ways, with similar sequences. The nature of the conversation changes because instead of just talking about activities, they can talk about how the activity was conducted, exchange best practices, offer tips on how to do things better, and verify outcomes.
Consider this example. In the Discovery stage of the sales process, sellers undertake a number of activities to explore and assess an opportunity. The sales manager, instead of just asking whether these activities were done, can use a common language to dig deeper. “What kind of input did you get from the prospect when you used the Questioning Strategy Funnel?” “How did the prospect respond after receiving the validation letter that you sent; what feedback did you receive?”
When the sales process is designed in a way that clearly outlines the activities, customer dialogue models, tools, and verifiable outcomes for each stage, then conversations can be specific about progress achieved and milestones attained, leading to more confidence in sales forecasts.
Our clients confirm this happens within their organizations. They tell us that using a common language starts out changing the conversation between sellers and their managers — and this leads to behavior change that aligns with the sales process and desired verifiable outcomes. The language helps by setting clear expectations for sellers and also for managers who can better coach their teams throughout the sales process.
When sellers and their managers are aligned on how opportunities should be moving through the stages of the sales process, and they use the same language to identify progress and bottlenecks, the organization benefits in numerous ways. Sales performance improves because people are focusing on what matters most, and sales cycle can shorten because there is less inefficiency and misunderstanding of expectations.