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 discuss three ways in which the sales process can be used as a blueprint for rapid behavior change that drives better results. The first post in the series focused on common language; this second post focuses on the consistency provided by the sales process.
Consistency Across the Organization
The leading concern of sales executives is the lengthening of sales cycles, with deals getting stuck in the pipeline. According to research reported by the Aberdeen Group, in September 2015, 52% of sales executives reported this as a top concern. The Aberdeen report also found best-in-class sales organizations reported a 16% shorter average sales cycle than under-performing companies.
More research, this time by Harvard Business Review, also in 2015, discovered that salesforces were “most effective in managing their sales pipelines if they had invested time in defining a credible, formalized sales process. In fact, there was an 18% difference in revenue growth between companies that defined a formal sales process and companies that didn’t.”
As you might expect, just having a sales process doesn’t guarantee success. The process itself must meet a number of qualifiers to be effective.
- It must be aligned with the buying process of customers
- It must provide clear direction for sellers’ activities and outcomes at each stage
- It must become part of the conversation that sales managers have with their direct reports, coaching them to develop their skills and adopt desired behaviors
With the Richardson sales methodology, the process is typically broken into such stages as these: Qualification, Discovery, Proposal, Presentation, Solution Refinement, and Contract. Each stage is customized to specific client organizations and their customers’ buying process. Activities are sequenced to deliver maximum value to buyers, with dialogue models, tools, and verifiable outcomes identified for each stage. The result is a consistent, repeatable, and effective process that sellers and sales managers can use to work opportunities in the pipeline as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The second biggest concern of sales leaders, as identified by Aberdeen Group research, was that “sellers can’t differentiate themselves/us from competitors,” which at 37% signifies a major problem. Again, consistency is part of the solution, both in process (what needs to be done) and in skills (how things are done).
Sales leaders want to be confident in their teams’ ability to be credible and valuable partners to their customers. They need a consistent way to determine what happens in the field and whether sellers have the skills to clearly articulate value.
The sales process can provide that consistency, allowing sales managers to quickly diagnose where the problems are and recommend changes in behavior to make sure that their people are doing and saying the right things at the right times. The outcome should be a greater consistency of selling behaviors across the organization and have a positive impact on the sales cycle, accelerating results.