Most sales leaders strive to document and refine their sales process in order to provide direction to their sales team. Once this is done, the documented process becomes a problem.
Salespeople, who are usually mavericks by nature, tend to push back on and pay lip service to adoption. Furthermore, the process never seems quite right, and most importantly, prospects don’t cooperate. This is because when we think of a sales process, we tend to think linearly. This is reflected in most sales funnels. As a deal progresses from one stage to the next, why is there an automatic assumption that the probability for success goes up? If three different companies are strenuously pursuing the same opportunity and all three move it to proposal stage, does it make sense for all three to report that the probability for success has just increased? It’s a zero sum game and only one, if any, will win the deal! That means when the deal goes to proposal stage, the probability for success just went down significantly for at least two of the three.
To accurately reflect the health of an opportunity, sales managers must acknowledge that the salespeople do not have control over the buying process. They are not, therefore, in a position to accurately reflect the probability for success even if they religiously execute the company’s sales process.
Second, the sales manager must train salespeople to think in terms of creating the ideal conditions within which people buy, rather than trying to subject prospects to a linear sales process. Today, the organizations salespeople sell to are far more complex than they were decades ago. The prospects are far more sophisticated, and the variables involved in the decision-making process are more dynamic. In other words, it’s a whole new ball game!
Create Ideal Conditions
In this new era of complexity, salespeople will do well to think in terms of creating ideal conditions for buying rather than following a strict process for selling. Thinking in this way gives the sales professional more options and more creativity. It also ensures the salesperson is always thinking about the buying process, the multiple stakeholders, where they are in the process, and the political landscape. As these variables change, one way or the other, that is, either favourable or unfavourable, the salespeople are able to respond appropriately and ensure that they are constantly creating relevant and time-sensitive value in every interaction with their prospects.
Encourage Sales Best Practices NOT Sales Process
Finally, the sales manager must focus more on sales best practices rather than on a linear sales process. A linear sales process cannot possibly anticipate the unpredictable nature of buying initiatives; however, a library of best practices can. It is the sales manager’s responsibility to examine, capture and document the actions of his or her best people in the variety of buying circumstances in which they find themselves. Rather than have your salespeople think in terms of a linear process, have them access your library of proven actions based on an if/then construct with the aim of shifting any unfavourable eventualities into favourable ones.
Those companies that persist in following a linear sales process will find themselves increasingly irrelevant in the eyes of prospects. They will simply wake up one day and find that no one places value on interacting with their salespeople who are disconnected from what is actually happening.
It is only by accepting the rising power of buyers and committing to interacting with them in such a way that every interaction creates value, that success can be consistently achieved. This is not as difficult as it sounds. Forward-thinking organizations are achieving this today and separating themselves from their competitors with the right thinking, the right tools and the right leadership.