The Sales Process Must Be Replicable But Flexible
Is Your B2B Sales Process a Ball and Chain?
The purpose of the sales process is to maximize sales effectiveness for the entire sales organization. If utilized correctly, a strong sales process is instrumental in optimizing both the call to close ratio and the average revenue per sale. So here’s the question: Do you think that a B2B sales process is going to attain a consistently high level of results if it turns your sales force into mindless robots?
The answer is unequivocally and emphatically “NO”!
If a customer feels like they are being “sold to”, what do they do? They close up, don’t they? In fact, in some cultures children are trained at a very young age not to trust sales people—to close them out. Do these people go their entire lives without buying anything? Of course they don’t.
People in all cultures love to buy things that will help them (intrinsically or extrinsically), but they despise being “sold” anything. If it feels like a “sale”, then it feels like a con. And no one wants to be duped by buying into a con or sales racket.
Turning your team into script reading dummies does more to hinder your results than to help them. If a sales process is going to be successful, it absolutely must allow your sales people to use their unique personality traits—skills, experience, and style—to enhance their selling success.
The B2B sales process needs to be considered as a foundation. Think about it like a house. There is nothing inherently appealing or sexy to the foundation. You wouldn’t purchase a house because of its amazing foundation; yet, without it the house will crumble to the ground. The foundation serves its purpose, yes, but it does not make it appealing to a potential buyer.
The things that make a house appealing are the things that give it LIFE.
The style, the colors, the curb-appeal, the architectural embellishments…you get the idea. Likewise, the sales people are what bring your product or service to life. They add the color and the style to what would otherwise be a very mundane and unattractive offering.
If you don’t want to suck the life out of your product, then you never want to remove your reps personal style from the sales equation. Simply stated…the sales process is the structure, and the sales people give it life.
Here’s a real world example of what can happen when a sales rep is unleashed to build upon the sales process using their personal style.
Michael was a struggling sales rep who was summoned to my office for what was likely the conclusion of his employment with the company. A real southern gentleman (complete with a cowboy’s accent), Michael was a great guy. Unfortunately, his consistently sub-standard sales results classified him under the “bad-fit” category according to his sales manager.
I appreciated his work ethic and his positive attitude, but I was on the fence as to whether increased training and coaching would bring his performance in-line with the minimum sales objectives on a consistent basis. I never want to prolong the inevitable as it is cruel to both sides; yet, I am in the people building business so if there is a chance to turn them around, I will always give it a shot if it makes sense.
After impressing me with his determination to succeed and conviction in his value proposition, Michael and I discussed what he would do differently if given another chance to make this work. The KPI’s illustrated that he was strong in outbound call activity, but the short call duration was indicative of failing to engage in serious business discussions.
So we talked about the sales process. He demonstrated an above average knowledge of all the elements of the process and the steps of the sale. He recited the sales script virtually verbatim. However, this uncovered a huge obstacle for Michael. He was a country boy, and the script was written by “city folk”. It was so unnatural coming out of his mouth that he might as well have announced to the prospect, “My name is Michael, and I am going to read you my company’s sales script.”
Michael and I broke the sales process down to its basic elements and the purpose of each element along the way.
Then we discussed how HE would talk to a prospect using his own linguistic style along with his unique personality. We spent almost three hours together, and agreed that we would give it another chance to make it work on a week to week basis.
This time, however, he would be using the company sales process interpreted using his unique personality. We changed nothing in the process except to let the man delivering the message do it in his own way.
It wasn’t lightning in a bottle, but he did hit the 100% to sales objective the first week. In week two, he fell short, but you could see that he was growing daily. In week three, Michael was nearly 200% to objective. By the fourth week, he was one of the top three reps in his group out of nearly twenty reps on the stack rank report. From that point forward, Michael was consistently a sales dynamo week after week, and never again fell out of the top five in his work group.
Michael needed the sales process, but he needed to make it his own. Once he did, he went from being on the way out to a key member of the sales team. I love a happy ending!
In every organization which I have worked, sales reps have shared their disdain for the sales process. “The sales process…It’s just not me.” But instead of adapting it to fit who they are, they abandon it altogether. They skip the steps and completely ignore many of the essential elements…they “wing-it” in other words. And the only thing worse than an un-adapted sales process is no sales process at all.
They are destined for failure.
So what can we do, as sales leaders, to insure that we get the best of both worlds?
Well, we absolutely need a B2B sales process, and it must be solution-based. It needs to be broken down into specific elements, and the reps need to understand the “value” behind each element. Specifically, they need to know:
• What is the role or purpose of each element (what it does)
• Why the element is important
• The value that timing plays in the use of the element
• How this element impacts the other elements
Once the reps clearly understand the elements, they will more readily embrace it and can easily adapt it to themselves.
Bridges and transitions need to be included as elements in the sales process in addition to traditional sales process elements. They play an integral role within the sales process, and are often ignored by process developers. We will be discussing bridges and transitions in a future article.
A well-constructed and correctly utilized sales process will never tie the hands of sales reps or constrain them in any way. Quite to the contrary, an adaptable sales process will actually liberate them. With this serving as their foundation, they can be far more flexible and creative to deliver a consistent message using their own uniqueness and style while still maximizing their revenue opportunities.
Break your B2B sales team of the ball and chain, and let them breathe life into your organization.
Posted August 30, 2013 / By Chris Hickey
Tags: sales coaching, sales leadership, sales management, sales management training, sales turnaround, turnaround management, sales consulting, sales management coaching, interim sales management, sales force effectiveness, sales coaching, sales consultant, sales strategy
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