Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Method to Your Madness

Don't let the idea of a sales
process drive you mad!
Skill Two: Process

In an earlier posting, I noted I felt planning was the single most critical skill for sales people.  Think about this: the power to anticipate and prepare for the future is a major differentiator of mankind.  One of the first measures of civilization comes in the form of the calendar.  The Egyptians, Mayans, Phoenicians, Aztecs, and the hillbillies from which the Hurtte clan emerged, all had calendars.  They developed plans, but that’s not enough. 

Carrying out a plan in a systematic method is process.  And to really be a process they must contain three ingredients:

·         Documentation – Without some written record of how we handle thing,s it’s far too easy to stray from the plan.

·         Measurements and Metrics – These assist in understanding changes in our performance over a longer period of time.

·         Coaching Points – Even superstar athletes have coaches.  If you don’t have a method for getting an outside perspective, you may be missing an important ingredient of success.

Let’s switch gears and look at process in a completely different field.  McDonald’s has a process for cooking fries.  They carefully define their procedure; they measure against the procedure and constantly look for ways to improve.  Arguably, it isn’t the quality of their food that keeps people coming back, it is the consistency.  They, like many businesses, realize their customers have an appreciation for consistency.  A process keeps you consistent and guides your improvement.

A process for those of us in sales can be everything from how consistently we return phone calls to how well we capture customer information to how well we hand off information to our inside sales team.

Here is a guide to process scale.  Again, it works on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest score and 10 being near perfection.  Select the number which most closely ties to your own work.

1 – You always have a notebook with you when you go out on a call.

3 – You capture all incoming phone messages and return the calls within a consistent time frame.  This includes continuing to call back until you have made contact with the person calling.

5 – You measure the number of sales calls you make each week.

7 – You measure the value of active quotations, new quotes and other important information.

10 – Other members of your team know exactly how you will provide them information in order to better serve your customers

The very best sales people involve others in their process.  Like the coach of a sports team, they outline expectations, measure outcomes, and often gently coach their support people along the way to improve customer interactions.

Many salespeople question the value of written documentation for their process.  To this end, your process need not be laid out in perfect form.  A simple flow chart, a few bullet points, a notebook with your current actions will be sufficient as a starter.  If you don’t have something on paper (or electronic device), straying from your ideal plan is easy to justify.  We suggest you take just a few minutes to think about these points.  What is your process for the following:

·         Introducing your company to a new customer?

·         Following up on leads provided by a vendor?

·         Locating new contacts at an existing customer?

·         Handling quotations?

·         Gathering information on a customer?

·         Introducing support people to your customer?

·         Returning phone calls?

·         Measuring the potential of a new customer?

·         Identifying competitors within your customers?

We would love to hear more about your own process.

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