Implementing a Sales Process, by Omagbitse Barrow

Implementing a Sales Process, by Omagbitse Barrow

For your selling efforts to yield sustainable results and move from being a “game of numbers” i.e. speak to xxx prospects and achieve yy sales, you must imbibe the discipline of having a sales process – a sales process consists of the various methodical steps that you and your sales professionals should take each time you are selling your product. It lays out all the activities that build-up to the actual sale, and the things that happen thereafter to ensure that both you and the client receive value. Without a sales process, your sales activities are whimsical; sales results are unpredictable; and your sales culture undisciplined. With an effective sales process in place, you are better able to forecast sales, manage the performance of sales professionals and inspire them to even better sales results. Here is how to use sales processes effectively in your business:

  • Define your sales process: Borne out of your experience with your product and services as well as your customers, prospects and the competitive environment, you and your sales professionals should be able to break-down the activities that take place before you start the sale up to its conclusion and thereafter. Across different industries, there will be different sales processes or cycles, however, most sales cycles begin with some form of prospecting and lead generation; then they move into engaging and negotiating with the prospects; closing the sale; delivering the service/product; receiving value from the client; to providing some form of post-sales support (where applicable). With this general flow in mind, you can create your sales process, and define in your own terms what each of those processes mean and expatiating on them where necessary and in more granular terms. Also, you may find that depending on the nature of your products and services and the different customer segments within your business, you may have slightly different sales processes for each business. Let’s take for example the sales team at a cottage factory producing bottled water or packaged snacks – your sales process will start with canvassing the target geographical areas for supermarkets and shops where these products can be sold or identifying offices and homes to which bulk supplies can be made. The next step will involve meeting with the shop or supermarket managers or owners; sending a written proposal; offering sample products; negotiating prices and terms of supply; supplying the products; providing a product training for the shop floor staff; providing sales aids (fliers, posters, or other promotional material); monitoring sales and updating records, collecting sales proceeds and re-stocking the product. Using this example, you will see that the sales process then continues as a cycle, all-year round. Having this process clearly defined helps you and your sales team to be very clear about what it takes to find, acquire and conclude arrangements with a client or prospect.
  • Communicate your Sales Process: Now that you have taken time to develop your sales process, it is very important that everyone involved in selling and delivering your product are crystal clear about the sales process and their specific role within this process. You can use a variety of ways to communicate the sales process, including but not limited to discussions at team meetings, posters on the wall, physical job aids that they can place on their desks or even place electronically on their computers and smart-devices. Communication is important because it helps to ensure that your sales team buys into the sales process and can really take ownership for driving it. You may find that the first time you communicate your sales process, you will get a lot of questions regarding the process and even arguments about what should come before the other and in what order the steps should follow. Listening effectively to your sales team as you develop and finalize the sales process is important. Incorporate their feedback and concerns as much as possible and ensure that your sales process is not just some academic document, but a living and breathing document that truly guides your selling effort and galvanizes your sales team towards clear results. By now you should be thinking about how to tweak your existing sales process (if you have one) or create one and share with the rest of your team (if you do not).
  • Teach your Sales Process: One of the foremost uses of sales processes is for on-boarding new sales professionals and team members. The steps of your sales process consist of distinct training modules that you must teach at your new staff orientation or induction program - whether it is one-on-one or in a group. You can also use your sales process for refresher training and mentoring conversations with your even more experienced sales professionals and managers – ensuring that there is always clarity regarding what is expected of them, and that you can all share some of the best practices from being on the field that can help everyone sell better. Using our example of the cottage water bottling business, continuous training on the sales process may reveal better and more effective ways of approaching owners, faster ways of negotiating and closing the sale, and more creative ways of encouraging the shop floor sales attendants in the shops to drive sales of your product or create excitement for your product within their shop. All of this teaching and training is built around the sales process. You can also expand your training to deal with the “softer” side of your sales process – training to address gaps in the skills, and behaviours required to deliver at each point of the sales process. Companies that have used sales processes effectively pay attention to refining the knowledge, skills, attitudes and behaviours of their sales teams – built around their sales process.
  • Track performance along the process: Another powerful way of getting more value from your sales process is that you can use it to track performance in a manner that ensures that you are not only monitoring final sales numbers but you are also monitoring the performance of all the concomitant factors that create the final result (see chapter on managing sales teams, and the “fallacy of sales numbers”). Using our example of the water bottling business, rather than just checking for the amount of money collected by each sales professional each month, your performance management system should have targets for each of the various bus-stops on the way to the final collection, i.e. how many supermarkets have you identified; how many owners have you had a meeting/presentation with; how many proposals have you sent; how many places have agreed to a sample placement; how many agreements have you signed; how many trainings have you had for the shop floor attendants; how many shops have you visited to get feedback on sales; how many issues have arisen through your visits and how have you responded to them. You will agree with me that your performance management system is now more granular and focused on the issues that really create a sale, rather than just focused on the ultimate sales result. Business managers like yourself must understand that the aim of performance management is to ensure that performance happens and not just to sit in judgment over people at the end of the year. If you want “performance” to truly happen then you must use your sales process in this manner so that you can intervene where necessary and improve performance along the sales process where gaps may occur.
  • Improve your sales process: A sales process is not cast in stone – it is a living and breathing document, which itself must be subject to changes over time. These changes will be inspired by changes in your business environment – regulations, shifting customer preferences, changes in technology or even more competitive pressures within your industry. As you look at your business strategy and review your sales performance periodically, you should review your sales process to ensure that it still represents the optimal way of creating value for your business and for your customers. Challenge the existing process – can it be faster, can it be tweaked to create more excitement for your product, can we use technology better along the process, are there aspects that need to be removed or included, etc. Asking these questions and answering them on a periodic basis will ensure that your sales process stays refreshed and proactively responsive to the needs of your market.

While many may consider selling to be an art, sales processes put some “science” into this art of selling, creates a disciplined way to communicate with your sales team, teach and monitor sales performance, and takes your selling activities from being just “whimsical” to being very deliberate and well-planned, resulting in better results for your organization.

Share On Social Media

Leave a comment