I read an article once, way back, that talked about how in the cabinet industry the sales process is really not a series of steps at all but rather one giant circular process — and I remember thinking how ridiculous that was. The premise was to get away from measuring closes because salespeople get too disappointed if they don’t close enough deals and never get a sales trophy on their desk.
It went on to discuss how you could pretty much start anywhere in the circular sales process (even run it backwards) because hey, it’s a circle. Circle of life. We’re all connected, right?
Well, not really. If you can’t measure something, it’s really hard to determine if it’s working. And if there’s no process, it’s really hard to instill a discipline in your salesforce. If anyone can start anywhere in a circle which can run forwards or backwards, how in the hell will you analyze if your sales process is working?
Building a House with No Foundation
That would be like saying you can build a house by starting with window installation. I guess you could buy the windows, but you sure would have trouble installing them with no walls or foundation. A sales process really needs a defined set of steps to follow – a foundation which slowly and naturally builds you towards a successful transaction. That’s the science, really. A repeatable, trainable process which allows you to measure and improve upon. A process which dramatically increases your chances of winning work.
Salespeople without a process stumble into sales when times are good. They really suck when times are bad. And you hold onto them because you can’t quite figure out if it’s their performance or the market’s which is causing everyone’s grief.
So measuring sales is tough. Holding salespeople accountable is tougher.
Implementing a sales process is tough. Uncovering bottlenecks in your sales process is tougher.
Instilling a discipline in your sales force is tough. Getting rid of poor performers who don’t follow a discipline is tougher – especially if the perception was that they performed in previous market conditions.
The Art of Arguing About Silly Crap
I have a friend who gets really frustrated with the current debates. He says they spend too much time going back a few years and trying to point fingers at why we are where we are. Have you ever tried to recreate the past? Wow, I can barely remember what I did last week let alone a year ago when the market was better.
Sales trophy or no sales trophy, it’s time to start over from scratch. Forget about the past. Clear the scoreboard, get a sales process and begin measuring. And don’t be shy. Have difficult conversations. Don’t be afraid to let your biggest complainers go. Make room for new blood and new perspectives. Churn the salesforce to find a new gem. Give trophies out ONLY to top performers. Make people excel for that thing. Hang an extra day of vacation on that baby and get people to want it so bad they’ll change.
Answer Only in the Form of a Number
If you want to be in sales, you need to really want to be in sales. That means avid reading and studying of sales techniques and strategies. That means learning, trying new things and not complaining about it. And a sales process which can be measured is a great tool to get rid of excuses and complaints from salespeople. That’s because whenever anyone complains, all you have to do is ask them about their pipeline and what is about to close. Not what they feel might close, but rather answers in the form of numbers. Like this:
“I have three new prospects that just entered our sales process for a total of eight deals I’m working on. Two are early on in evaluation stage and three are in the final stages of negotiation. Based on the last few months it looks like at least two of those three deals will close in the next twelve days because our average days to close was trending down last month from fifteen days to twelve with the recent improvements we made in our sales process”.
Wouldn’t that be dreamy?
So, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that implementing and measuring a sales process is a waste of time. Because not implementing and measuring your sales process wastes everybody’s time.
And seriously, a sales process is not a circle. But that’s just me stirring up the pot.