Sales Processes

People get so hung up on questions like “what sales process should I follow?” or “what sales methodology should I use in a given situation?” Friends, we are making things way too complicated! I think this is the result of too many would be trainers, authors or consultants  trying to pitch the same old material as ‘something new and brilliant’. 

I’ve been answering quite a few questions on Quora & LinkedIn, and I’ve found that many people try to complicate the concept of “Sales.” The concept is simple- it’s the execution that’s the challenging part. You see, when you remove any process from the equation, things tend to get more difficult because one now has to think rather than already knowing what the next step is. The problem is, the real world doesn’t work on a process – the real world is dynamic, with outside sales being perhaps the most dynamic role in just about any organization.

I cringe every time I’m on a coaching ride-along and the following happens: Junior salesperson A is on step 2 of a 5 step “process’ when the customer says something like “yeah, this sounds great to me, I’m ready…” But instead of stopping there and allowing the customer to move on, the salesperson continues to ‘sell’ even though the deal is already closed. Or worse yet, the customer moves to a step that wasn’t really taught in the training program – now you have Junior salesperson A with either a “deer in the headlights” look, or making things up as he goes along. You see, in the salesperson’s mind, the job is not yet completed because he hasn’t reached step 5. 

This is why I firmly believe that outside of understanding the general characteristics of a sale, there is no room for a ‘process’ in outside sales. Now, this is not to say that there are no training programs with value- it just means that you shouldn’t waste your time or money on a program that teaches a methodology or process. Training programs such as Value Based Sales, that teach strategies or concepts can be highly valuable – as they are not dependent on a particular sequence of events.

Ok, so what are the fundamentals in sales? Good question, and I’m glad you asked:

  1. Understand what you’re selling, as well as your company’s core competencies. There are typically no more than 3-4 core competencies- and more often than not, none of them have to do with any features or benefits of your offering.
  2. Understand your customer’s true needs by asking questions, listening carefully, and asking more questions.
  3. Based on your customer’s needs and your company’s core competency, craft a meaningful solution.
  4. Monetize your solution.
  5. Done

Anything more is either a detail under one of the steps above (that may or may not be useful in a given situation, like an up-front contract for example,) or is something that somebody created to make their system sound unique – and therefore more expensive.

My final thought on processes as they relate to sales: In order for a process to be flexible enough to operate in the dynamic environment of sales, it has to be either very high level, or have a tremendous amount of variables. So my question to you, my reader, is: when does a process stop being a process and become a guideline?

The reality is that any coach/trainer/etc.. can teach just about anybody the skills required for sales. However, those skills are just an entry point and alone, do not ensure success. What separates great salespeople from the others is drive, motivation, and most importantly judgement – none of which can be processed.

That’s all for now – check back next week for more. Or better yet, subscribe to get updates delivered directly to your inbox.

Until then, this is Rick, your Chicagoland Sales Strategist, signing off.

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