For some, sales continues to be a mystery, or a black art they continue to practice because their need for the revenue, not because they want to. Never certain if they are doing it right or wrong, until it is too late; when they get the sale, they must have done it right, and if at the end of the week, month or quarter, they miss revenue goals, they only know they did it wrong, but not why, or how to improve things.
Beyond skill, the underlying cause for this approach to sales lies in the fact that these sellers view sales as an art, rather than a science executed artfully. Most will tell you it is an art, a god given skill or a personality based trait that allows the seller to leverage undefined skills or procedure. Unfortunately, without a consistent process, they all too often experience ups and downs in sales rather than a consistent predictable stream of revenue delivered in a planned and predictable way. This may be acceptable to the individual sales rep, but it wreaks havoc on their company, and if they are a rep for a VAR or reseller, it can wreak havoc right up and down the channel.
Successful selling is most certainly process driven. In simple terms think of the process as a road map for a sale, without a defined sales process you know either where you are going, or how you will get there.
A defined sales process does not have to be overbearing or restricting, which is the complaint I get from those “just want to do their thing, not limiting their natural abilities.” This would be fine if the numbers validated that “natural ability”, but they don’t. Further, if you look at the minority of sales people who perform consistently regardless of markets, you will find that they do in fact adhere to a sales process.
A sales process is a set of actions executed in a logical sequence, with a set of procedures and rules (yes rules), for every stage of the sale. These include:
- Desired outcomes
- Required specialized resources, expertise, or tools
- Time scales
Having these in place will allow you to understand where you are, and what you have to do next to move forward, all the while able to gauge which opportunities are real. If they are not real, you can disqualify them early, and move on to real things; and if they are real, you have a clear map to how to move them to close, usually at better margins.
As someone in IT, you are already using processes for other successes in your business, why not the most critical, revenue. There are a number of good models, the best way to start is simple, you can always adjust based on market realities and metrics. In fact, a good process is a dynamic one that evolves with you and your buyers. For those insisting that sales is an art, consider that even the best musicians need to master the notes and chord structures in order to improvise. Once you establish and master your sales process, you can still execute it artfully.