How do customers buy your products or service?
Many organisations do not have a sales process. Worse still ,many employ fresh, out of school/college novices, who are deemed to have great communication skills and send them out into the world to sell their products. Which is great for employment but not so great for your brand or sales report. Other companies employ sales people and ask them to do what they did in their previous job. Many of these sales people end up frustrated and unhappy . The sales process is unique to each product and service. It is also unique to companies and their customers because even similar companies don’t always have the same types of clients or target the same markets. The technique that works in one industry will not work in another because of differences in customer segments and expectations. Sales Managers therefore need to create sales processes that work for their particular environment, products and target markets.
A sales process is a defined series of steps you follow as you guide prospects from initial contact to purchase. It begins when you first identify a new prospect.
A documented sales process is a flowchart that explains:
- Each distinct step a prospect takes
- Knowledge the prospect needs to move to the next step
- Literature & tools you can provide to help the prospect move forward
- Length of time a prospect needs at each step
- Conversion rates: the percentage of prospects who move from one step to the next
With a documented sales process, you have a powerful tool that enables you to:
- Sell more efficiently
- Generate more accurate sales and revenue reports
- Estimate the revenue and return on investment (ROI) of your marketing campaigns
- See which stages take the most time and find ways to move prospects forward
- Create better literature and tools
- Improve your campaigns
- Minimize the amount of time your reps spend on estimates and forecasts
Do you see your company in one of these scenarios?
Best case is the place to be
You have a well-designed process that measures the number of prospects you have at each stage, how long they stay in each stage, and the revenue your entire pipeline represents. You deliver the right amount of information prospects need at each step, which helps them make decisions more quickly and move to the next stage. You use your sales process to create more successful marketing campaigns because you can predict how many leads will become customers and what those leads will be worth to your company.
Middle of the road is a dangerous place to be
You may or may not have a defined sales process. You generally follow the same steps to close a customer, but there’s a big variance in the amount of time it takes to close. In fact, even your strongest reps have trouble closing certain types of prospects. Your forecasts are probably all manual and generally accurate, but you wish you had a thorough snapshot to show exactly how many accounts are at a certain stage and what you need to do to close the sales.
Worst case is no place to be
You don’t have a process or use one that doesn’t match how prospects want to buy. You deliver all of the information about your product but then seem to lose control of the prospect. Some prospects end up buying, but you don’t know why the others don’t. It’s a constant battle to figure out how many real prospects you have and what they’re worth. Your sales team often spends valuable time creating manual reports instead of selling, which further hurts your revenue.
How to Improve your Sales Process
Determine how your customers buy
- List the steps you think prospects logically take from the time they recognize a problem to the time they buy.
- Talk with customers or ask your sales reps for more insight.
- Figure out what steps they take, what they need to know and how you can deliver that information most effectively.
Create your process
For each step your prospects need to take, list:
- What the prospect needs to learn
- Marketing and product literature & tools you can provide to help the prospect move forward
- The length of time a prospect needs at the step
- The percentage of prospects who move from each step to the next (your “conversion rate”)
Improve your process to maximize revenue
When you have a defined process, it’s easier to test ideas for improving results. For example, you can
- Identify spots where prospects get “stuck” in the process and try new materials or messages to help them move forward
- Measure how well different reps convert at each step and help those that aren’t doing as well.
- See how leads from different marketing campaigns convert and improve your campaigns
- Create campaigns to “recycle” leads that fall out of the process at various spots.
Advice for Sales Managers on how to effectively manage your team
- Don’t over manage: which is to say that many sales managers rely too much on metrics and deadlines to drive performance. Highly effective sales managers find numerous ways to reward and motivate.
- Culture eats strategy for breakfast: This is just a way of saying that highly effective sales managers don’t rely on theoretical or arbitrary programs to drive sales team performance. Yes, every team should have a sales process and set goals and measure pipeline, but it works best to align those organizational goals to personal goals.
- Find the right talent: Effective sales managers are committed to hiring the best talent available. If you want the best, hire the best, and save loads of time and money on training while protecting yourself from failure six months down the road
- Communicate key performance indicators: Nothing is more important to sales makers than knowing what is expected of them and when it is expected. Keep communication clear and your sales team expectations well-defined, so that team members know what to aim for, and understand what will happen if they hit it (or not).
- Don’t over engineer your processes: Every sales team works within a standardized process which defines how to approach, qualify, work with and close the customer. This is a good thing. However, highly effective sales managers know it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Highly regimented, complex sales processes can confuse a sales rep and tie their hands.
- Make coaching a priority: Coaching is the responsibility most neglected by sales managers, because it requires them to borrow time from their already busy day. Highly effective sales managers realize that placing a high priority on coaching will build confidence and drive production for their team better and faster than any other single practice.
- Know how to deal with high performers. It takes a special kind of person to thrive as a sales professional. The highly competitive profile of a successful sales rep can make them a challenge to work with and lead. Effective sales managers know how to motivate and reward this unique breed of cat, to maximize performance and minimize conflict, thus taking a “good” sales professional making them “great.”
- Deal with worrisome patterns of behaviour. Effective sales managers are always thinking ahead; they can recognize what small trends indicate before they become big problems. By noticing small changes in sales rep performance and dealing with them through coaching ,the manager helps prevent weaker performances from becoming anchored as bad habits that sap overall yearly productivity and sales.
- Protect their time: Highly effective sales managers practice good time management habits, and they enable their sales teams to make the most of their time by eliminating demands on their time that don’t directly help drive revenue. With clearly aligned goals, all activities can be quickly evaluated. activities that don’t support these goals can be eliminated or updated to bring them into alignment.
- Winning is fun. Celebrate it! This ought to be self-explanatory, but some sales managers wait too long and then don’t celebrate enough. Effective sales managers understand that the best way to dispel some of the pressure is to reward wins – even small ones – as often as possible and use it as an opportunity to give everyone a little boost.
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