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Warning Signs That Your Process May No Longer Be Effective
Author: Ian Segail
There is no question that for most sales organizations, the market has shifted dramatically over the last 6 to 12 months. Many are, as they say, "doing it really tough!" Whole industries that were in full swing a year ago are no longer buying anything. Customers that were assured of monthly sales revenues have all but shut shop and gone home. Home values are down, unemployment is up, consumers are tapped out and so are lenders. Consumer confidence hasn't been this bleak since the "recession we had to have' in the early 90's.
In economically unstable times, typically sales leaders have a tendency to over react and pressure their sales team to ramp up sales activity. Whilst this may be an effective approach if previous selling activity was somewhat lax, doing more of what may be an ineffective sales process issue, will only serve to cause frustration and burn out.
So how can one tell whether or not one's selling process is not really working?
Firstly, do you have one?
Whilst this may seem like an obvious question on the surface, in reality, the majority of selling organizations don't have one that was designed specifically for them. If they have 10 sales people; it is very likely that they could have 10 different selling processes happening within their organization. In a previous newsletter I referred to the latest research from the *CSO Insights' 2008 Sales Performance Optimization Report showing that 'process-centric' sales teams outperform non-process-centric teams for every measurable metric.
* (CSO Insights is a research firm that specializes in measuring the effectiveness of today's sales and marketing organizations. They benchmark the challenges companies are facing and assess how they are using people, process, technology and knowledge to optimize their sales performance. Each year CSO Insights survey thousands of Chief Sales Officers to learn the challenges they see as most critical. )
On the basis of those numbers, evaluating your current selling process performance would make good business sense!
Consider your current sales process - the way you currently sell.
In his terrific book, "What the Customer Wants to Know", bestselling author Ram Charan lists nine warning signs that indicate your sales process has broken down and is no longer working effectively. To this list I have added a further 12 to look out for.
1. Your sales force interacts solely with your customer's purchasing department, never meeting genuine decision makers.
2. Most of your sales discussions revolve around price.
3. You use conventional sales training, which is solely technique based and doesn't really address the disconnect between the customer and you, the supplier.
4. Top management keep fiddling with the incentives for the sales force in the hope that it will drive better profit margins.
5. You keep reorganizing the sales team, allowing the salespeople to spend more time with the customer, yet you are still achieving similar results.
6. Salespeople are never included in discussions about the design of product offerings, despite the fact that they spend the most time face-to-face with the customer.
7. Little thought is given to your customer's customer, and you never get to know how your product fits into your customer's offering to their customers.
8. Your salespeople are internally focused, spending a significant portion of their work day on administration and paperwork.
9. The sales management team assume they are doing a good job, without any real awareness of larger issues that are occurring.
Here are some additional warning signs:
10. Your sales process is designed with sales outputs in mind, rather than from the customer's viewpoint.
11. If you have ten salespeople working for you, you have ten different sales processes happening.
12. Your sales process may not be designed to allow for multiple visits to win new business.
13. Your sales process may only include "bottom up" strategies, and not "top down." In other words, your salespeople may only be working at a user level, in the hope that these users will sell your solutions further up the chain.
14. Your sales process may be too heavily focused on working your existing customer base, without sufficient focus on bringing in "new blood," or vice versa.
15. Your salespeople are all using different tools and sales messages in their communication with customers.
16. Your process doesn't have an easily measurable output at the end of each phase allowing you to identify exactly where along the sales pathway they are at any one time.
17. Your current sales process is too convoluted and complicated. There are too many steps, too many forms, and it's too hard to manage.
18. Your salespeople don't have the knowledge, tools or skills to drive the selling system effectively.
19. The landscape you sell in has changed, yet you are still selling the same old way.
20. Your sales process looks good on paper but lack the flexibility or practicality to be of value in the current markets you operate in.
21. Your sales process doesn't really help to close sales!
If more than 5 of the above 21 issues listed resonate with you, then it might very well be time for you to consider reengineering your current selling process.
I will say this though, the exercise is not for the faint-hearted. It may be advisable that you bring in professional expertise to ensure the greatest success. You may just be too close to your own current sales methodology to see the gaps or dysfunction.
About the Author:
As one of Australia's leading authorities and coaches in sales management, Ian Segail has been involved in the coaching, training and development of sales managers and salespeople for over two decades. Drawing on 25 years of experience in sales, sales management and leading an HR and training team, Ian brings a strong dose of fiscal reality and practicality to his works as a Sales Performance Coach. Engaging directly with business owners and both novice and experienced sales managers alike, across a wide variety of industries and selling disciplines, the focus of Ian's work is to transform sales results for companies by improving sales management practices. Ian is the author of "Bulletproof Your Sales Team - The 5 Keys To Turbo-Boosting Your Sales Team's Results" and a number of business articles, business reports and white papers including "The fish stinks from the head!" and "Why Sales Training Doesn't Work." Ian has an insatiable hunger for studying selling and people management and has passionately pursued answers to the question "How come some people can sell and most can't?" Find out more about the Mckenzie SalesTutor program and guaranteed results from
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