Sales is the department that drives all the others. Without revenue, there is nothing to ship, install or invoice. So why is it that this important department often is the last one to be systematized?
Can you imagine your accounting department not having systems for paying employees, vendors and the government?
Or, how about a manufacturer lacking a repeatable process for producing high-quality products? There are several reasons for lack of systems and processes, but here are a few common ones (and excuses.)
#1: I hired veteran salespeople. Translation: Your sales department looks like the Wild West with everyone running their own ranches. Sadly, most of the methodology is outdated because business has changed dramatically in the last five years. Without a sales playbook, it also takes longer to onboard new hires because, well, which playbook should you teach them? Betty’s, Bob’s or Joe’s?
#2: Delayed gratification. This is the ability to put in the work to achieve the reward. In this case, work is needed to document your selling stages, scripts, frequently asked questions, competitor information, product knowledge -- and the list goes on. In smaller companies, this job often falls on sales managers to lead this project. Guess what: They like closing deals, not documenting how they close them.
#3: Inability to transfer knowledge. For many sales managers, the biggest challenge is transferring the knowledge that made them successful. They are unconsciously competent, often not knowing just how they do what they do.
So what can and should you do?
Documenting your sales organizations sales approach can seem overwhelming. Take the savvy advice about eating an elephant – do so one bite at a time. Based on your time and talent, you might consider hiring outside help to do this important job.
Let’s look at three areas for getting started. There are many more.
#1: Hiring process. Work on this process first because if you don’t hire well, you will need to learn how to fire well.
Create a customized hiring manual filled with 20 to 40 great questions that test the key competencies identified for success at your company. Get clear on your go/no go questions (your non-negotiables) that help disqualify candidates early in the process.
#2: Business development. There’s a lot to document at this selling stage. Start with your value propositions. Without these, salespeople can’t start a sales conversation. Create customized value propositions designed for the specific industry and the buying influencer, i.e., the CFO in healthcare.
#3: Sales meeting. Document the key questions your sales team should be asking and will be asked by prospects. And I am not talking about a product dump. Questions such as, “What are the changing demands from your customers? What are you doing to keep up with those demands?”
Include the responses because if your salespeople knew what to say, they would! If you are up against a tough incumbent, design questions that expose competitor gaps without mentioning the competition.
If you’re serious about scaling your sales organization and revenues, get serious about systematizing your sales department.