Most sales managers have learned from their successes, and even more so their failures, that process is critical for success.
A process enables you to define, measure and change what's working and what's not working in an organization, regardless of the industry. In manufacturing, for instance, many processes must integrate to make a high-quality, non-defective product. Similarly, successful companies must have defined processes that integrate and align to produce high-quality, non-defective products and then consistently successful distribution.
This philosophy must also apply to their sales processes. Otherwise, the caliber of goods and their delivery will be moot.
Too often, the sales process isn't aligned with other areas of the organization, resulting in a breakdown on the sales production line, thus limiting its ability to achieve revenue goals. Three process components must be integrated into any sales plan to realize optimum success: hiring and selection, infrastructure and sales leadership.
Have you ever hired someone with an impressive sales resume and impeccable recommendations, only to have them fail miserably? Have you examined your hiring process, and if so, were you able to find the breakdown point?
Many organizations fall short in the sales-selection process because they didn't benchmark the sales job. They think sales is sales, and if you can sell, you can sell. (Did you stay with me on that one?)
In other words, the company didn't identify the necessary cognitive skills, behavior style and cultural motivators needed for success at this job in this industry in this corporate culture.
For example, a salesperson selling a high-ticket, intangible, complex service requires strong conceptual thinking skills and problem-solving skills. They need to be able to take the abstract and formulate a conclusion.
On the other hand, a route salesperson, making 15 face-to-face calls every day, needs great interpersonal skills. They need to be able to build rapport quickly with a variety of buyers.
Note the competencies for success in each job are very different. If you don't have a selection process to benchmark competencies needed for the specific sales job at your specific company, you may end up producing a defective sales force.
There are many sub-processes that make up a sales infrastructure. Sales organizations need processes in methodology, prospecting, referral strategies, presentation skills, client-retention programs, database management, sales compensation and time management, to name a few.
Here's another misalignment that can occur if the infrastructure process isn't integrated with the hiring one:
You've improved your hiring process and now have a sales team comprised of money-motivated, independent individuals.
However, your company has a sales compensation program that rewards individuals who value team and security. The current plan includes a comfortable base salary with limited upside commissions.
The money-motivated salesperson is now demotivated because he or she wants to be paid for individual performance, not team performance, and what he or she is worth. In fact, this type of salesperson would rather have a lower base and more upside on the commission.
After a few years -- or months -- this person leaves and joins a sales organization with a compensation program that matches his or her behavior style and internal motivators.
We've all heard sales management horror stories before, such as: Top producer gets promoted to sales management and fails in new role.
But why do they fail?
A strong salesperson must have the ability to grow a territory. But a sales manager must have the ability to grow a team. This isn't the same thing; in fact, it even can be counterintuitive.
An independent sales representative is primarily self-motivated (and often self-serving). A sales manager, whether in a direct producing role or not, must also be team-motivated -- but more importantly, team-motivating.
Perhaps this successful salesperson didn't have the competencies needed for sales management. Or perhaps, the new sales manager wasn't provided the tools or education to develop the new skill sets needed.
Great sales managers are great coaches. New sales managers often have poor or no coaching skills. For instance, they tell the team members how to improve their sales calls. Because telling is not coaching, the sales team doesn't respond and likely will fail to achieve its goals. This organization is left with poor revenues, unhappy salespeople and, soon, vacant positions.
I've been known to say, "If you want a better outcome, you must commit to doing some things better." It's easy to blame one individual or even a group of people who just aren't performing.
While it's not always easy to step back and do organizational analysis, learning the importance of developing effective sales processes and implementing these into overall strategy and corporate objectives will be well worth the effort.
The word "process" may previously have sounded sterile and rigid. But it really is all about developing the building blocks to a successful organization.
And "process" sounds much better than the words "turnover," "poor margins" and "mediocre sales leadership."
Don't you agree?