By Alex Bartholomaus
It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of all companies do not have a formalized sales process. So, where to begin? It starts by recognizing that you don’t have a formalized process, and that getting one is a key part of your success. Also, if leadership is not prepared to enforce whatever they or an outside consultant create, then it will be an exercise in futility.
The “Good Old” Funnel
Prospecting is where a sale begins. A company has to be prepared to track the amount of time and activity its sales force is allocating to making calls and networking. This activity needs to be measured on a weekly basis. This type of activity leads to a short initial conversation in which the salesperson can qualify a lead into a prospect by meeting in person or over the phone and spend time getting to know the prospect and evaluating the opportunity.
The Anatomy of a Sales Opportunity
Sales training has become a multi-billion dollar industry. There are many types of selling systems and processes out there. In the interest of keeping it simple, let’s focus on the key parts needed to have any chance of making a sale. The first step is to uncover the need and/or problem. This is where the opportunity begins. Next, determine urgency. If there isn’t sufficient urgency to address a need or solve a problem, then the prospect won’t act.
Okay, say you have both of the aforementioned must-haves. Do they have the budget to address this need/problem? This is where a lot of sales break down, as budgets are slashed and people are “sitting” on cash and holding on to their issues a little longer. But let’s say that it’s your lucky day and your prospect has the budget and great urgency to address his or her problem. So how do they decide to make a decision? Is there one buyer or multiple decision makers? Find out for sure — many good sales get torpedoed because salespeople make assumptions.
Sales Cycle Length
How many meetings does it normally take you to close a sale? The sales force might give you a variety of answers. Ask the question: How many meetings does it take to close if they know the four items mentioned above — need, urgency, budget, and knowledge of the decision-making process? Depending on the size of the transaction, there is a correlation to the number of meetings. A low-value item can usually be closed in one or two meetings. As the value of the solution increases, so does the number of necessary meetings needed to close.
When companies plot out these variables over a process, train their sales force to follow it and review it over a consistent period of time, results always follow. When the desired results aren’t attained, it’s easier to figure out why if you’ve been following the process. As you review the process of each salesperson, you can see where they are succeeding and failing. It is far easier for a manager to address this than making educated guesses based on not having enough information.
Alex P. Bartholomaus is managing partner at People Stretch Solutions and works to help small to mid-sized companies drive growth and profits. He combines a non-traditional approach of psychology, behavioral science and emotional intelligence to help sales forces and leadership teams perform at higher levels. You can e-mail Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally published: Feb 6, 2012