According to a recent Harvard Business Review article entitled Dismantling the Sales Machine, the time has come to let salespeople utilize their “on the ground” judgment and sales techniques when it comes to making various decisions about opportunity management. According to the article, “Selling today requires flexibility, judgment, and a focus on results—not process.”
The author goes on to assert that in today’s competitive business world characterized by extremely savvy buyers:
“Process-driven sales machine approaches fall short, because they give sales reps no room to exercise judgment and creativity in dealing with highly knowledgeable customers.”
It’s About Time
According to numerous experts—and according to salespeople themselves—this viewpoint has been a long time coming. It can certainly be of great assistance to a sales rep to have a sales process to follow, along with detailed qualification criteria and metrics that precisely measure them. But there comes a point when the salesperson knows best when to take a particular action and what that action should be, and it’s not always the one called for in the sales process.
Entrepreneurs Within the Enterprise
A salesperson is factually an “entrepreneur within the enterprise.” If you examine the qualities of an entrepreneur, you’ll discover that a salesperson fits the mold in every single way. A salesperson desires to be in control of his or her income, rather than having it statically dictated. Salespeople actually enjoy taking the risks involved with sales that many others shun.
But if there’s one quality that sets salespeople apart, it is the ability to spot and act on opportunities that others often miss. It is that skill that can be neglected and crushed by an over-insistence on sticking strictly to the sales process—often to the company’s detriment.
As an example, a live product demonstration might be specified as part of step 3 of a company’s sales process, and the salesperson following the process performs the demo at that stage. But later on, around step 6 or so, the salesperson finds out that the prospect company’s owners (who weren’t present at the performed demonstration) aren’t so sold on the sales rep’s product—even though other key decision-makers within the organization are ready to buy. The sales rep knows that if the owners of the company object to the purchase, there’s a very good chance it might never happen. If that sales rep is forced to “stick to the program” and default sales techniques, that sale might be lost. But if he or she is given the latitude to go ahead and perform that demo especially for the owners, the chances of a sale are greatly bolstered.
Forward-thinking companies are now allowing sales reps the latitude to be flexible in their approaches as needed, to exercise their instincts—instincts which are what made them good salespeople to begin with.
Sales Techniques and the Right Tools
Salespeople cannot operate by instinct alone, however; they need the right tools. For example a particular deal may look good to a sales rep and their instinct is to go for it. But is there a way the rep can rapidly evaluate a particular deal, with all necessary factors taken into account, to back up that instinct and know for sure if it should be proceeded with?
The answer is: only with a leading-edge CRM solution. That specifically means a CRM application that empowers salespeople with metrics which can easily grade the value of different prospects in their personal pipeline. Traditional CRM solutions only allow the qualifying of potential sales with what may or may not be the right criteria. But a truly empowering CRM solution allow sales forces to utilize the exact criteria they know must be used—and allows them such analysis on-the-fly so they’re not stopped or slowed down in making crucial decisions.
Modern sales techniques include allowing salespeople to think for themselves at crucial junctures. Arm them with the right tools, allow them to do so—and watch your sales soar.