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6 Reasons your Sales Process will Fail

6 Reasons your Sales Process will Fail

Why is it that despite carefully crafted sales processes, advanced sales intelligence technology, that CSO Insights research found that the average sales forecast was 45.9%? More than half of the forecasted sales aren’t happening. According to their 2015 Sales Compensation and Performance Management study, only 54.6 percent of sales professionals actually meet the quota.

Process and technology can only be as good as the people implementing it. They are just tools. So when we ask why a sales process doesn’t work, or a technology fails to deliver- why do we blame them? That’s like blaming the plumbers’ wrench for failing when a 5-year-old is using it.

The Objective Management Group has evaluated over a million salespeople, in all industries across the globe. It used to be that 6% of salespeople were elite– they have the mindset that allows them to develop any skill and competency. The research today is now 7% of salespeople are elite. But that is the only good news. The percentage of strong salespeople declined from 20% to 16%, which means that the percentage of bad salespeople out there is an outrageous 77%.

But why are salespeople are getting worse, not better? Is it the competition, pricing, poor sales process, complicated technology, or is it something more obvious? Why do the same process and technology work wonderfully for one person, and not the next?

Sales fundamentals are about mastering the mindset that allows a salesperson to learn any skill, methodology, tool and buying process so that they are relevant, transparent, and more helpful to the buyer than their website is. Fundamentals come down to:

#1: Supportive Beliefs

We all grow up with a set of personal beliefs. How we were raised to behave and what we were taught to think influences and shapes our belief system. What your internal voice tells you will influence your sales behaviors and will either support or hinder your success. Some beliefs will limit or encourage a strong self-image and relationship with prospects. Others will influence buying decisions, size of deals, and for managers and executives, how they manage people and processes.

#2: Lack of need for approval

Lack of need for approval — Do you believe that people need to like you to buy from you? If so, you are setting yourself up for failure. Your fear of being disliked inhibits all of the necessary sales skills to engage in meaningful conversations that win deals. Without a need for approval, you have the freedom to do or say anything.

#3: Ability to control emotions

Ability to control emotions — Being emotionally involved in a sale takes you out of the present. You think about the future or next step. You are not in the present moment and hearing what your prospect is actually saying, including the tone and inflection of their voice. You are losing your objectivity, ability to offer insight, and developing happy ears that tell you what you want to hear. (They’re ready to buy!) This will inhibit your ability to listen and ask questions with ease.

#4: Supportive buy cycle

Supportive buy cycle — If you are the type of person who has to compare features, price shop, or delay decisions to think a purchase over, then you can certainly understand it when a prospect wants to do the same thing, right?

#5: Be comfortable discussing money

Be comfortable discussing money — When your prospect pushes back that you are too expensive, you are likely to agree with them. Instead of helping a prospect focus on the value of solving the problem, you are focused on price. When that happens, you aren’t able to find the real budget for a solution. When you focus on price, you are not asking the right questions to make sure you understand the problem. To you, the problem is the price. You can understand that it seems like a pretty high price to you too.

#6: Handling rejection

Handling rejectionThe ability to handle rejection stems from your own self-image. When you are comfortable with who you are and the value that you bring, you understand that it’s not you, just your offer to help. When rejection no longer inhibits you, you will be able to ask the appropriate thought-provoking questions and become a thought leader and trusted adviser in your prospects’ and clients’ mind.

If you want to fix sales, you must first fix the salespeople. In order to fix the salespeople, it’s not enough to tell them what to do (sales training) or give them all the steps that they need to take (sales process) or even keep them accountable to the things that you have told them and shown them (sales management). We must fix what happens in their heads.

The Investigator: How to Adapt Sales to the Informed Consumer

The Investigator: How to Adapt Sales to the Informed Consumer

Adapt. This is nature’s keyword when it comes to evolution and the survival of the fittest. This is also the keyword when it comes to sales strategies. You probably hear it again and again, but it’s worth repeating: the sales process now is a completely different animal than it was before information became so readily available. Salespeople have to adapt to the nature of the new beast.

Where before consumers were simply people who buy things with the help of salespeople, now consumers are investigators, wielding a magnifying glass before they ever buy anything.

Surprising B2B stats

In terms of business-to-business sales, Interconnection author Sandra Donovan reports several statistics:

  • Buyers get at least 57% of the way through their “purchase decision” before ever contacting the seller
  • 68% of the enterprise-level purchasing involves “internal assessments, peer networking, and external recommendations from experts”

In other words, nearly 70% of the business-to-business buying process does not involve salespeople.

Surprising B2C stats

In terms of business-to-community sales:

Even in-store—the typical domain of the salesperson—shoppers are investigating before the point of sale. What are salespeople supposed to do? Hover nearby until the shopper is done looking at the screen? That is indeed what I’ve seen during my shopping so far this holiday season.

The value of statistics

I would expect you to stop reading if I were to overemphasize the above stats, if I were to claim they’re the end-all-be-all in terms of sales. The statistics are an indicator of a growing trend. They don’t make the salesperson, and quality sales techniques, obsolete. They point toward an opportunity.

You have an opportunity to adapt sales strategy to the process of the investigative consumer, to align your strategy with the process in such a way as to drive sales.

Coordinate with marketing

As marketing analyzes consumers and customers—and how these people are interacting with a brand—sales teams can benefit greatly from communicating with marketing. A salesperson may know everything there is to know about the brand, product, or service, but marketing (hopefully) knows about the environment in which people are conducting research.

Now, many marketing departments are analyzing big data. The analyzation, categorization, and outreach typically go toward developing qualified leads. As this is happening, you can talk to marketing about the leads and discuss how people are doing research on the brand.

  • What websites are they visiting?
  • What are they saying on social media?
  • Which pages have they stayed on the longest?
  • Who are the experts and influencers they’re looking to for advice?
  • What do existing customers think about the product?

Knowing these things will help you get a solid idea of what it’s like to be a potential prospect. It will help put you in the shoes, so to speak, of the investigator. You’ll be that much more prepared to convert.

If marketing and sales departments are too big for meetings, for direct communication and coordination, marketing can craft reports that each salesperson sees in their inbox consistently. In turn, you can provide feedback on whether your one-on-one interactions with leads are benefitting from the direction marketing is taking.

With coordination as a goal, strategists can organize marketing and sales into small teams that correspond with each other on focus.

Do lead scoring

If marketing isn’t already scoring leads, a sales committee or department can do so before the outreach process begins. According to Sandra Donovan, lead scoring involves:

  • Metrics, both explicit and implicit, which tell the story of where the lead stands in relation to target audience and level of engagement with a product or service
  • Scoring takes metrics information and assigns the lead a numerical value, based on how close or far way they are from being likely to make a purchase
  • Evaluation and iteration accounts for the individual’s dynamic relationship with the product, service, or brand; this part of the process tracks the lead’s ongoing proximity to prospect status

Explicit metrics are facts about the lead, such as demographics. Implicit metrics detail where the lead is in the investigative process—what sites they’ve visited, digital shopping carts they’ve abandoned, etc.

Lead scoring, in essence, investigates the investigator. This allows you to get closer to personalizing sales. If marketing has already been using marketing automation software, you can use the software for lead scoring.

Consider sales acceleration software

Sales acceleration software uses predictive analytics combined with a host of other technologies. It picks up where marketing automation and lead scoring leave off. Companies that close the most, and make the biggest deals, spend 17% more than others on sales acceleration tech.

A sales acceleration dialer determines the best day of the week and time of the day to call every contact on a list. You’re in control of the call the entire time. The software knows where the lead is in their investigation process, because the data informs it. This lets salespeople do what salespeople do: sell.

Talk to customer service

Finally, corresponding with the customer service department will help sales get a full picture of what leads are seeing out there. People are talking to each other so much online, existing customers point others toward brands and products every day. Good customer service collects actionable insights on what customers are saying on social media, forums, webforms, and traditional channels. If you know what influencers are saying to leads, you’ll be well prepared to be the final influencer in the sales process.

Investigative consumers represent a chance for salespeople to really dig in and get to know things from the consumer standpoint. It just makes sense. The more you understand people and their journey toward a purchase, the better you’ll be at helping them make the purchase.

Step by Step: Creating a Solid Sales Process

Step by Step: Creating a Solid Sales Process

There’s been a lot of talk in the last decade about the importance of the sales process—that series of steps a sale travels through from lead to close and beyond. For sales velocity and many other factors, a sales process is certainly vital. But how is a workable sales process evolved?

A sales process should not be created just by the general steps that “everybody knows” a sale goes through. The result of such an effort is a partial sales process that doesn’t wholly back up sales or the company.

First Step: Stop, Think, Analyze

  1. Interview each of your experienced, proven sales reps
  2. Isolate the series of steps each takes with a sale.
  3. Identify common actions that successful salespeople always take
  4. Use the research to begin to outline your basic sales process.

Understand How Leads Are Generated

Ensure that the sales process includes lead creation. In some cases sales reps do this themselves and will include it in the description of their actions. In other cases marketing creates the leads through campaigns and lead generation programs; if so, those basic actions should be part of your sales process so that they can be monitored.

Post-Sales Activities

Subsequent to the close come some important steps, including:

  • product implementation and/or delivery
  • customer service, and support
  • customer feedback about their buying experience
  • relationship building activities to cement advocacy, evangelism, and referrals

Your expert salespeople will agree that without these additional actions being included and monitored the sales job will be made more difficult down the road; it comes right back on sales when product or company repute is damaged through bad delivery or service.  These postsales stages or actions round out your sales process.

How One Company Might Set Their Course

Here is an example of an actual sales process from a company selling high-end fuel systems:

1. Lead. With this particular company, leads are obtained by salespeople. When a lead looks promising, it is put into the CRM system.

2. Qualify. This is the stage at which a lead is qualified. Questions are answered such as: Does the prospect company have the financial wherewithal to purchase? Will they be a good fit for our product and service?

3. Activity. It is under this step that the company pulls together all the specifics needed to make an offer. It includes full research into costs, and pricing of the system to be competitive yet profitable as a sale.

4. Offer. The formal quote for the company’s product and support is provided to the prospect.

5. Negotiation. In this industry, quotes are rarely accepted at face value—there is always negotiation for the final deal.

6. Confirmation. The company and the prospect agree on a price, and the deal is agreed upon. In other words, the sale is closed.

7. Order. The order is received by the company.

8. Invoice. The new client is invoiced for full or (if agreed upon) partial payment.

This company would do well to add at least two more steps to their sales process—and in fact these steps most likely exist even if not stated:

9. Delivery. This step would include installation of equipment, and onboarding of services.

10. Tech Support. Under this stage would come any support that the client requires, so that a record of it is kept.

11. Postsales Relationship Activities. Follow up stage for feedback, relationship nurturing toward advocacy, evangelism, and referrals. These are socially-driven steps that may be handled by Sales, Marketing, or a combination of the two. They might include scheduled communications (drip campaigns) to solicit feedback, ask for third-party reviews, and offer assistance.

Note that adding the suggested steps 9, 10 and 11 into a sales process—and expressing them in CRM—could be vital to a sales rep looking to sell further products, or to upsell to an existing client. The rep will want to know how satisfied the customer is and if there have been any issues that could come up.

Trial and Continuing Flexibility of Sales Process

Once a sales process is developed and before it is finalized, it should be put through a trial period with the reps. Consider this like a shakedown cruise for a sailing vessel—any bugs can be worked out and any needed adjustments made.

Even after a sales process is finalized, though, remember that a company is a dynamic operation. Markets change, new products come online, sales methods improve. Therefore a company should always keep a flexible attitude toward its sales process; if changes are needed to the sales process or any of its stages, they should be made. A sales process is only as good as it is useful, and sales reps will avoid it to the degree that it doesn’t actually assist them in selling.

Editor’s Postscript: Setting up a sales process is one of the most important steps toward a healthy pipeline. Making it a priority to create, monitor, and maintain the process will make many parts of the sales workflow easier. New hires, pipeline accuracy, and smooth migration from one step to another in your pipeline will mean more closes, higher revenues, and more productivity among team members. Read more in our Learn Center.

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