Power in the Process
With a New Year comes a good opportunity to re-evaluate how to grow your business. Whether your sales team is only you or you have a team of 10, you need to have a process for how your company sells. A good process is natural for those involved, acknowledges reality, is built for scalability and allows for chaos.
Establish a process that comes naturally
A process should be natural. Infusing superfluous to-dos or action items into your sales process is a recipe for disaster. Creating artificial steps or adding activities just for the sake of having a "process" just doesn’t work. If you are a one-person-show and you need to infuse some personal discipline, then go for it. However, the discipline you enforce on yourself will not be the same for a team of people. A successful process incorporates enough discipline to be organized without crossing the line into creating a bureaucracy.
Reflects the reality of the actual sales process
Distilling your sales process down to its fundamental steps is easier said then done. Many times this includes removing yourself from the day-to-day minutia and taking a critical look at how you sell your company’s products or services. The key steps in the sales process need to mirror the steps that your prospective customer goes through when making a buy decision. Any disconnect between your process and the potential buyer’s mindset begins to tread into the realm of the unnecessary. The best thing to do is to start out by listing all of your steps in chronological order and then go back with a pen and start crossing things off. Pairing back the process will be difficult but a good rule to live by is to be liberal in removing steps and conservative in adding them back. Over time, you and your team will find the right balance, but recognize that your business is evolving and a good process is one that you revisit every six months.
Works like a Mechanism
The power of the process lies in the creation of a mechanism. Sales, if you are going to stay in business, must be a repeatable activity. An activity can only be repeatable if there is some definition to it. Something that is repeatable is intrinsically scalable giving you leverage and creating efficiency. If you can get your business to sell something repeatedly and scale then you are onto something. The beauty of a mechanism is that if you do X, Y happens automatically. When you think of your sales process like a mechanism break it down further to the concept of a simple machine. A good mechanism employs a series of these simple machines in order to achieve scale. Remember your high school physics course? A quick refresher the simple machines are: the lever, the pulley, the inclined plane, the wedge, the wheel and axle and the screw. (I will spare you the debate if a wedge and screw are inclined planes thus reducing the list, but you get the picture). What I love about simple machines is this concept:
In this example don’t think of the word "work" in terms of what you or your team does, but focus on the word "force". A simple machine allows the same work to get done, with less force. If force is seen as the time, energy and resources you spend on selling, then getting the same work done, with less force is the goal. If you can establish a few simple machines that creates a mechanism of your sales process then you will create an efficient, repeatable and scalable sales process that will truly become a competitive advantage.
Allow for Chaos and Uncertainty
Sales is as much an art as it is a science. While the concept of a mechanism is powerful, often times business isn’t neat and orderly. Acknowledge this fact and allow for some chaos and uncertainty in your sales process. This is another way to reflect reality as mentioned above but if you don’t explicitly acknowledge the uncertainty, both you and your team will be frustrated with having to manage a sales process that makes no sense.
*Source – Wikipedia – Simple Machine