Sales Process Best Practices Part: 1

Defining a Sales Process

“It’s time for your pipeline meeting 1:1 with your manager!”

Guess what? Sales managers and sales people hate this equally. It is truly the fingernails on a chalkboard to both parties.

It is still a manual, deal by deal discussion between management and sales teams to get a real number. Managers think sales reps are too conservative and sales people think managers over extend them.

We are constantly surrounded by this new technology that often does make the sales job easier yet the one thing almost everyone still struggles with is forecasting.

The real challenge with forecasting has less to do with the technology and more to do with the fact that many people do not know how to build and execute a good sales process. They merely do what they learned 5-10 years ago and the sales leader mentality is such a strong Type-A that they actually do not believe there is anything better or that the amount of time it will take to recreate something will not work because the team simply will not follow the new process.

So what do they do? They keep doing the same old thing they did 5 or 10 years ago. Now to put this in perspective, ask the same sales manager how they watch TV now. Are they using Netflix, Hulu, On-Demand? Are they with Comcast, Direct-TV?  Now ask them what they used 5 years ago, 10 years ago? I bet you will find they made a switch. Why? Because they were able to quickly see the positive end result from instituting a new process.

In reality redefining the sales and forecasting process is something they would all love to do but because nobody has shown them a better system, they will not go and seek it on their own.

We all know one of the biggest challenges for any company is having confidence in their forecasting. The problem is often blamed on the sales reps but in reality it lies with management’s unrealistic and often myopic understanding of a sales process. So many times we see the sales process defined by the seller’s journey. This is 100% wrong. The sales process should be defined by the buyers’ journey but capturing the information needed from the sellers’ perspective.

The theory is simple. Your CRM should be able to spit out a realistic forecast based on the information put into the system. The problem is that management expects the sales team to put in the information they (management) wants to see rather than the reality of what moves a deal through the pipeline.

Sales Process Advice: In short the sales process has been ill-defined at best and then within each stage of the sales process sales reps are being asked to capture irrelevant information or asked to write diatribes in a way that cannot be realistically measured by the CRM system.

Sales Staging and Criteria

So let’s start at the beginning and define a sales process.

A sales process is the organizational capture of relevant opportunity information gathered by a CRM system designed to understand the buyers’ journey through the selling process from lead to close Let’s start with the number of stages.

How Many Stages?

One of the first mistakes people make is to try and define how many stages their sales process is going to require, 3, 5, 7, etc.  The number of stages is only relevant to the point of measuring your pipeline, nothing more, nothing less. Often time’s sales reps will complain that having more than 5 stages is too hard. This is just sales reps being high-maintenance. The number of stages has absolutely nothing to do with their job.

Now what is important is what information is being captured within each stage.

Capturing the Right Criteria

Best practice is to list all the pieces of information you want to capture in order to close the deal regardless of what stage it will fall.

For example:

  1. You may need Qual Calls (first call by lead-gen)
  2. You may need Disco Calls (any calls after the lead gen meeting)
  3. You always need BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe) and you need it reconfirmed throughout the process.
  4. You may need a demo
  5. You may need a tech / implementation discussion
  6. You always need to know Decision Influencers. Those who can say “Yes”, and most importantly those who can say “No”
  7. You always need to know the contracting process
  8. You always need to know the purchase approval process (often times separate)

In the end the best way to determine the right number of stages in your sales process should be defined by the specific KPI’s you need to capture within the entire sales process to get the opportunity closed. Once you have a list of the KPI’s it’s much easier to determine where things fall and how many stages you will actually have.

Best Practices Advice:  Work with your sales team and sales managers and have them listed out every single get piece of information that is required to actually get the deal over the goal line.  Have your sales ops team review the top 10 deals in the last 6 months and interview the sales reps to get the specific nuances of each deal. You will find some interesting.

In conclusion, your sales forecast is only as good as your sales process. Bad data in = bad data out. The primary focus of any sales process is to capture the data required to move the deal closer to closed. Any other data than that is merely a distraction.