Sales Process Design – a ‘how to’ guide

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sales process design

Sales Process Design solves a common sale management problem known as “stalled deals”. Lots of proposals are placed, few Deals are closed. This is a nightmare for the CEO and CFO. This is worse than a nightmare for the Sales Executive, who may be sent packing as a way to solve the problem. But wait, there is a better way!

Intermediate sales goals are key

As an example, David commented that “When we do a technical evaluation, we usually do better – we are more likely to close a deal.” For he and his team this is a typical “aha moment”, when an intermediate sales goal is identified, specific to your company and product line. Other sales tools could be a business case, a time-driven action plan, or a simple needs analysis… the common thread is to study patterns of past success or failure. Usually, you’ll find that the failures happen when a prospect asks for a quote, and we reply (too early) that we’ll be happy to oblige.  So the challenge is to come up with a team strategy that answers this question: “what do we do when a prospect asks us for a quote or a proposal?” This is a magic moment, when we can always ask for our own idea of a next step, prior to a proposal. This leads to what I call a sales process, allowing you to take a leadership role in the buy process.

So how do we design a sales process? First, the CEO has to be on board, and the Sales Executive needs to be heavily engaged in the planning process. Next, you’ll need to call a sales process design workshop with the whole team, using a pre-event team survey to gather some information on the perceptions of each team member. The survey is a one or two-page list of simple questions about the sales teams perceptions – how well do each of them think the company is prepared to grow revenues, and what issues do the sales team see that need attention, followed by the clincher “do you have any stalled deals?”.  (Example team survey is available at link below)

Once the survey data is in, summarize it in a simple table. The process design workshop has two parts:

  • Part 1 – Overview presentation – current challenges, survey summary, and new techniques that may fit your company
  • Part 2 – Hands-on workshop – re-visit your top 20 (or so…) opportunities – a suggested question list is available. (Example workshop question list is at link below)

The sales process design exercise

The individuals attending the session are vital. They need to have a sense of engagement, and that is why a pre-session survey is very helpful. The overview presentation should summarize things the team have agreed on as to the “situation” faced by your company and the problem to be solved. Then the survey summary – sharing the ideas they contributed – will serve to confirm that their input counts.

A summary can then be given of the typical paths to success and the typical failure modes. Considering how a sales project can fail is very enlightening, and I like to spend some time on that in my own sales webinars. (e.g. “Speeding up Sales”)  One great quote from Zig Ziglar was that there are only 5 reasons why someone would not buy your product:

  • No need
  • No money
  • No urgency
  • No desire
  • No trust

So, the workshop then needs all of you to consider whether this is happening to any of your opportunities – and which are the key factors for your sales team. Usually a half day session will suffice to get this far.

Next – Part 2 – run the meeting in Workshop mode – everybody break into teams of 2 or 3, and use a workshop sheet with a few questions about each key account. Allow about 20 minutes per account, to keep things moving. So if you assign 4 accounts per team, you can re-convene in about 1.5 – 2 hours. Then each team gives a summary, in 10 minutes, of their answers to the workshop question list – Management then needs to summarize the trend of common barriers (…things which cause deals to stall…) and arrange an action to remedy each problem identified.

There are two handouts available – at links:

  • Part 1 – Pre-workshop team survey template (one per team member)  (link)
  • Part 2 – Workshop question list (one per account – for work in small teams)  (link)

Investing a day in Sales Process Design will help you craft a better set of sales tools, and this is more fun than living with a frustrating list of stalled deals.


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