Your High-Growth Business Needs a Formal Sales Process

I want to start out with some alarming (or reassuring, depending on your viewpoint) observations on sales process and methodology in businesses. First, we need to define some terms. A sales methodology is a system of methods used to obtain sales. A sales process is the order of events that your prospects experience while making buying decisions about what you offer.

Makes sense, right? Here are the observations:

  • 90% of the businesses that I have worked with (Fortune 20 all the way down to a solo entrepreneur) do not have a formalized sales process or methodology. Those that do have not optimized their way of selling to make it effective enough to close the business to meet their company goals.

  • Mature businesses (25 years old or more) have sustained good growth by relying only on gut selling instincts and hiring and retaining good people. Those companies struggle today to recruit top talent and have seen a leveling of their sales growth.

  • Startup businesses wait far too long to spend time on their sales process. They invest significant amounts of money in marketing only to find that they cannot close the leads that marketing is generating for them. Their sales methodology relies on a demonstration of the product that in most cases serves to drive prospects away rather than to seal the deal.

  • Almost all of the companies that I have dealt with do not have a sales culture or infrastructure in place to make sure that any new sales methodology will be implemented. They are completely unable to hold their salespeople accountable and to coach them to improve their sales abilities, and they have no way of measuring success or failure.

  • Without a formal sales methodology and process, it is nearly impossible to ramp up new salespeople quickly. New and small businesses are already cash poor. Long ramp ups mean that we are paying people not to perform—and that is inexcusable.

  • Top that off with the fact that I only work with companies who are already in growth mode and are financially successful and you might become confused. It isn’t that a sales methodology or process is necessary for growth, it just makes it so much better and easier to grow a business. Our surveyed clients claim that they grow at a 35% rate on average once they formalize their sales culture - and train their people to be effective in that culture. Even if you are already growing, 35% more is a chunk of change.

If you are a business that has been sick because you are missing a professional selling culture in your business, don’t be sick any more. You are just like everyone else. If you are someone who is sick about it and know that it is costing your business here are some things to keep in mind when deciding what to do.

  • Don’t invent a methodology, use one that is already known to be effective. We chose the Sandler methodology because it allows a person to be transparent, bring issues and conflict to the table with comfort, and it does not rely on scripts, pressure, or “sales moves” that make salespeople and prospects alike uncomfortable.

  • Optimize your sales process. Push demonstrations and proposals as far back in the process as possible so that your people are not wasting time delivering them to unqualified prospects. Qualify prospects as early in the process as possible and be brutal about it to remove unqualified prospects from the pipeline. It is easy to give demos to people that have the problems that you can solve and have the money to spend to solve them. It is hard to sell people with the opposite.

  • Hire managers that can guide all of this. Most sales managers are not effective with their sales force. Train them and develop them to become effective. If you need to be that manager, so be it, but you had better be working on your skillset before you bring in your first salesperson.

It is a safe comment for me to make to claim that you probably are not on track for the above things. If you want to see objectively where you stand, try this tool.

Businesses should be made to scale. McDonald’s can continue to grow because no matter where you are, you are building a burger exactly the same way. Your business is no different - you have just spent most of your process work in operations. How did that work? Did it smooth the way you build and deliver your products and services? Why wouldn’t you want that smoothness and predictability from the sales side of the business?

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