Today’s post is by Sherri Sklar, CEO of GrowthTera, a consulting firm that helps organizations accelerate growth by elevating their performance to WOW. Hear her present “Sales Planning: Strategies that Leave Your Competition in the Dust” live at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18 and 19.
Recently a sales leader asked me for some advice about coaching reps on sales process:
One of my sales reps was diligently trying to follow the sales process we laid out for him, but he was missing the buying signals of this customer. I could see they were ready to move to the contract negotiation stage, but the rep continued to take the buyer through unnecessary steps.
I’m concerned a rigid approach to process could hinder our ability to win deals, but I also believe in the value of sales process. What are your thoughts on how the sales process should be properly used?
First and foremost, I applaud this sales leader for using a sales process. Without a process, sales reps would wing every deal – and the sales leader would have no mechanism to gauge, manage, and optimize performance on a consistent basis.
That said, no sales process can be considered a one-size-fits-all solution. Yes, you want to provide a consistent and repeatable process for your folks, but it should never override the buying signals of your buyer – nor should your rep ever abdicate good ol’ common sense.
Tuning into Your Buyer Takes Process and Skill
The more aligned reps are with buyers, the more likely they’ll get the deal. In fact, a good process should instruct reps to listen very carefully and do whatever it takes to sync with the buyer completely.
How can reps go further and add value to the buyer’s thinking and buying process? Concerning the situation above, the buyer may say, “Just send me over a proposal,” but the sales rep still needs to take a moment and clarify with the customer all the steps the customer needs to take – not only to make a purchase decision, but also to bring a contract to close. In some cases, the buyer may not even know what has to happen to bring a contract to close. Here’s where your rep can add value to help the buyer by asking questions the buyer may or may not have considered.
For example, if you know the buyer already has your solution in house, and all they are looking to do is expand, then you may want to focus on building relationships with all the key stakeholders you haven’t met yet so you can build a broader coalition to roll your solution out. This helps the buyer make a bigger impact on his company – and it helps you expand the deal size.
At the same time, reps must qualify buyers to determine whether they are just another column on their checklist of vendors, or are a serious contender. And they need to figure out if they are talking to the right person(s) in the buyer’s organization. Being able to do this requires more than having a sales process to refer to. It takes skill. Mastering skill takes developing, coaching, and practice.
That’s very different from either following a rote sales process that would have you go through all the steps to sell the solution itself – or the knee-jerk reaction many reps have, which is to hand in the proposal prematurely – just giving the buyer what he wants.
Your sales reps do need to be in full command of the process so they can be guides or advocates for your buyer – not someone going through the motions.
The Importance of Sales Training and Sales Playbooks
Some organizations forget that they need to supplement the sales process with training and a good playbook. This is like trying to ride a bike without the wheels on. A good sales training program will teach not only the process, but also why reps must do certain things, including what bad or good things can happen if they do or don’t follow the process, and how to enhance their skill at using the process. Good training should always include role playing so your salespeople get a good opportunity to practice.
Give your reps the blessing of a great sales manager who is equipped to know how to look for ways to add value to the sales process and guide each rep in adding value to each buyer. Give them the training and coaching they need and you will reap the benefits of utilizing sales process supported by creating a skill development machine second to none.