What I’ve found is that many clients interpret the purpose of a sales process to be overcoming objections or outlining the skills necessary to close a sale. Those certainly are elements of a sales process, but the real value comes from an overall framework for pursuing opportunities — beginning with initial research and ending with negotiation, closing, and expanding the relationship. In essence, the sales process is really a pursuit process.
In many companies, if there is any kind of sales process at all, it’s usually random or informal, and few people follow it consistently. Some individual sales professionals may have their own processes, relying on tried-and-true formulas that they’ve used throughout their careers, but there isn’t a single process that is followed by everyone in the company or is based on outcomes that have been proven to be successful.
Some companies do have formal sales processes, but they may be so rigid that few stick with them in practice; instead, the process might become a reference or a template for adding opportunities to the pipeline.
Then, there’s the dynamic sales process, which provides both structure and latitude for sales professionals to determine where they are in the pursuit of an opportunity, how to move to the next steps, and how to gauge confidence in forecasting. The process itself provides the flexibility to change and adapt as the selling environment changes.
The difference between a formal and dynamic process might look like this:
- THE FORMAL PROCESS provides defined directives. Research the prospect, prepare for the meeting, and develop a presentation.
- THE DYNAMIC PROCESS takes direction a step further by providing context and guidance. Research the prospect, and identify contacts using one or more of these tools: prepare for the meeting, following the checklist that was developed based on the actions of the company’s high performers, and develop a presentation based on the feedback gained in dialogue with the prospect when discussing possible options. Regular monitoring and feedback on the process allows refinements and modifications to accommodate market changes.
Richardson frequently consults with clients to create just such a dynamic process, providing an overarching framework that supports sales professionals and managers with guidance for working through the many phases of pursuit: prepare and approach; develop the opportunity; develop the solution; present the solution; negotiate and close, and maintain and expand.
If sales skills are the “how” of all the actions required to pursue opportunities, then the process itself is the “what”: what do I need to do; what do I need to do next; and what do I need to do after that? We create and validate custom frameworks based on discussions with the client company’s top performers, sales leaders, and other stakeholders who can provide insights into the sales or account management cycle.
Within each phase are actions, dialogue models, and verifiable outcomes that are leading indicators of success. The process aligns with the activities of both the seller and the buyer, and it embeds best-in-class practices and relevant measurements. In this way, the process builds greater accuracy and confidence in forecasts, which is certainly preferable to looking back and wondering, “What happened? Why didn’t that opportunity close?
In my experience and after an industry search, we have found that companies who have and use a dynamic sales process significantly outperform their peers in quota attainment, plan attainment, and frequency of wins.
With outcomes like these, it makes good business sense to think about your sales process as a pursuit process. Then, make sure that it fits your culture, is dynamic, and drives a consistent approach to pursue and winning sales opportunities.