Instead, they are able to follow a process that has been tested, prove its value, and provide a roadmap to next steps.
A critical challenge for sales organizations in onboarding new hires is the length of time before they become productive. They have to learn the product that they’re selling, the company’s culture, the clients, and the prospects. Any steps to shorten that coming-up-to-speed period contributes to the productivity of sales professional and the organization.
At Richardson, we believe a common language and sales process helps bring sales professionals up-to-speed faster and serves them better throughout their career. By telling them, “This is how we do it, step by step,” sales professionals get better and quicker at turning a sales lead into a successful deal.
The way that Richardson works with clients to create and validate an effective sales process — one that clearly identifies leading indicators of success — begins with what we call an affirmative inquiry. We interview senior leaders and then ask them to nominate sales professionals who consistently perform at top levels. The goal is to determine what these top performers do that works so well within their environment. We want to understand each step, from the moment that they’re given an opportunity until it becomes a done deal.
With that input, we create a vocabulary to describe each step and ask the sales professionals to verify our description of their approach. We also tap our industry knowledge to add best practices that apply to the situation. This additional insight gives even the best sales professionals new ideas and tools to be more successful.
We sketch out a sales process that encompasses a number of stages that move a sales opportunity to completion. These include identifying, engaging, exploring, assessing, and developing them, through to positioning and follow-up, negotiating, closing, and then maintaining and expanding relationships.
We then share this with the senior leaders who nominated those to be interviewed. We ask their feedback on our findings, the best practices that we recommend, and whether they think that the proposed sales process would work in their environment, division, product line, region, etc. Once we gain concurrence, we customize a training program to their culture to get everyone on board.
When sales professionals enter the training session, most think that they already know all there is to know about sales processes. That’s natural, as most have been selling for quite some time. But two elements really catch their attention and interest: the dramatic changes in B2B selling in recent years and a customized process based on what is really happening in their day-to-day world.
They pay attention because we’re not talking about theory; we’re describing how really successful sales professionals keep blowing past their quota. They know that we’ve talked to sales legends in the company, and they want to know their secrets.
They also see that there is flexibility built into the process to accommodate the different clients that they work with and changing circumstances. They appreciate being measured on outcomes rather than a series of activities. So, even though we get some skepticism from sales professionals entering training, once they see the relevance and benefit, their interest in training grows.
What really matters is whether the sales process makes a difference in their selling and in their results. We can say with certainty, based on our experience working with long-term clients, that this is the case. Having a solid sales process based on the success of top performers provides a clear path for others to follow and achieve their goals.