The second item on the list of issues from my VP of Sales survey is accelerating opportunities and sharing best practices. As I mentioned in the first blog, I used my own judgment in creating categories and these two issues seemed to go well together. My evaluation of this issue led to enough good information to write a whitepaper on (new action item on my list!) Therefore, I am going to focus on what I found to be the key issue, the sales process and how that relates to sales automation.
My philosophy on sales processes is that there are a number of great templates out there from Miller Heiman to Solutions Selling to Customer Centric Selling and so on — and that none of these are right for you. They are all good starting points, but the key is your ability to tailor these sales processes to your business, your market environment, and your customers — or more importantly their buying cycle. As an exercise, I have customers take each stage of the sales process and create 20 key steps or milestones that must occur within that step of the sales process before moving to the next stage. For example, you have an opportunity at the prospect stage; list everything that has to occur to be able to move that prospect to the qualified opportunity stage. This exercise usually starts with “there’s no way we’ll be able to list 20 per stage” and ends with lists longer than requested.
In a real-life example from one of my previous roles we implemented Solution Selling, tailored it to our business, went through the above exercise and ended up with a sales process, after consolidation, that included 7 stages and 8 – 10 milestones per stage. The final count was 64 milestones from prospecting to “closed in production”.
To accelerate opportunity closure and proliferate best practices our CRM system had to reflect their steps to getting business closed. We customized our CRM to show all 7 stages and ALL 64 milestones, mainly as check boxes. All stages and milestones were date stamped and through reporting and analytics, we were able to generate timelines, average, min, max etc. This statistical look starts as a baseline and then is used as a tool to identify which milestones and stages to focus attention onto to accelerate opportunities closure. Certainly you will find some areas that simply cannot be improved, which will help with expectations, but more importantly you will find areas that can be improved, changes to the sales process will be made at the milestone and stage level within the CRM, and as a result best practices will be proliferated throughout your organization.
The importance of knowing what needs to get done and working to measure how you are doing and improve as much as possible is one of the key benefits of having a CRM solution tailored to your business the way you want to run and the results you want to achieve.