Ah, THE SALES PROCESS, my favorite subject. I was glad this made number 10 on the survey list or I may have had to change this blog theme to the top 12 or top 18 to ensure it was included. Now the challenge of keeping it short!
In an earlier blog in this series, Accelerating Opportunities, I discussed the importance and benefit of adding detailed milestones within each stage of the sales process and tracking these at the milestone level within a CRM. That same technique is critical here as well. Go ahead, go back, and read that blog, I’ll wait!
Now let us build upon that thought process. I hope that I have convinced you that no one generic sales process is applicable to everyone. It also may be true that no one sales process, even one tailored to your business, is applicable across all your product lines or across all the markets you serve. IMO one of the keys of developing a successful sales process is aligning with your customers buying process. What stages do they go through when selecting a vendor to solve their business issue? An example: the buying cycle for an architecture critical product may include research vendors, vendor screening, RFP, select top 3, formal presentation, reference checks, preliminary vendor selection with evaluation plan, successful completion of evaluation plan, award vendor the contract. Other examples you are probably familiar with are the very different buying processes between military and commercial customers, between products and services, and between large and small companies. Now I realize if taken to the extreme you could generate a new sales process for each customer individually. That obviously is not realistic. Typically, I recommend anywhere from 1 to 4 (no more than 4) depending on the diversity of the offerings and end markets. The goal is to find commonality among product/service offerings and/or end markets and create a tailored sales process for each differentiated segment. Number one, this should help more efficiently sell to customers and two, it allows for better evaluation of what works and does not work in your current sales process. You can imagine how having a mixture of military customers with a sales cycle of two years and commercial customers with a sales cycle of 3 months can muddy the waters when evaluating the effectiveness of a sales process. Hey, my average time in stage three of my sales pipeline is 2 months with a standard deviation of 6 months. Hard to manage.
Many CRM systems allow multiple sales processes to be tracked within the opportunity tracking portion of the system. For instance, you could have four opportunity tracking schemes such as military hardware, military software, commercial design-in, and commercial commodities, integrated within your CRM. You will likely need customized reporting options but the ROI will be gained by enabling the tracking of each sales process and the ability to implement a continual improvement program.
These are the critical first steps in properly identifying strengths and weaknesses within your current sales processes.