When you sales process is the salesperson, you are in big trouble

For an organisational process to require reengineering (as opposed to fine tuning) it must be dysfunctional. The bad news is that most sales processes today look like manufacturing processes did 30 years ago.

A lack of systems thinking has resulted in processes that are resource-hungry, difficult to manage, and almost impossible to scale.

In most organisations, the sales process is the salesperson. While this person (or team of people) would love to be selling, in between prospecting for sales opportunities, solving problems associated with work in progress and servicing existing customers, there’s virtually no time available.

Furthermore, this salesperson is unlikely to get all the help from the marketing department. The marketing department mostly operates in a vacuum, busying itself with ‘branding’ activities, which hopefully will make some contribution — at some point in the future — to the general good health of the enterprise in question! (This is not meant negatively against all marketers, but its fact)

In most cases, neither sales training nor technology is the answer. Most salespeople don’t need sales training — on the rare occasions they get face-to-face with potential clients, they do just fine. And all technology does is make it easier for salespeople to perform tasks they shouldn’t be responsible for performing in the first place!

Design your organisational process, not an individual process

The first thing you notice about a manufacturing process (used as an example) is that it’s an organisational process, not an individual process. You’re unlikely to find one person performing all the tasks that make-up the process as a whole. (The person who operates the metal press is not the same person who shrink-wraps the finished product.)

Each task in the manufacturing process has been matched with an appropriate resource (person or technology).

The same thinking should apply to sales process design.

Salespeople should perform only the tasks to which they are suited by ability (and salary level). The other tasks in the sales process should be matched with more appropriate resources.

  1. Salespeople are well suited to negotiating with highly- qualified potential clients. (Or selling, in the traditional use of the word.) They are not well suited to:
  2. Prospecting (salespeople have neither the specialist skills nor the resources required to generate a steady stream of sales opportunities).
  3. Relationship management (if your salespeople are responsible for managing relationships with potential and existing customers, this limits both the number of relationships you can effectively manage, and the time the salesperson has available for selling).
  4. Data entry, literature fulfillment and reporting (salespeople make very expensive clerks!)

Expediting factory orders (salespeople lack the global view of work in progress required to negotiate effectively with your production manager). They are supposed to be in the field, selling, and not in the factory following up on processes!

Each of these tasks should be institutionalised, leaving your salespeople free to dedicate all of their time to selling.

In an optimal sales process, a salesperson will perform five appointments a day (five days a week) with pre- qualified, pre-appointed prospects, who have indicated a predisposition towards purchasing!

Identify the constraint in the process

Smart manufacturers recognise that the volume of a manufacturing process is limited by the volume of the bottleneck (or constraint) in that process.

The same applies to a sales process.
In most sales processes, the constraint is the acquisition of sales opportunities (or leads).

In other words, in a typical sales process the output of that sales process (sales) is constrained by the availability of sales opportunities.

To make matters worse, most managers have no idea where sales opportunities come from (let alone how to build the process required to deliver a constant supply of them).

Measure it to manage it

Manufacturers know that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Well the same applies to a sales process.

Contrary to popular belief, there’s little fundamental difference between a manufacturing process and a sales process. (In fact, you could think of a sales process as a process designed to manufacture sales.)

Both processes have inputs and outputs. And both processes consist of a sequence of value-adding steps. Accordingly, both processes can be measured. You should measure productivity (output/inputs) and volume for your sales process as a whole, and then again, for each step in the process.

Sadly, few organisations do this. As a result, attempts at process improvement typically result in process sub- optimisation or overreaction to natural variation. We grab at straws and blame salespeople, managers and VP’s for their incompetency’s.

There’s a much better approach to sales but it takes some re-engineering of the process. Most businesses are let down by their thinking of how things used to work. It's time we relook the entire sales process. Ask yourself this question; “What results are we getting by doing what we are currently doing?” If you’re not happy with the answer, rethink your strategy for 2018.

(Credits to Justin Roff-Marsh and Aaron Ross for their contributions to a brand new sales process)

Maybe its time you relook your sales strategy for 2018: Download Your Copy, and see what's required to reengineer your sales process.

About Riaan

Over the past 20 years, Riaan has been working with leading Sales Organisations, Sales Managers and select Individuals who want to improve sales performance, design and implement sales processes and cultures that leads to increased revenue.

Since 1985, Riaan has been in Corporate | B2B | High-level sales and led teams to maximise performance. He provides strategic oversight and serves as executive coach and advisor to clients ranging from small, rapidly growing start-ups to well-established, large corporations.

His experience has allowes him to work with organisations and executives within entities such as Old Mutual, Sanlam, the Telecoms Industry, Siemens, Capgemini, Accenture, BWI in Hong Kong and many others, to help them improve sales performance.