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How Can We Create a Sales Process That Gets Results?
Organizations tend to make four common mistakes that undermine the potential of process mapping. How can you avoid making these mistakes? Read on.
Posted Nov 3, 2003
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Mistake #1: Map all the trees, but miss the forest. An enthusiastic vice president of sales for a technical services company spent considerable time developing a process map for his organization. The map had 20 steps, all at the same level of importance. This vice president had created a comprehensive view of people's activities across his sales organization, but it could not help him train or lead his team. The level of detail was overwhelming, and it lacked a hierarchical organization. Principle #1: Foreground goals in your sales process map. The solution is to organize the process map around high-level goals, such as generating leads, qualifying prospects, proposing new business, and delivering solutions. Foregrounding goals in the process map helps you ensure that all your team members' activities contribute to the same shared set of goals. Furthermore, goals are not the same as departmental boundaries. A single person might be involved in any of the top-level phases. This drives communication and collaboration, making process maps a powerful tool for generating a framework for accountability. Mistake #2: Focus on the seller, instead of the customer. An administrator in a financial services company mapped her company's sales process as her thesis for an MA program. She collected statements from the company's sales executives about what salespeople ought to do, and organized them into an idealized (and sometimes unrealistic) to-do list of sales activities. The process map did not reflect how salespeople actually could interact with customers, much less what value each sales activity could bring to the customer, and the outputs of the process phases were internal administrative documents. As it turned out, both customers and successful salespeople in this company resisted following this sales process. Principle #2: Build value for the customer into every stage of the sales process. By delegating the process-mapping task to an administrator without sales experience, this company wasted its process-mapping opportunity. Leaders in the company should have brought together key representatives from sales and marketing to create a realistic process map, defining customer value at every step. Of course, there would still be administrative controls operating in the background, but these issues should not drive sales relationships. The sales process should remove barriers to selling, making it easier for salespeople to reach the right target audiences and easier for those buyers to see your company's value.
Before committing costly resources to the sales effort, the selling organization must do everything possible to ensure success. This requires reaching decision-makers early to verify their needs and priorities. If you can validate your own understanding of the business value you offer the decision-maker, even helping the decision-maker generate a consensus, you create value for everyone. Mistake #3: Forget to "show them the money." The training and development department of a major corporation spent several million dollars to develop a custom sales-training program based on the company's cultural values. However, the sales process was described in statements like "Use the relationship network," "Facilitate decision making," and "Confirm joint commitments"--ideas that reflected the organizational culture, but did not define measurable outputs. When would orders be generated? How was the process connected to the money? Lacking measurable steps grounded in real-world sales operations, the training program defined a process in name only. Salespeople learned how the company's world really worked while on the job, rather than from the course. The sales organization ultimately created its own measurement system outside the framework of the training program, crippling its effectiveness. Principle #3: Integrate results measurements with the process. An effective sales process map shows how the sales organization's performance is measured. These measurements should be related to the high-level goals of the process, not the granular activities. There are key advantages to the process mapping approach to metrics: Process mapping allows people on a team to help design their own system for accountability. If the team designs its own process, the team will be motivated to measure the results and ensure that the process succeeds over time. Metrics allow the organization to identify its bottlenecks or weak links, allowing resources to be allocated most effectively. For example, if marketing is not generating enough good suspects, adding salespeople won't help. Instead, the marketing process should be improved. As products and services move through their economic lifecycles, metrics can provide powerful leading indicators of market shifts, affording sellers precious lead time to respond. Mistake #4: Buy somebody else's "ideal" sales process. Sales processes often come prepackaged as sales training or CRM software. For example, sales executives often purchase sales training in an attempt to create improved sales results. Good sales training does in fact help salespeople become more effective at reaching their goals. But like everyone else, salespeople are creatures of their environment. If the environment is not changed, behaviors tend to return to their pretraining state. In the case of CRM software a company is often faced with fitting its business to the software. This problem arises when an organization hasn't created a workable map of its sales process. CRM software requires clear answers to mission-critical questions like How do we create value for customers? and How do we measure the value we create? If the organization can't answer these questions, the initiative will fail--not because the CRM product is inadequate, but because the organization didn't create an environment in which it could work. Principle #4: Engage your people in process mapping to define problems and solutions. Software and training suppliers can provide valuable tools to support your sales process. But the sales process itself can't be purchased from an outside supplier. It requires the hearts and minds of your people--it is the hearts and minds of your people, your customer relationship strategy. The leaders of a sales organization need to generate a common vision and implement it collaboratively. Process mapping is an ideal tool to engage people in creating and achieving this common vision. This week's Expert on Call is a digest version of a 3,000-word article. Click here for the complete article.
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