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May 12, 2020

Do you have a defined sales process? No?! Ignoring it is a HUGE mistake!

Imagine you have responsibility for revenue growth at your firm and you finally decide to pull the trigger and convert a couple of your senior Project Managers to the Seller-Doer role. Congrats!

Now what? Well, one of the items you’ll need to cover in their training is to help them understand your firm’s ‘sales process.’

Sales process?! It’s not a term or a concept used very often in our industry… but it’s critical to your selling success. And here’s why…

Sales – like every other function in a business – is a process. There are certain activities that have to happen, in a particular order and within a certain timeframe, to achieve the desired outcome. During research projects, for example, you have the defined process of data collection, analysis and reporting. On the numbers side of the house, your accounting team needs to send out invoices and deposit checks by the end of the month in order to be able to ‘close’ the month on time and create the firm’s financial statements. And so on and so on…

For most firms in our industry, the sales process will likely include steps something like these:

Step 1: Initial contact/lead generated

Step 2: Initial conversation – lead qualification/ needs analysis

Step 3: Deeper conversation – more details uncovered

Step 4: Capabilities presentation delivered

Step 5: Bid requested / proposal sent

Step 6: Win/lose

OK, so it’s defined. Now what?

First, try to create a timeframe for each of these steps. Based on your experience, on average, how much time passes between each step? For example, how long does it usually take after the Capabilities Presentation is delivered until you receive an RFP? The key here is not to establish a timeframe you hope happens, but a realistic timeframe that’s based on your experience/history. Yes, it will be a ‘best guess’… but that’s OK. When constructed properly, this exercise will also give you a sense of the total sales cycle… that is, how long does it take from first contact to new client? Hint: it’s a lot longer than you think!

And now that your sales process is defined and put in writing, you can train your seller-doers on each of the steps. For example, show them networking techniques for generating new leads at a conference, teach them what kinds of questions to ask during the initial conversation, help them role play/rehearse their capabilities presentation and so on.

Beyond that, now that your sales process is defined and your seller-doers have been trained on it, the sales process becomes a ‘benchmark’ for you as the sales manager. It gives you something to measure your new seller-doers against, allowing you to jump in and coach them where they might need help.

For example, let’s say that one of your seller-doers generates a lot of initial conversations, but only a small percentage of those move on to deeper discussions. It tells you that he/she might be having some problems with that initial conversion – allowing you to train/coach/role play various initial call scenarios to help them improve.

Or perhaps a relatively small percentage of your seller-doer’s capabilities presentations result in RFPs.  This would be a good opportunity for you to jump in and rehearse the presentation with him/her or even be an observer the next time they deliver it to a sales prospect.

The key takeaway is this… those opportunities to coach, train and develop your seller-doers simply wouldn’t exist without some sort of standard to measure against. And that’s why defining and documenting your sales process is so critical to revenue growth.

One final note: Once documented, the sales process is not a static thing. It changes and morphs over time. That is, the more time you and your seller-doers spend engaging with clients and prospects, the more you learn, providing you with the data you need to continually tweak and adjust your sales process… all the time getting more efficient and more effective at achieving revenue growth.

Good luck and good selling.


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