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  • Writer's pictureEric Heine

How to Create a Basic Sales Process that Works, Part 5 of 5

5 Fundamentals for Improving Win-Rates and Narrowing the Gap between Forecast and Results.

In the first four parts of this five-part series, we discussed the importance of having a sound, basic sales process that is uniformly applied, and in particular, we explored how to define Sales Stages, how to establish a flexible framework of recommended Sales Activities for each sales stage, and how and why to use Stage Gates. We also talked about Probability of Close, and how and why to link probabilities of close to sales stages.

In this final installment, we will continue our discussion of five important fundamentals of a basic sales process (below) that can help quickly improve your sales performance, and set the stage for a more comprehensive process later, at last considering the criticality of having the entire selling organization on-board and in harmony with the sales process.

  1. Define a Common Set of Sales Stages;

  2. Define Typical / Recommended Activities Sales Reps should be doing at each stage;

  3. Define specific, required Stage Gates that must be satisfied for opportunities to advance from one pipeline stage to the next;

  4. Assign Specific Probabilities of Close to each pipeline stage;

  5. Ensure that all stage definitions, activities, gate requirements, and probabilities are consistently and completely communicated, understood, and used throughout the sales organization.

Consistency Matters. A Lot.

A well-designed basic sales process is just one part -- but, I would argue, the most important part -- of a broader set of integrated, end-to-end revenue processes. Really, the sales process is the hub to which all the other revenue processes connect. So it matters very much that we not only get the process right, but that we do an excellent job of establishing common definitions, languages, and behaviors relating to the sales process, so that everyone in the organization understands, thinks, feels, and acts the same way in relation to the sales process, as appropriate for their respective roles.

The sales process becomes the lingua franca of the selling organization, whether you are a direct seller, someone in sales support, or a sales leader. Everyone should understand what it means when someone says a deal is in the "Solutioning" stage, and what that implies for their own role and contribution to the sales cycle. Likewise, everyone should understand what data and information are required at each stage, how to obtain and accurately represent or communicate that information and data, and capture it in your CRM system. Everyone should know what it takes to move a deal from one stage to the next.

This requires creating common definitions for every aspect of the sales process, coupled with role-specific education and training, supported by effective change management. And following the process and keeping the data clean and up-to-date needs to become part of the sales culture of the company. It needs to become 100% ingrained behavior -- it needs to become "just the way we do things here".

All of this matters because everyone, from sales rep to CEO, will depend on this process to hit quotas, targets, and plan goals. Following the process not only helps reps get to quota, it helps them understand how they will reach quota. The same idea applies to every selling role, at every level of the company.

But You Must Show Them the Way

Let's be crystal clear about this: processes don't matter if people don't follow them. And for all the obvious value there is in sales processes for everyone from individual reps right on up to executive management, we sellers, in general, are about the most process-averse group of people who roam the planet. And make no mistake, I include myself in that group. I've carried a bag. I've led sales teams. I help companies sell better. I even sell on behalf of my own company. But unless I personally see value in a given process, my inclination is to ignore the process and do my own thing.

And yet, good sales processes, especially those that are consistent and integrated end-to-end, help sellers to sell more and make more money, and they help companies generate more revenue, more quickly, at higher margins. So, what's not to like?

The answer, really, is there is nothing not to like about good sales processes. But people fear what they don't know, resist what they don't understand, and tend to revert to their comfort zones. This can manifest itself in a range of behaviors that undermine the value of the process, potentially including:

  • Outright hostility toward the process;

  • Ignoring or bypassing the process;

  • Saying 'Yes' to the process, but in reality, doing only the minimum to comply.

In any of these cases, individuals fail to derive value from the process, and their lack of compliance or completeness reduces the value of the process to their peers and to the company overall. And believe me, it's not just individual sales reps who do this. This can happen at ANY level of a company, including sales managers, sales executives, or even in the C-suite. Not surprisingly, the higher up the organizational structure a process objector is, the greater the negative trickle-down influence and impact on the benefits of the sales process.

So, no matter your role or level, be a leader, and show your peers, teams, and managers how to fully embrace the sales process.

It starts with learning about the process, understanding how it works and how it is supposed to help. Do this, then ask questions. Try to poke holes. Put the process to the test. Help your organization fix what is broken, and improve that which is imperfect. And keep doing that until you believe in the process and its benefits. Then translate those benefits into "WIIFMs" ("What's in it for me?") for your own role, and for those around you, and share what you've learned, and learned to believe in.

In this way, you can lead by example, in an intellectually-honest way, and help your peers, team members, and managers become believers in the process, too. Of course, a well-structured Change Management and Learning program around the adoption of sales processes, tools, and policies goes a long way to making this happen quickly and effectively. The larger your organization, the more vital this becomes.

When people believe in something, they will use it. Even us process-averse sales people.

We hope you have found this five-part series on the fundamentals of a basic sales process that works to be helpful. Thanks for reading, and keep following our blog for future tips!

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About the author

Eric Heine, Founder of Growth Point Solutions LLC, draws upon over 25 years experience in marketing, sales, service, and IT leadership to advise C-level executives and boards of directors of growth-stage companies, as well as growth-equity investors, to help organizations develop, refine, and execute the revenue strategies that power significant, sustainable year-over-year growth.


This content of this blog article is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to constitute professional, legal, or commercial advice. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Please read our full legal disclaimer for further details.

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