Selling Microsoft

7 Benefits of a Prescriptive Sales Process

By spelling out the steps that great sales performers use intuitively, you can develop the rest of your sales staff.

In most sales organizations, the majority of salespeople are B or C performers. There are never enough A performers in any organization, and they're generally already maximizing their productivity.

One of the best ways to help B and C performers improve is to write out a prescriptive sales process. By spelling out the steps that the A performer often uses intuitively in her sales process, you can develop the rest of your sales staff.

Recently in working with a client we spent about two hours simply documenting what a salesperson should do on each of the various steps of his sales process. Here are seven benefits from that session:

  1. In forcing the process of thinking through the logical progression and the actual actions the salesperson should take at each step, we altered an early step and changed what the salesperson was supposed to say and sell during that stage. This was important because the sales team was generally inexperienced. Because of the technical aspect of the team's offering, introducing a more mature person into the early stages allowed quicker credibility and better insights into the prospective client's needs.

  2. Additional products and services cropped up. We created one additional professional service product that could also be sold. As we stepped through each of the various stages, we kept looking at what we were doing currently and how we could add additional levels of value.

  3. The sales manager began to fully understand not only what the steps in the sales process were, but why each salesperson needed to execute on them. This provided the sales manager a better platform for coaching, mentoring and monitoring opportunities in the pipeline. The 90-day sales training schedule began to include training on each step of the sales process, in which the sales manager would not only train the sales team on how to perform each step but also explain why.

  4. Improved forecasting occurred, because specific definitions of each action within each stage were defined. For example, let's assume there's a demonstration stage in your sales cycle. When do your salespeople move the prospect to the demo stage? Is it when the demo is scheduled or after it's completed?

  5. You will separate yourself from the competition. During the sales process your company's value proposition must be proven. It's easy to print your messaging on brochures and your Web site, but letting your prospect feel it is critical to building "belief." You must build a step or an action that takes place at the appropriate stage that can validate your messaging.

  6. One of the most important aspects of creating a prescriptive sales process is changing the sales process. If you and your competitors use the basic sales stages in the same sequence and say and do the same things during your prospect conversations, no one will stand out and prospects will become confused. When there's confusion, there's no decision. Change your sales process to stand out, be different and do something to make the customer remember you.

  7. We added a last step to the sales process: a customer follow-up at 90 days post-implementation to validate the customer's satisfaction and to ask for a reference letter. These will now be hung in the office lobby and used in future sales calls.

The next step is for the sales manager to roll out the process, teach the salespeople how to execute, then inspect that the sales team is using the process as it is defined. Set a 90-day plan to implement and evaluate the results, create four or five metrics to measure its effectiveness, validate it's being used and listen to your team. If it needs to be altered to increase effectiveness, that's OK. But before you change, make sure you fully understand the impacts.

Let me know what has worked for you on creating a sales process.

More Analysis by Ken Thoreson:

About the Author

Ken Thoreson is managing director of the Acumen Management Group Ltd., a North American consulting organization focused on improving sales management functions within growing and transitional organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].


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