“We’ve just introduced a top-flight sales process but it has fallen flat. Why?” The answer is often straight forward. Too often companies institute a top-flight sales process but find inconsistent use. Some first-line managers embrace it and it’s adopted by their sales teams. On the other end of the adoption continuum are first-line managers who view the new sales process as the “flavor of the month” and take a “business as usual” approach. Some sales people see value in the new process and begin to use it; others are happy with how things are going and subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” point of view. Others cherry pick what they want to use.
The result? In very short order, you can easily find someone doing just about anything you can imagine. Over time, it’s hard to know if the process is failing because it’s somehow flawed and requires some modifications or because it never really got adopted.
Why does this happen? First and foremost is the age-old barrier: resistance to change. In addition, structural barriers can pose problems when compensation plans, organizational structures, and access to sales support aren’t aligned with the new sales process so they don’t encourage its use. A third reason centers on how the process was presented to the sales force – was it “sold” to them so they see the benefit of adopting it or was it mandated? If the latter is closer to the truth, often a new sales process is dead on arrival.
Yet, having a viable sales process that can be monitored and improved upon is part of the puzzle for improving sales productivity – particularly in those markets experiencing rapid changes in their buying habits and processes. So, what’s a better way to introduce a new sales process that increases the probably of sales force-wide adoption?
The first key is leadership, planning, and communication. Quick and easy to say, but hard to do. In addition, we have found a more effective adoption is likely to be achieved if greater consideration is given to selecting the “right” sales process initially. Some selection parameters for increasing the odds for successful adoption are:
- Keep front-of-mind that simple is better than complex. For most companies any sales process with more than five steps is probably in for a journey on a rocky road.
- Remember a sales process must facilitate the execution of the sales cycle from beginning to end. It is not a detailed model for executing one particular step. So, for example, don’t mistake a questioning model or a framework for selling value as a sales process.
- Balance the notion that the sales process must be robust enough to provide a guide to discretionary action but flexible enough to fit your entire product portfolio.
- Sharpen the distinction between tools and forms. Tools help sales people to think and act strategically; they help one to translate data in to actionable information for winning the business. Forms, on the other hand, are primarily used for writing down and documenting what you know. More often than not, they are simply viewed as additional “paper work” – the “destroyer” of any sales process.
- Make sure there are deliverables that are an easily identified and a viable set of metrics for indicating each step has been completed.
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©2011 Sales Horizons, LLC