While no business can flourish without a well-integrated group of departments all working towards a clear strategy, very few can exist without a sales department.
Not only does a company’s sales team provide the cash flow that is the lifeblood of the organization, but their direct contact with the marketplace often provides the information vital to forming new strategies.
SalesTribe founder Graham Hawkins said it best when he made the statement: “If you are not a salesperson, then you are sales support” in this LinkedIn post. Many may debate this provocative comment – but we can all agree that no business can operate sustainably without this department running smoothly.
That’s why it’s so critical that the processes underpinning the department’s operations are as solid as the people doing the work.
Of course, few business divisions are exempt from constantly assessing and improving their processes and culture. However, when it comes to a department as important as Sales, this is a task that should be done frequently and with a lot of focus.
Here are five ways to get the most out of the sales process that you conceptualize and implement for your sales team.
1. Perform an audit of your current sales process
Just like you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken, you also can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. The purpose of process audits like these is to identify exactly where standard sales operating procedures are failing your business or preventing its growth.
Data Never Lies
Critical to performing such an audit is the existence of data, typically stored in your CRM system. Here you will analyze figures to answer a number of questions relating to your team’s efficiency throughout the sales process.
Critically analyze every piece of information. From the methods used to generate leads to how leads are converted into customers and, even further, how maximum value is extracted from each customer, leave no stone unturned.
Typically, you will use this data to answer several key questions. The answers should be measured against historical data, forecasts, industry trends, stakeholder expectations, and competitor analyses in order to determine overall efficiency.
Always Be Testing
One of the most effective ways to get started on performing a process audit is to test them against others that are considered “best practices” in this space. Do online research to find out what your competitors are doing and what thought leaders in this space are saying.
Don’t be afraid to try out new tactics for each step, tool, and content asset that comprises your sales funnel – even those that appear to be functioning perfectly.
2. Confirm your product-market fit
Even the most mature organization could find that implementing changes to their core product or service results in stronger growth. Conversely, some businesses may find that making a slight adjustment to their target audience may result in improved sales performance.
Frequently analyzing these two possibilities should be part of your sales process. No other department in the organization is better positioned to be building this information. Think critically about your current processes and try to identify ideal spots to insert lead or customer interactions that will mine this data for you.
When it comes to making decisions on how to respond to this knowledge, i.e., whether you should implement product changes or shift your target market, bear in mind the 80-20 rule. Prioritization in this space is critical.
What may also emerge from this communication is that your product-market fit is close to ideal, but don’t be tempted to extract this action from your processes. There’s great value in frequently confirming that you’re selling a relevant product to the right people. The world and people’s needs change quickly, and your company should be enabled to respond when this affects your bottom line.
3. Integrate sales process exercises in your hiring process
Even the most robust and efficient set of processes are only as good as the people who perform them. This is why experts in the field recommend that a sales manager spends up to 20% of their time on recruitment. Bear that in mind when designing the processes for those responsible for bringing in fresh talent.
The benefit of having top-notch salespeople interact with potential and existing customers is obvious. Despite us living in the Information Age, human interaction is still considered a key component of successful selling, especially in the B2B space.
Another great benefit of having the right people executing your sales process is that you will be, to a large extent, removing “human error” as a variable when assessing your process efficiency. Imagine the difficulty involved in designing better standard operating procedures for your sales department when you constantly have to assess whether the gaps you spot are a result of carelessness or incompetence.
4. Equip your sales team with proper tools and training to be as effective as possible
So, you’ve implemented a great process and hired excellent people to execute it. But there’s a third component to effective sales that needs an equal measure of attention: Tools.
Avoid the temptation to spend inordinate amounts of money on an enterprise-level CRM just because you think bigger is better. At the same time, don’t use cost as the primary driver when choosing the software that enables your sales team to do their jobs.
It’s extremely important that the person tasked with procuring enablement tools conducts a thorough investigation into the numerous options available. Effectively personalizing the combination of tools your company uses to execute its sales process is essential.
Here’s an example.
Depending on your business model, mass email outreach may be a critical part of your sales process. In that case, consider tools that prioritize this function.
If, on the other hand, your sales team’s main KPI is the number of cold calls they make per month, you’ll have other software tools to consider.
The main point to keep in mind here is that you don’t want someone who isn’t intimately familiar with the inner workings of the department to be the one overseeing the acquisition of sales process software. Avoid this scenario at all costs.
5. Motivate your team to take ownership of their personal sales process
Despite the amount of attention we’ve given it in this article, effective process design isn’t just about designing and implementing effective operating procedures.
Each member of the sales team will have a personal process that governs how they individually interact with business processes, for better or worse.
Motivating your sales team to cultivate healthy habits in the workplace and at home will go a long way towards a healthy, efficient department. Here are some examples of productive workplace habits:
Work in Sprints
Working according to the Pomodoro technique is a proven method to eliminate distractions and decrease physical and mental fatigue. Essentially, it entails working in short bursts and taking frequent breaks – ideally away from your desk.
There are numerous mobile apps and even a handy Chrome extension available to manage this extremely efficient way of working.
Get Enough Rest
The link between getting a solid night’s sleep and increased mental capacity has long been established. A well-rested human brain is not only capable of absorbing and retaining information more effectively, but it is also far less likely to make a mistake.
Allocate Tasks Realistic Deadlines
Parkinson’s Law famously states that “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” If you’ve never heard of this adage, it basically means that if you give yourself too much time to finish a particular task, it will increase in complexity so as to fill the time it’s been allotted.
Make your sales team aware of this principle. Get them to think critically about all the tasks that comprise their processes and allocate realistic turnaround times.
Reduce Digital Distractions
The ever-present browser can be a massive productivity-killer. Just seeing multiple tabs can have a big impact on a person’s capacity to focus on the task at hand.
Tabs are often used as a “reminder” that a particular piece of info needs to be consumed or a specific task needs to be performed “later.” This can severely hinder a person’s ability to remain focused on what they have to do now, resulting in delays and errors.
Make your employees aware of the two-tab rule, and suggest that they reassess their focus after employing it.
Constantly attempting to improve your sales process starts with acknowledging the importance of doing so. That way, frequently assessing where you can get more efficient will not only happen according to a schedule but also organically, as it becomes part of your company culture.