Dave Brock wrote a terrific post about sales process. It sparked me to write about an issue that has been troubling me.
I’m not going to put forward any more arguments on the subject of whether or not process important in selling. There is enough research out there—from ESR, from other research firms, and a there is a wheelbarrow full of studies and surveys from vendors like HR Chally, Miller Heiman, and many more—that proves that employment of a pragmatic, widely complied-with sales methodology (and its associated processes) results in more sales, often at higher contract values, with shorter times to close. It’s a fact.
Just for clarification, allow me to define two often confused terms:
Methodology: A formal, documented and universal system consisting of processes, methods, principles, tools, learning, approaches, strategies and measurement designed, built and supported for the purpose of achieving sales effectiveness.
Process: A formal or informal, documented or undocumented systematic series of actions or steps directed to achieving a specific goal. We want formal and documented processes. Examples would be qualification process, hiring process and opportunity management process. Informal and undocumented processes, when placed in the hands of process-averse managers and salespeople, just don’t get followed.
So what’s my problem? The ever-expanding list of excuses from some sales leaders as to why process (they really mean methodology) isn’t good for them, their companies, and their sales teams.
Most recently I heard, “It stifles creativity.”
Any sales trainer or consultant who takes a strategic approach to sales effectiveness will tell you that when they build a methodology with their client, they have a full understanding of where creativity, and adaptability, and accountability, and any other “-ilities” are required and how flexibility for those capabilities (two more “-ilities”) get built in. Personally, I’ve been involved in methodology-building dozens of times across many industries. Not only do we allow for the “art” component of selling—in fact we encourage it. We encourage creativity. We build in room, guidance, and support for the relationship building and other non-scientific aspects of effective selling. But we don’t allow every salesperson to follow their own path, in their own way.
If it’s not defending a “no process” philosophy with the stifle creativity argument, it’s:
- “It’s more work for the reps.”
- “Every customer is different so a standard process won’t work.”
- “Things change too quickly for a standard process.”
- “My reps won’t follow one.”
- “My reps don’t need one.”
- “When I was a carried a bag, I was successful and I didn’t follow a process.”
- “All my reps need is some cold-calling training.”
- “Selling is an art and not a science. Leave process to the engineers.”
- “They’re too rigid.”
Of all the excuses we regularly hear, none of them is valid. Not a single one.
So, to you sales leaders who struggle to make your numbers and hop from job to job every 19 months or so: ask yourself why you’re ignoring the facts and still not doing the single most important thing that will enable you and your team to be more effective.
As far as I’m concerned, I’ve heard enough excuses.