Thursday, April 3, 2008

"Sales" - An art or a science?

Up until recently the sales department in many organizations was the last to systematize its business process. Now many organizations have a sales process; depending on the complexity of the sale the process could be three steps or ten, and each step is defined by the company culture but more importantly by the customers' buying process.

The measurement of these steps allows some degree of "science" to enter into the discussion. Measurement of the length of time each sales step takes, whether it is inside or outside of the established norm and tying the sales steps to the forecast confidence level are two criteria that we can measure. Once everyone is using the same terminology, forecasts become more accurate and managment knows when to jump in and coach.

An opportunity that is at the "discovery" stage should not have a 90% confidence factor placed on it. This early in the process the confidence would be closer to 10%.
A confidence level of 80% might be assigned to an opportunity that has gone through all of the qualification and approval stages and the customer is committed to go to production.

No more “Lone Ranger” sales people; now it is truly a global and collaborative sales effort requiring teamwork and communication between remote teams with individual goals and objectives. Gone are the days of the “gunslinger” sales rep, out there alone, making deals, writing up orders and doing it all solo using his unique selling style. There was a myth that sales did not need a process – “sales” according to common wisdom was “an art”. Sales organizations still have a long way to go bringing science into the art of sales.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Develop the sales process before the CRM tool.

Choosing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool with no set sales methodology or sales process in place is an invitation to failure. Companies that have had the most success with the highest CRM adoption rates are those where the sales team has had an entrenched sales process as part of the culture, and the right CRM supports the existing methodology. Sales teams will adopt more readily a tool that supports the existing sales process.

Once the sales methodology is firmly entrenched; meaning sales people sell using the process and sales managers manage and evaluate according to the process, then the steps to implementing a CRM become less daunting. When a common language is part of the day-to-day sales process the sales stages become more uniformly meaningful. Sales people know what to do next and managers know when they need to assist in moving the ball.

A simple process for a technology sale might be something like this: Initial Contact (Following up on a lead); Technical Discussion (Defining the “problem”); Quote/Proposal (Offering a solution); Design Commencement; Qualification Complete (Design Win); Pre-Production Order; Production Order (Win).

Your CRM system should help you to monitor the length of time each stage typically takes and attach a Confidence Percent to each stage; Initial Contact = 10%; Design Commencement = 50%; Production Order = 100%. You need a CRM system that you can tailor to meet your needs and process.

Finally, combining the methodology with the technology (CRM) can lead to continuous education and sales training. By monitoring the opportunities as they move through the Sales Funnel sales professionals will know where orders get stuck or delayed and therefore will know where to focus training efforts.