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How to Implement a Unified Sales Process (Part 3 of 3)

sales process map

This is part three of a three part series.  On June 19, 2014 I presented at Bullhorn Live on how to implement a unified sales process.  Below is part three of the series.  You can read part one here.  You can read part two here.

How to Implement a Unified Sales Process (Part Two)

change management

This is part two of a three part series.  On June 19, 2014 I presented at Bullhorn Live on how to implement a unified sales process.  Below is part two of the series.  You can read part one here.

How to Implement a Unified Sales Process (from Bullhorn Live)

bullhornlive 2014 image

Last week I had the opportunity of presenting at Bullhorn Live.  This is Bullhorn's annual user conference to not only showcase their CRM/ATS software but to give users a chance to learn about industry best practices.  In my case, I spoke on how to implement a unified sales process and why having a sales process is critical to scaling your business.  This is part one of a three part series recapping of my presentation.

Implementing (or Rightsizing) Your Sales Process


Do you know who Edwards Deming is?  I didn’t think so.  I didn’t know either.  Edwards Deming was an American statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and consultant.  And he was credited for saying “a bad system will beat a great person every time.”  You know what, he’s right!  Take it from me, I learned the hard way.  And in my six years providing sales training and consulting services, I have seen hundreds of others learn the hard way as well.

You see nowhere is this truer-“A bad system beats a great person every time-“than with your salesforce and your sales process.  Build a great process build a great company.  It scales.  Great people however, well we can't clone them. 

First, a sales process defines the steps that a sales rep and a customer need to take in order to complete the purchasing process.  It provides sales reps with a road map telling them exactly what they need to do next in order to move the opportunity forward and close the deal. A documented sales process allows you to:
•    Identify,
•    Qualify,
•    Analyze
•    Diagnose and
•    Measure opportunities and then determine the next step in the sales process. 

A good sales process is based on objective and verifiable information and it should be aligned with the customers purchasing process, not how sales people want to sell.  Studies show that sales organizations that have a clearly defined and documented sales process are more than 2.5X’s more likely to hit their revenue goals than those who don’t have a sales process.

Driving & Sustaining Change in your Salesforce

Implementing a new sales process or rightsizing your existing sales process is no easy matter.  It’s not just a matter of telling your sales reps which activities to focus on.  You need to approach your sales process initiative as a change management initiative.  Because that is exactly what it is.  You’re asking your salesforce to change their daily behaviors.  If you don’t support your newly desired sales behavior with reinforcement activities, metrics, training and coaching to measure and reinforce the change, your sales team will quickly revert back to its old way of doing things. 

In fact, according to the 2009 Sales Optimization Study CSO Insights, If you are going to invest in training your sales people then the follow up process needs to be in place for their managers to ensure that the training is being applied consistently and effectively by the reps in their daily workflow so that it becomes ingrained into the way in which they sell.  Failing to do will minimize the ROI your company sees from your training investments.  

When implementing a new sales process (or rightsizing your existing one) it is critical to capture upfront exactly how much change is needed to reap the benefits.  What often slows down or hijacks the adoption of a new sales process is failure to scope the amount of change required and creating the appropriate change management plan. This is one of the classic reasons why sales process implementation fails.  Management announces the change and maybe does one or two communication pieces on the change and that is it.

When too little change management is applied, business reverts back to “normal.”  This is often the case when sale people tell you “oh, this new process (or training) is just management’s new flavor of the month.  It will pass.” 

Another Everyday Example

The Sales Director holds his or her team meeting with their sales team and in that meeting introduces some new call planning tools.  The Director explains the tools and how they are to be used.  The Director asks the team to start using the new call planning tools on a daily basis today.  The problem with this approach is it takes a much more strategic and holistic approach to get the sales team to use the new call planning tools on a regular basis.  Again, sales management is asking the sales team to change their behavior.  But the change required by the salesforce to adopt the new call planning tools and incorporate them into their daily workflow is underestimated.   To get this new behavior to stick long term the Sales Director needs to have an overall system in place that supports, encourages and reinforces the use of the call planning tools.

Let me share another story. A few years back the CEO of an IT solutions firm hired me to provide a two day sales training workshop.  The CEO was real adamant about getting the training rolled out to the team.  I however was concerned about a few things.  First, I didn’t know anything about the skill level of the sales reps (how much could the CEO really know given that he doesn’t spend time on the floor or in the field with the reps?).  Second, I didn’t know anything about their current sales process and how my content would integrate with their sales process.  Third, I didn’t know their managers and their disposition towards training let alone their sales style, philosophy or belief system.  Fourth and most concerning, there was no discussion of a change management and user adoption plan.  When I brought these issues up to the CEO he assured me not to worry about those issues and that he knew exactly what his team needed.  He did say however that he would like me to come visit their office every other week indefinitely to provide reinforcement coaching (after the workshop).

The two day workshop went off and it went well.  People enjoyed the content and found it valuable. But when I went in and did my first day of reinforcement coaching, what do you think I saw?  A few highlights:
•    The team continued to sell the way they always had (I heard team members on the phones not applying what we had just spent two days teaching)
•    There was no consistency in the sales process from one sales rep to the next
•    The sales managers were not leading by example (applying the material from the workshop)
•    There was no coaching (of the other reps by the other sales managers)

As you can imagine, I had to go have a fun conversation with the CEO and explain to him that failing to focus on the change management plan, specifically uncovering the barriers to adoption and designing a reinforcement plan upfront undermined the two day sales training workshops.  I went on to explain that without accounting for the amount of change that was needed nor the focus of a plan to drive adoption and reinforce the desired behavior, the CEO and myself would need to assess the poor performance and then attempt corrective action.  The challenge however was the corrective actions were too late because the window of hope and enthusiasm that empowers behavioral change had closed.  To regain momentum with a doubting and tentative sales force now required double the effort and investment to overcome their first negative encounter with the new process.

This all could have been prevented had we properly scoped out the amount of change that was required of the sales team and designed a change management and user adoption plan.

User Adoption Plan

A reinforcement or user adoption plan highlights the specific tasks and events that occur after the implementation and training to reinforce and drive the new desired behaviors.  The plan details the content, the cadence or frequency and the event leader. This reinforcement schedule must involve the entire organization and it should include a variety of activities. The reinforcement plan engages team members through an assortment of communication vehicles to put a sustained focus on the reinforcement of desired change in behavior.

Change Management Plan

Successful Change Management is the practice of driving business results by changing behaviors. Change management is a method for reducing and managing resistance to change when implementing process, technology or organizational change. Whether you are implementing a new CRM/ATS system, implementing a new sales training and sales process or completing a merger, effective change management is essential to your success.

How to Expand Account Wallet Share Part 2

comfort zone

This blog is part two of a two-part blog series on account development.  You can read part one, How to Expand Revenue in Existing Accounts.

First, if you want to grow account revenue and develop a partnership, you have to strengthen and deepen your existing relationships, AND establish new relationships in other business lines or departments AND at the enterprise (executive) level.  This requires sales people to break out of their comfort zone mentality of “my client” and view the relationship as a “company to company” relationship. Organizations that do the most effective job of expanding account revenue focus less on how much they’re liked by the customer and more on the business value of the relationship (of how the client perceives the value).  And that involves getting your entire organization involved in serving the client.

Unfortunately, despite their best intentions, many strategic (or target) account programs under perform.  The most common reasons are listed in the table below

Common Challenges

How to Expand Wallet Share in Your Existing Accounts

wallet shareOne of the most common sales training requests (and sales goals of IT staffing firms) I hear from prospects and customers alike is growing revenue within existing accounts.  Let’s face it; everyone wants to grow revenue in their existing accounts.  So why is it so challenging? 

IT staffing firms should be selling more of their service offerings to their existing clients but they’re not. There are a number of reasons for this including but not limited to:

•    Lack of training, account planning tools or methodology on behalf of the sales team (account management team)
•    Mixed messages sent to sales teams to “open new accounts” and “expand existing accounts”
•    Sales people being afraid to “get out of their comfort zone” and develop new relationships in existing accounts
•    Lack of resources (team members are spread too thin)
•    Compensation is out of alignment (doesn’t drive the right sales behavior)
•    Internal barriers to cross-selling (internal politics and turf wars, lack of collaboration)
•    Territorial sales people (lack of trust, etc.)

Even in those cases where an IT staffing firm does have the infrastructure, leadership and compensation plans in place to support and drive key account development, efforts tend to stall because they:

•    Don’t know nearly enough about their accounts and where else (and how else) they could be adding value (and billing additional consultants)
•    Often wear “blinders” and don’t recognize the “blind spots” in their accounts for additional revenue opportunities
•    Fail to collaborate as a team on how they can add additional value to the client and expand wallet share.  They fail to develop  account strategies and/or hold team members accountable to those strategies
•    Lack the sales skills to sell up the customer value chain, cross-sell and create new opportunities and “box-out” the competition

When I ask sales professionals about the strength of their client relationships, most of them tell me “I have a really good relationship we have been working together for years.  They championed me on the list.”  Of they’ll say, “We go to ball games and play golf together.”  As you can see by these responses, sales people tend to focus on “surface level” elements of the relationship such as rapport building and bonding.  Not to say those are not important elements of a client relationship but account managers (and account management teams) should really focus less on how much they’re liked by the customer and more on the business value of the relationship (how the client perceives the value).

In my sales trainings and workshops I often ask sales people “What problems do you solve for your customers?”  I often get a blank stare with glazed eyes in response.  To take it a step a further, I ask sales people “When is the last time you asked your customer(s) why they do business with you and how does our service offering impact their business operations?”  From my experience, most account managers are afraid of asking these questions.  They would rather not know the answer to these questions then take the risk of hearing potentially less then flattering comments (and/or uncovering relationship issues) from the customer. 

As you consider expanding revenue in your existing accounts and ultimately the value you deliver for your clients, consider the following questions:
•    What would the impact be to the customer if they lost you as a supplier?
•    How difficult would it be for the customer to replace you and your team (and service offering)?
•    If you no longer served the client, how much value would the client feel they lost?
•    What is the customer’s perceived value of your service offering?

I think you will find the answers to these questions can serve as building blocks to begin the process of developing an account plan for articulating and optimizing the value you offer and ultimately expanding wallet share.  Expanding accounts and maximizing account “wallet share” comes back to the problems you can solve for your customers and the value you add. The more value you add the more likely your client will want to keep coming back and buying from you.  And playing golf!

Sales Performance Management Best Practices

sales funnel

A few years back I was attending a session at the Staffing Industry Analysts Executive Forum.  The speaker made the comment “in the staffing industry we’re too quick to hire and too slow to fire.”  That quickly struck a chord with me.  I thought to myself, “that is 100% spot on.”  I have been guilty of it and I know many if not most of my peers have been guilty of this as well.  Yet, isn’t it common sense that when you have a rep who is under performing, you put them on a PIP and either they make it or they’re managed out?

5 Things Best in Class Sales Organizations Do Differently

icon Best In Class

I’ve spent a lot of time traveling the country the past 6 years coaching sales reps and helping CEO’s and business leaders implement sales process and sales management systems.  Yeah, I have certainly seen a lot and learned a lot from that experience.  Let me share with you the 5 things that best in class sales organizations do differently from all of the rest.

Build Knowledge (not just skills).  Most IT staffing firms provide some form of sales training but tend to focus the training exclusively on skills development.  What this means is they provide training on how to execute a step in their sales process such as describing their service offerings, taking a job requirement or scheduling a face to face meeting.  This is a good first step, but it's nowhere near enough.  What average and laggard companies fail to do however is build knowledge amongst their sales team.  What is the difference between skills development and building knowledge?  I'm talking about teaching and developing knowledge in your sales force around these key elements:

  • The IT marketplace including trends, challenges, benchmarks
  • Business acumen and understanding situational fluency of the customers business
  • Your company's value proposition (how you impact your customers business.  Most reps don't understand this. Ask them, you'll see.)
  • The problems your service solves for your customers
  • The competition and how you compete and win against the competition
  • The customers purchasing process (how customers decide which vendors to work with including their selection process and how they hire/procure IT consultants once they identify the candidate)

Research has shown that today's corporate buyer EXPECTS to work with a salesperson who can:

What We Can Learn From Advertising Pitch Man Don Draper

don draper

As it turns out, a lot actually.

Transitioning From Manager (& Chief Problem Officer) to Coach

Fire Fighter

I think we all agree that selling is hard work.  Despite the IT staffing market's impressive growth rate, it is still difficult to win new accounts and close deals. Sales people are taking on bigger quotas, calling on more accounts and attempting to make more contacts than ever.  And to top it off, they're inundated with more data (the web) than what they know what to do do with. Suffice it to say, they're overwhelmed!

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