How to Handle Sales Reps Who Object to Adopting Your Sales Process
I have helped dozens of IT staffing firms implement sales process and sales methodology and inevitably sales reps (always at least one) will always push back. Sales reps, particularly the seasoned ones are notorious for pushing back and complaining about sales process and why they don't need it. They often complain "it's too complex," "it's cumbersome," "it doesn't fit with how I sell," or "the client is not a fit for that sales process." It really is amazing how sales people can come up with so many reasons as to why they don't need a sales process. Why can't they do this with client objections:)!
What I find so ironic is the sales reps that complain the most about sales process are always the sales reps that need sales process the most. If only they could see the forest through the trees! It's your core performers, your reps that are hitting 70-80% of quota that have no idea why they are winning deals and why they are losing deals. Adopting a sales process would give them the insight they need to stop the bad behaviors and activities and do more of the positive behaviors and activities to help them become even more successful. They would know when and how to qualify leads more effectively, how to recognize when to walk away from deals and/or customers and improve their sales win rates and shorten their sales cycle. After all, this is why companies invest a signifigant amount of time and energy not to mention millions of dollars every year implementing, managing and monitoring their sales process. So why are sales people so quick to say "it doesn't work" and refuse to adopt the sales process?
Here is a list of the 4 most common objections to your sales process and how to handle them, so you can do everything you can to boost your team’s overall performance.
Sales Process Objection: I Know How to Sell, I Don't Need a Sales Process
Just about every sales team has their superstar. This is the rep that constantly meets and exceeds quota. He or she often has one or two killer accounts where they bring in 60%, 70% or even 80% of the total revenue (for small IT staffing firms). These reps of course are great to have but if not managed properly they can become a major challenge and a major distration.
Most managers and owners I have encounterd think it is best to be "hands-off" with these top performers and to let these reps do things their way. I couldn't disagree more with this position. Here is why.
- Every sales rep including top performers have flaws and weaknesses (this is one reason why shadow training is a bad idea). Adopting a sales process can help even top performers improve performance. A sales process will put weaknesses under the spotlight and allow for improved performance.
- By allowing your top performers to ignoe and fail to adopt your sales process, your top performers set a negative example for the rest of the team. Just as importantly you send the wrong message to your team. You send the message that "Jim the top performer can do things his own way," while the rest of the team must follow the process. It's a double standard and sales reps despise this and managers who operate like this. Don't create a mutiny!
What Should Managers Do?
This is a delicate situation becuse top performers have big egos and frankly, it is not easy to develop an A player into an A+ player. As the manager you have to convince your top performer(s) that they still have untapped potential and that there is room for improved performance and that adopting a sales process is the path to improved performance.
We have a class in our sales methodology training program that we teach titled Maximizing Sales Results. In that class we talk about metrics, three in particular that sales reps should focus on for maximing their sales results. They're not industry standard metrics like number of meetings, job orders or placements. Instead they are:
- Increase deal size
- Accelerate your sales cycle (move more deals through your pipeline quicker)
- Improve sales win/closure rates
Adopting a sales process will enable sales reps to improve in all of these areas. I suggest you take a look at your top performers and see how they are performing in each of these areas. Perhaps applying these metrics will help you when coaching your top performers to identify ways in which they can improve their performance.
Sales Process Objection: The Sales Process is Not a Fit For Our Customers/It's Too Complicated
I remember years ago working as a sales reps for an IT consulting firm in which leadership made the investment to implement a sales process and a third party sales methodology. We had classroom training on the process and methodology 1-2 times per week over a period of several weeks. It was good training, the process and methodology made sense. But when I got on the phone or in front of a customer it was completely different. I remember thinking and feeling "imposing this sales process on our customer is like putting a square peg into a round hole." It wasn't working for me and I was getting really frustrated. I started pushing back on my manager and even the 3rd party trainers in our training classes. Here is how we handled it and how you can handle your reps when they start complaining that your sales process is too complex or not a fit for your customers.
First, part of our problem was the sales process was slightly flawed. It was flawed because it failed to account for how our buyers buy or the customer's purchasing process. To ensure your sales reps buy into your sales process be sure to include them in the process of actually building the process itself. Get their input with regards to the steps that a typical customer must complete in order to buy from you. Heck, I suggest managers and sales reps schedule a call or a meeting and actually interview their customers in order to properly map out the customer's purchasing process. This exercise will accomplish two things. First, you will get instant buy-in from your reps because they are now designing the sales process. Two, the objection of "the sales process is too complex" has now been addressed because we know exactly what steps our customers will have to take in order to buy from us. And we're not going to change how customers buy. It is what it is.
The second part of my problem with adopting the sales process-and I'd be shocked if this is not happening with your sales reps-is I just didn't have the skill, experience or confidence to effectively drive the conversation. Customers throw crazy curve ball questions at you, you show up for a meeting and unexpectedly three additonal people show up and you have no idea who they are, you hear objections you're unprepared for, the list goes on and on. My point being, its one thing to go through sales process and methodology training in a controlled enviornment (classroom setting) and quite another when you are on the battlefield.
When your sales reps say "the sales process is too complex to follow" what I think they are really saying (what I was saying from my experience anyway) is "I don't know how to handle "situation X" or "situation Y." So what do they do? They do whatever the customer tells them. They abandon the sales process and everything they were taught to do. And that my friends is where the opportunity and revenue is lost. Managers, there goes your bonus and that holiday vacation. So what's the answer?
What Should Managers Do?
I have written about this topic quite a bit over the years and that is managers need to learn to migrate away from simply being a manager to being that of a coach. In short they need to provide reinforcement coaching. Creating the time to coach your reps through the real life everyday scenarios they face on the battlefield is a critical step in driving adoption of your sales process and sales methodology. The coaching also goes a long way in answering the question "why do I need to follow a sales process?" Coaching your your reps through the scenarios they face everyday will clearly "connect the dots" for them and how adopting your sales process will improve their performance. There is a catch however. There is always a catch right?
This will sound so incredibly obvious but it is amazing how many managers (and owners) want to skip this step. The sales manager must fully adopt the sales process (and methodology) him/herself and be able to model the desired behaviors on the sales floor. In other words, manager's can't just talk the talk, they must walk the walk. Managers must lead by example by following the process while on sales calls and in sales meetings with their sales reps. The sales manager needs to be able to demonstrate how each step is to be executed. The sales manager needs to show their people what success looks like. People do what people see. Managers, you must show your reps how. And if you don't know how then you need to admit it (don't hide behind it) and get whatever help you may need.
A study conducted by Chief Sales Officer Insights found that companies that follow a sales process are more than 2.5X's more likely to hit their revenue goals than those without a sales process. With a sales process sales managers can:
- Quickly and easily identify and diagnose sales defficiencies and provide opportunity specific coaching
- Gain pipeline visibility
- Improve sales forecasting accuracy
- Increase sales win rates and quota attainment
- Accelerate new hire on-boarding
The list of benefits from adopting a sales process goes on and on but to reap those benefits managers must first learn how to overcome these common sales rep objections to adopting a sales process and get their buy-in. So be sure you spend enough time with your reps to understand their strenghs and weaknesses and their concerns about adopting a sales process. Only then can you begin to have the conversation in which you can overcome their concerns and not only get their buy in but get them to champion to idea for your other reps to follow.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.