Like the missing cog that keeps the wheel from turning, or the GPS that keeps spouting "make a legal u-turn," a broken sales process is not only detrimental to your business, but it is often easy to spot. Unfortunately, far too many companies ignore the broken sales process as they cling to outdated processes or strategies. The good news is that 2019 can be the year that you not only identify areas where your sales process is breaking down, but also take the steps needed to fix it.
Don't Rely On Duct Tape For A Permanent Solution
Duct tape might be the handyman's go-to to fix it all, but eventually the handyman will have to order a new part or replace the entire item. In other words, don't let duct tape be your cure for a broken sales process. Temporary patches might help you limp through the quarter (or even the year), but they won't lead to the stellar sales results that you want to have. To help you avoid the duct tape cure, here are four critical signs (and solutions) that your sales process is broken.
#1. It’s too detailed or complicated.
Stages are great, but like too many chefs in the kitchen, the more stages that you have in your sales process, the harder it will be for your entire team to memorize, internalize, and automatically move seamlessly from stage to stage. Instead of over complicating things, you should instead have between three to seven stages. Each stage should have a specific goal that helps the sale move forward.
To test if your sales process is too complicated, have each of your sales associates draw the process using one block for each stage. Next, have your team individually label the goal of each block. If the blocks are all labeled in the same fashion, and have the same goals, then your sales process isn't too complicated. However, if each sales associate comes up with a different number of blocks, alternative names, and varying goals, then you know that your sales process is too complicated. Conversely, if multiple goals are assigned to each block, then your sales process is becoming too detailed (and inevitably hindering the buyer's journey). The final stage of your test should be to ask, "where do most of our deals get stuck?" If your team doesn't have the same answer, then once again your sales process is probably too detailed and complicated. In this vein, while you want your team to have the room they need to be innovative, you don't want them to be so bogged down by the process that they aren't able to seamlessly guide prospects through each stage.
#2. It’s too vague.
On the other end of the spectrum is a sales process that is broken because it is too vague. When you fail to define clear goals for each stage, you are inevitably creating a slow sales process that not only confuses sales associates, but can also lead to missed opportunities. Keep in mind that your sales and marketing departments should be working together. If your sales associates don't know the goals of each stage, then they won't know what additional marketing materials need to be sent to their prospects.
If you want to address this type of broken sales process, then you need to clearly identify what customer activity indicates that the prospect is ready to move onto a new stage. With this in mind, you must also remember that stages aren't necessarily "complete," or "incomplete." Instead, the entire sales process should be a discovery. This means that closing commitments should be identifiable at every stage of the sales process. Through the latter action, your entire team will be able to agree on the actions or phrases that indicate the buyer is ready to move onto the next stage, which will inevitably create an optimized sales process.
#3. It doesn't connect with prospects or existing customers.
Cold emails and cold calls have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Sales departments across industries know that cold emails and calls are virtually ineffective, and yet they still cling to this outdated practice. In fact, with the copious amounts of digital communications and platforms that exist, it's important to note that if your team is still relying on cold calls and emails, then your sales process is probably broken.
To fix a broken sales process that relies too heavily on cold calls and emails, you will need to reexamine how you develop a rapport and bond with a prospect. When your sales associates rely on a LinkedIn title as the sole means for establishing a connection, you need to encourage them to dig a little further. Using the LinkedIn example, your sales associates should instead find out the following information before reaching out to the prospect.
- What LinkedIn posts has the prospect liked?
- What LinkedIn posts has the prospect made?
- What similar connections does the prospect have either with your company, industry, or competitors?
- Has the prospect visited your website, read any of your LinkedIn posts, or otherwise shown any interest in your company?
Answering the above types of questions will transition the cold lead into a warm one, while simultaneously giving your sales associates the chance to build rapport, establish a meaningful connection, and begin the sales journey on the right foot.
#4. It encourages sales associates to bail on the relationship once the prospect has purchased products or services.
The phrase of Q4 2018 was "customer success." Going forward into 2019, this phrase should become engrained into the minds of your sales associates. Customer success refers to the various ways that your team can help customers more advantageously use your products or services to achieve heightened levels of success. To embrace customer success, your sales team needs to be proactive with current customers. They need to listen to feedback, check in regularly, and maintain the relationship even after the sale has been completed. Finally, your sales associates should remember that customers are a great referral source who can help introduce new warm leads to your company's products or services. The moral of the story is simple, your sales process is broken if it doesn't encourage your team to continue the relationship after a prospect has purchased your products or services.
The Bottom Line: If It's Broken, Fix It!
Sales professionals are only as strong as the processes that they rely on. If your sales team is clinging to old playbooks that are no longer delivering the optimal results, then you need to move away from temporary duct tape patches and instead adopt permanent solutions that will optimize your sales process. Whether your team is relying on cold calling, becoming bogged down in complicated steps, or failing to follow-up with customers, one thing is certain, if you want to enjoy the optimal levels of success, then you need to identify and fix the areas where your sales process has broken down.