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Process Is People

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Process is critical to creating a high-performing sales team. You need the right tools in place to be able to make quick judgements about what’s working, and what isn’t, and your staff need to know how to navigate from prospect to closed deal as efficiently as possible. Having a standardized process that clearly articulates how to prospect, qualify, pitch, and close a deal is not just a good thing, it’s a necessity. But sometimes, particularly when things aren’t going their best, it can be easy to fall into the trap of over-engineering the sales process.

Great sales managers understand that at the end of the day, the only way to get business through the door is with great people. Having a highly regimented, complex sales processes can confuse sales reps and tie their hands. Worse, when process gets too out of hand it can even lead to your best reps going elsewhere.

As with so many things, the secret here is balance. Figuring out that balancing point is your job as the sales manager. You need enough process to keep your team effective and continually improving, but not so much process that you’re hamstringing them with bureaucratic overhead.

Where that balance lies will be different for every team. It depends on the nature of the business (are there legal process requirements?), the length of the sales cycle (are you trying to close them on the first contact, or is this an 18 month strategic sale?), the demographics of the team (is your team composed of first time reps, senior account executives, or a mix?), and countless other items. What doesn’t change is the importance of finding that balance. It can be the difference between mediocrity and excellence.

If you’re the head of an existing organization with a large amount of process already in place, take a hard look at it. Set aside at least a full day and look critically at each and every step of your defined process. Ask yourself, how much value does this step add to the sales process, and how much time does it take away from the sales team? If a step can be improved, or better, removed, then do so.

If you’re just starting off writing a formal sales process, be as judicious as possible. Add the minimum number of steps. Then, over time, as you see areas where process can improve the team, go ahead and add steps to the process. But periodically (annually is probably a good time frame) go back and conducting the paring exercise above.

Done right, a good sales process can make your good hires into excellent sales reps. Done wrong, a bad process can scare away your best people. Do it right.