It sounds pretty terrifying doesn’t it? It’s not. It is simply a way of applying scientific or mathematical principles to your sales process to achieve your goals.
I know many of the sales managers, directors and teams will be reading this and scoffing that “I do this already…” and I’m sure you do. Together, sales, marketing and customer service all play a fundamental role in the sales process and collectively, they will consume a significant portion of a company’s budget. So optimizing their role, finding ways to increase sales effectiveness and up profits across the board – at the lowest cost – is so important.
This is exactly where Sales Process Engineering can step up to the plate. Put simply, it is the quest to make salespeople’s efforts more productive.
How does Sales Process Engineering improve productivity?
Engineering a winning sales process has become a lot easier in the last decade or so, with the advent of CRM and sales force automation tools. These developments have been the root cause for many companies to increase their productivity of their sales (and marketing) teams.
Right. This is the point where it could get really technical and I could give you all sorts of spiel about the statistical analysis you can perform on your sales people, your accounts, your efficiency – but it’d waste your time. In my honest opinion, the very basic elements of the Six Sigma methodology are best applied to a sales process.
Six Sigma is a set of techniques designed for process improvement. It relies wholly on the assumption that removing the causes of defects and minimizing variability can optimize every process. Of course, not every sales process is going to be free from defects or a ‘no’ from a prospective customer but the DMAIC methodology still applies. That is: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control. It assumes that having a rigid process that is data driven and can be enforced will foster an improvement in any process.
Clearly outline your business goal. Of course, with any sales operation, the end goal is a “yes”, a closed deal and a new customer. For each prospect, a clear definition of their problem should be established and what elements of your sales and marketing mix are crucial to the process? Perhaps a free sample, some collateral that will get them excited or an online demonstration to name a few. But as a sales operation, this end goal should be the close of a sale.
Here, it is paramount that you establish the current baseline, that is the current sales cycle, as the basis for improvement. This is where data will come into play. How many calls do you have to make in order to get from one step to the next? How much discount do you have to offer a prospect of this size to close? What is your closing ratio? How big is your pipeline? Good data is at the heart of the DMAIC process, so it is essential that you have it at your fingertips in order to close the gap between current and required performance.
So now, you should have all your data collected during the Measure step in a nice, neat bundle ready to be analyzed. This is a crucial part of the DMAIC process and is where you will start to determine the root cause of any defects. That is, the reason why sales fall through and prospects head off to your competition. Identify the gaps between current performance and goal performance. If you are performing at 20% below target – find out why that is. How does your process input; that is your salespeople, your marketing team and their efforts affect the process output? It is not a be all and end all; we know that there will be some variation. If a deal worth a six figure sum lands at your feet, you’re going to make some changes to your sales process, it is to be expected.
This is where your inner creative can come to life. Some solutions to your problems will be obvious, like a need for more sales people or a bigger marketing budget. However, the more pressing problems might need an innovative solution that will set you apart from your competition. Test any costly solutions if possible, before committing to an investment and deploy improvements once you and your team are satisfied with the outcome.
Finally, comes an absolutely crucial step that will set this newly defined sales process in stone. You must monitor improvements to maintain success and to ensure success continues into the future. Business documents, process and training should be updated and any new starters in your sales team should be educated on this new process from day one.
Just a final note to thank one of our readers for requesting this post. If you have any suggestions, do get in touch and we’d be happy to get writing!