Step 3. Improve Processes

Introduction

Inefficient and ineffective processes cause a ripple effect throughout your sales organization. Exemplary performers create their own work arounds. Average performers attempt to comply but redundant work results in frustration and wasted time. And poor performers blame them for their lack of achievement. As a sales leader you can’t ignore inefficient, ineffective, or missing processes. At the same time you must take a selective and strategic approach to fixing them.

You and your sales team use many processes in the course of doing your jobs. There are processes for submitting expense reports, booking travel, analyzing opportunities, managing accounts, and conducting product demonstrations to name just a few. But in this step we need to focus on the processes that enable your sales people to produce high value high impact work products.

Objectives

  • To list all processes your team uses in the course of doing their jobs
  • To rank each process according to its impact on work products
  • To determine the effectiveness of the top 5 processes
  • To fix, update, or create critical processes
  • To ensure sales people are proficient using the most important processes

Duration

You should be able to complete the first three objectives in less than an hour. The last two objectives vary in duration depending on the process, your authority, and available resources.

Materials

You will need pencil and paper or your preferred note taking method. Have a copy of your Step 1. Align Sales Goals with Sales Strategy and Step 2. Identify High Value High Impact Work Products close by for reference and focus. I have attached a worksheet for your convenience as well.

Directions

  1. LIst all of the processes you and your team use through the course of doing your jobs.
    • A list helps you see where to focus your time and effort so you don’t get bogged down trying to fix something you can’t control. For example, the Accounting Department has a cumbersome and non-intuitive process for submitting expense reports that wastes the sales team’s time and causes frustration, but you have little to no control over it.
  2. Rank each process according to its impact on work product production.
    • Which processes produce the most important work products you identified in Step 2 of the Sales Strategy Execution System? Is there an existing well-defined process that supports each important work product?
  3. Determine the effectiveness of the top 5 processes. Do they work as intended and expected? Are improvements in order? Are there any critical processes missing?
  4. Fix or improve the top five processes.
    • Fix the things you can. Work with cross functional teams to create or improve others.
  5. Check that your sales team is proficient at following and completing the most important processes.
    • Do you need to provide training? Do you need to communicate your expectations more clearly? Do you need to observe progress more frequently?

Example

Our example sales leader needs to execute their company’s sales strategy which is to move into new markets by offering the company’s latest product offering to new and existing accounts that fit their ideal customer profile. Let’s follow their progress through the first three steps in the system.

Step 1. Align Sales Goals with Sales Strategy

The sales leader’s sales team goals are as follows:

  1. Achieve $_______ revenue target.
  2. Attain 50% of revenue target from new product sales.
  3. Identify 20 accounts in each territory to target.

Step 2. Identify High Value High Impact Work Products

The sales leader ranks the following as their top 3 work products necessary to achieve their goals.

  1. Opportunity analyses – A high quality opportunity analysis should be at least (example) 80% complete with information gathered as per their company’s sales process.
  2. Pipeline report – The updated pipeline report that reflects the change in sales strategy.
  3. New Product Introductory Presentation – Each sales person should develop, rehearse, and perform a new product introductory presentation to the satisfaction of their sales leaders.
  4. New Product Demonstration – Each sales person should practice and perform a new product demonstration that follows established demonstration guidelines and process.
  5. Account Management Plan – Each sales person maintains an updated account management plan at all times.

Step 3. Improve Processes

Moving on to Step 3 the sales leader starts with the process the sales team uses to produce their number one high value high impact work product.

  1. A high quality opportunity analysis is the product of a well-defined sales process.
    • Our example sales leader has a sales process in place, but some sales people consistently produce poorly populated opportunity analyses. The first order of business is to determine if there is a process or people problem.
      • The sales leader should first check that the sales process is well-defined and documented. A good idea is to seek input from exemplary performers who can provide a user’s experience and perspective.
      • Make improvement where necessary, update the team, and make sure it is available.
      • Review, repeat, and remind – our sales leader may need to communicate their expectations more clearly.
      • Is more training required? Perhaps the sales leader needs to reinforce training and provide coaching.
  2. The pipeline report is produced from a well established lead generation process. Our sales leader is satisfied that Marketing’s lead generation program and process is working the way it is intended and as expected.

Our example sales leader continues with this process review for each process on their list and addresses quick fix issues, makes notes for improvements, assigns action items when appropriate, and schedules status updates.

Accountability

Accountability for Step 3 falls on the process owner. As a sales leader, you own the sales process, funnel management process, and forecast process. Consequently, you must hold yourself accountable for process efficiency and effectiveness and hold your sales people accountable for process compliance and completion. Achieving accountability may be as simple as stating expectations, monitoring progress, and a pat on the back.

Evaluation Method

Success in Step 3 is measured by improved work product quality, reduced friction and frustration, and improved productivity. Make a note of your progress and share your successes with your manager and your team.

Sales leaders, improving processes provides opportunities to demonstrate leadership and drive results. After all, you have the most visible job in the company. As a sales leader, you are the face of the company to your customers. You are your sales team’s best advocate. And, when you hit your revenue goals, you are a hero. You have more power potential than you know!