How to introduce process into a sales team

I like to joke that sales teams have their own laws of physics. In the real world, what goes up, must comes down, that’s gravity. On sales teams, most sellers believe that any semblance of process is just busy work getting in the way of making money.

The reality is that when it’s done poorly, the criticism leveled by sales people is spot on. Bad process can be a huge barrier. So let’s take a look at how to do process correctly, and why it tends to get overlooked

Why many sales teams get duped into avoiding process

Many CEOs or first time sales leaders get tricked into believing that sales is an art, and not a science. They’re uncomfortable with sales, and when they look at what their teams are doing, if they see that it is working, they don’t want to mess with it.

Yes, many leaders get tricked into thinking sales is magic, so they stay far way.  Inexperience sales leaders start to believe that process is the enemy of revenue, so process gets avoided by the plague.

Where should you start?AdobeStock_91536492-pnn94v1k9ok171bsel19u84

Well, the best place to start is to do the exact opposite. If your team is telling you that sales is magic, or it’s a black box of secrets, lift up the lid and shine light inside.

The easiest way to avoid this trick is if you start by selling the product yourself. As the CEO or the first VP of sales, then you should be the expert seller, and then everyone else after you should be doing some variation of the process that you figured out.  Lead by example if you’re starting out from scratch.

For someone who joins a company that’s further along, and won’t have the opportunity to sell first, things get trickier. In this case it’s your duty to pull back the curtain and figure out what people are doing. Listen to sales pitches, shadow 1:1s , take a look at what types of emails your team is sending and which ones are working.  The key here is digging in deep, and getting to the bottom of what’s actually working, and what’s not.  The catch-22 here is that a sales process and metrics would be the precise toll needed to help figure out what’s going on.

How to get people to believe you?

So now that you’ve seen what the team is doing, you probably have an idea of what’s working and what’s not. At this point you probably want to introduce some process to assure that the best practices are happening systematically, or you might just want to put a sales process in place to start measuring things.

Here’s where you need to realize that leading sales teams is an exercise in managing belief systems. No one is going to listen to you just because you are the boss. Sales people are the ultimate skeptics, and they need to be really convinced before they try something.  If they believe process is a waste of time, you’re going to have to sell everyone on the idea.  Here are a couple of quick steps, or you can read more about a full blow strategy here.

  • Figure out what’s in it for them, try to find something that has really short term benefits
  • Approach the influencers on the team first, they may be motivated to learn something new, or prove their leaderships skills
  • Do a pilot and show that process can be successful.

Patience is key

By definition process is a long ball strategy.  You don’t this if you’re simply trying to juice short term results.  But you should rollout process if you want to build a consistent, reliable, reproducible revenue model.

In the previous step, set expectations correctly so that people understand that things won’t happen over night.  After that, aim for a pilot project that will deliver some tangible results in a shorter amount of time.  But in the end, get comfortable waiting.  It takes time for a team to learn a process.  It then takes time to gather the metrics based on the process, or to go back and spot-check the data to make sure it’s correct.

Never forget to prove that it worked

Last, once you’ve put in all the effort selling people on that fact that it’s worth doing, and you’ve had the patience to wait it out, its time for victory!!

Here are the steps:

  • Show everyone the before and after numbers
  • Take the time to explain the progress to each individual involved, speak to the benefits for them as an individual
  • Ask questions, help your team engage with the results by asking them questions to see what kind of ideas the new data inspires!