If it’s not clear already, I am a subscriber to the school of process. Building sales machines is all about aligning and inspiring people and processes. That is why businesses who are in sales will use specific software to support their sales teams (check over here for more information on this) so that productivity is always at the top. We’ll save the people topic for another post, but for now, I want to focus on why the process is so critical. Every new startup that begins building a sales team goes through this question. Every new sales leader asks themselves is it really worth the effort to invest in the process, when I’d rather be selling… The answer is yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
So below I’ll lay out my top 7 reasons for being process driven from the beginning:
1) The things that get repeated, actually get done
In a fast growing startup the environment can typically best be described as total chaos. If you don’t have a list of things that you’re going to do on every sale, or a recurring calendar meeting to make sure something gets done, it will slip through the cracks. Don’t assume that things will happen regularly if they’re not written down, and seared into the teams psyche, there are too many distractions
2) It decreases the time it takes to ramp a new employee
If you don’t have a systematic way to do something, that means every employee has to figure it out on their own. Every new team member has to re-invent the wheel on how to prospect and find leads, how to call leads, how to run a pitch deck, etc. This is massively inefficient, and it reduces the target profile of employees that can be successful in your company to only people that can figure it out on their own. Yes, you can build a small sales team on those types of people, but it starts to get really tough when you scale past 10 or 20.
3) The act of defining a process helps you solidify your thoughts
Sitting down to define the process for a stage in your sales process actually helps you think through the problem. Let’s say that you’ve realized your new sales hires are struggling to prospect their own leads. At this point you would sit down to write out all the steps that your top performers are using to find good leads. During this process you may learn that they were doing something you had not been teaching the new hires. You may also learn that by writing out each of the steps, you might have been teaching the new hires in a way that was super confusing. Take the time to write out the steps, good things will come.
4) It helps you prove and measure what works
Yes, start-ups and fast growing sales teams can be messy. There are often so many moving variables, that you can’t hold any of them constant enough to confirm if any of your tactics are working. Defining a clear process on how to do something, and measuring the results of that process over a meaningful amount of time is one of the only way to confirm whether or not it’s working. If you have 100 sales people doing things in a 100 ways, its much harder to be confident in which methods are working.
5) It sheds light on the magical myth of sales and talent
Most Entrepreneurs and CEOs don’t have intimate pior experience with sales teams. Sales often gets viewed as a magical black box that operates by it’s own set of rules. This same way of thinking get’s applied to top performers, people assume they’re gifted because no one can explain how they are getting the results. The reality is that these beliefs only persist when someone doesn’t dig in deep enough to what’s going on. Watch a team or a top performer long enough, and you’ll uncover the process that they are using for success. Sometimes that process relies on skill that is not found in a wide group people, true. But that doesn’t mean it’s black magic.
6) Team’s can’t work together if they don’t have a process
The most classic example here is an SDR / AE team pairing. It will never work if both teams don’t have a systematic process in place, with a clear definition of the stages, and a defined method for handing leads off from one team to the other. You can not recover from a bad process. The teams will be blaming things on each other, and productivity will suffer. Put a process in place, and all of sudden the situation starts to look really interesting. Team members start to build trust, and productivity starts to lift.
7) Sales teams do what they believe works
If you start off a sales team without any notion of process, and they taste any amount of success, they will attribute that success to the lack of process. You’ll be facing an uphill battle every single day to make the case that having a process could actually improve results. Set the foundation, built a culture of process from the beginning. Be discipline, don’t build process that drives people crazy and reduces productivity. Lead by example and show them how valuable a couple of bullet points on a page can be.