Optimizing Sales Process to Drive Revenue
by Kraig Kleeman
Publisher / Chairman
Our research is conclusive...
Our analysts have observed thousands of sales presentations, activities, and tasks across hundreds of professional sales organizations within the information technology industry. Our research is conclusive: Many organizations make the mistake of deploying sales professionals independent from establishing a sound sales process that has been properly vetted, tested, and optimized for excellence. This occurrence is to the detriment of enterprise efficacy.
This paper is the first in a series that will address a variety of vital issues analyzing the topics of sales process and lead development. The research behind this paper is heavily analyzed and grouped by information technology related product types, and associated types of selling processes that ought to be employed, versus what are actually employed. This paper deals with metrics and outcomes, not particularly prescribed vendor models or modalities. We will discuss average to below average practices (laggards) with compared to best practices (leaders) in the realm of sales process and sales cycle effectiveness: Numbers of formal sales calls and elapsed time from first contact to agreement execution will be thoroughly reviewed. At the conclusion of this paper, we will provide a checklist for analyzing sales process healthfulness in the context of information technology selling, and the varied product areas that are commonly being sold in today’s marketplace.
Architecting a cancerous model for selling
The overriding philosophy for adopting optimized standards for a strong sales process lies in a deeper understanding and appropriate definition of the various product disciplines being offered. More precisely, there are efficiency standards for sales cycle models that are commensurate with sale price, product complexity, the inclusion or omission of professional services, and title of target that holds budgetary responsibility. The size of the department or enterprise that is being targeted is also a critical measurement. Few executive management teams understand this basic concept. And fewer still incorporate this truth into the architectural design of their sales process. Many executive teams recruit, train and deploy large field organizations without having standardized on a proven model that, when fed with appropriate lead development and lead cultivation processes, will flourish through a successful “feeding of the machine”. To the detriment of enterprise efficiency, many technology sales organizations are either under-nourished from a lead cultivation / lead development perspective, or they are mis-developed from a sales process perspective. Large, acquisitive organizations with multiple product offerings that vary greatly by product type are particularly vulnerable as they often attempt to standardize on one selling process company-wide. Just as one shoe does not fit all people’s feet, one over-riding sales process cannot fit all product / solution disciplines within a growing, acquisitive organization that markets a diverse portfolio of products.
Root causes / deficiencies
The deficiencies are sometimes the result of executive incompetence. Other times it’s the result of mediocre line managers who execute poorly. Still other times it’s the result of hiring deficient personnel. But more times than not, it’s the direct result of deploying an untested / poorly architected sales process that is misaligned with practical tasks that will produce desired outcomes. This article discusses the importance of developing a credible, programmatic selling transformational effort, with special emphasis on architecting sales process so as to match product / solution type.
A medical analogy is relevant: Most of the skin’s upper layers (epidermis) consist of what is referred to in the medical community as squamous cells. More than 700,000 new cases of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are diagnosed every year. That makes it the second most common skin cancer (after basal cell carcinoma). It is a proven, medical fact that untreated, chronic skin infections or inflammations can and often do de-generate into squamous cell carcinoma. It goes without saying that early detection for any serious health related issue significantly increases proper diagnosis and treatment, especially cancer. Our research is clear: Poor systems for lead development and / or lead cultivation are rampantly undetected and untreated in the information technology industry. What’s more, poor methodologies for sales process are also rampantly undetected and untreated. When left untreated, this condition becomes chronic and results in measurable productivity loss that ultimately impacts enterprise efficacy. It’s time for a metaphorically penetrating question: Does your sales organization have the equivalent of cancer. Do you know if it does? Can you professionally diagnose your own organization? Further, if cancer is detected, do you have the knowledge to treat your team’s cancerous condition?
Sales process and transaction type
Subscription based, cloud-computing offerings with short-term contracts that tend to achieve high renewal rates is very different than an enterprise-class, on-premises product sale that incorporates the need to coalesce a clear consensus from multiple stakeholders. Wrongly, most sellers allow the target buyer to dictate the length of the sales cycle, versus adopting a well planned, pro-active process that gives the seller influence and near-control over next steps, timeframes, and all action tasks for deal advancement that will lead to closure. Teams are not trained to draw “swift conclusions”. As such, un-cleansed sales pipelines lead to poor sales forecasting. This poverty in sales forecasting in turn leads to poverty in cash forecasting and cash management along with a variety of other negative cascading actions that adversely affect enterprise performance. The table below identifies product types, related characteristics, and the average length of sales cycle elapsed time, benchmarking laggards from leaders.
Structured Activity Always Generates Revenue
Structured activity when coupled with the right technique and the right systems for accountability and measurement will always lead to revenue. Though not comprehensive, below is our “top ten list” of critical competency checklist truths that, when applied properly, leads to a realignment of sales strategy, process, technique, and tracking analytics which consistently boosts sales pipelines along with revenue production.
2. Message Optimization
8. Technology Issues / Recommendations
9. Email Content Review
I, personally, am a cancer over-comer. More than 15 years ago I was personally diagnosed with squamous cell cancer on my larynx. At a minimum, the implications of this disease was a potentially occupational hazard for me, i.e. complete loss of my larynx which would spell disaster for my chosen career and way my basic personality expressions. Fortunately, I was blessed to receive amazing medical assistance from a brilliant man named Dr. Robert Bastian. Early detection meant aggressive intervention, according to my good and honorable expert consultant, Dr. Robert Bastian. My body reacted violently to the radiation treatment. The treatment itself, at times, seemed like it was going to kill me. I have never been so sick and bed ridden in my entire life. I went from a robust, weight-lifting 155 pounds to a feeble 117 pounds in a matter of weeks. The whole experience was hell on earth for me personally. But only for a little while. After the painful intervention, the healing process began for me, and ultimately, became complete. Dr. Bastian is a man of both extreme knowledge and unflappable faith. During my time of suffering he would encourage me to stand on certain principles of authentic, faith-filled thinking. Bible passages like “He wounded me because He loved me…” became a great source of inspiration and courage during that dreadful time. My now ex-wife was an absolute saint towards me at that time, she guided me through my darkest hours.
1 Blaire Group Research, Sales Process: Metrics & Trends
2 Blaire Group Research, Outcomes Based Selling
3 Skin Cancer Foundation, Squamous Cell Carcinoma, The Second Most Common Skin Cancer
4 Blaire Group Research: Measuring Sales Process: Leaders vs. Laggards
5 Blaire Group Research: Measuring Sales Process: Leaders vs. Laggards