What’s more important – sales itself or the process to get those sales?
Most people would argue that sales are the ultimate metric for any company; they’re not wrong, but they also don’t tell the whole story.
For instance, what’s your churn rate for those customers? How happy are they with your product? Likewise, how motivated is your sales team to continue pitching and what kind of turnover do you have in your employees?
While focusing on sales should be the focus of every business, an equal (if not greater) amount of attention should be paid towards the sales process itself. Get that right, and the sales will take care of themselves.
Why should I focus on process more than sales?
Processes drive your business. Once you find the right set of actions that lead to a sale, you’ll be able to replicate that procedure across your entire team.
But as any good salesperson knows, the art of closing the deal is as much about the person as it is about the product or service. As humans, they’re prone to anxiety swings and bouts of discouragement. Fail to close too many deals in a row, and their confidence in themselves will start to suffer.
If nothing else, that’s why focusing on the process rather than the sales itself will immediately benefit your sales team. Instead of forcing them to live or die based on outcomes they can’t fully control (like closing every single deal), you base their performance on things that are totally within their grasp.
Tips to create a more action-based sales process
A full overhaul of your sales process won’t happen overnight, nor will it be easy. Salespeople who have been used to riding on those successes have to reorient their mindset to focus on the minutiae – actions that, in their eyes, don’t necessarily move the needle.
Over time, these tips will create a more predictable sales engine for your business, along with a more driven sales team.
Evaluate the big picture
Sales can be a smokescreen for your business’ real purpose. A steady increase of year-over-year sales is great, but what is generating that success? What are you really accomplishing?
In other words, what is your “why”?
Take a step back and evaluate your business’ greater purpose beyond year-end projections. If your company has a charitable component, how much revenue does it take to achieve those goals? Do you have plans to expand? If so, how much will that take?
A clear set of measurable goals means that you’re shooting for something solid instead of just trying to grab as much as you can. Make sure your goals are realistic, then communicate that to your team.
Determine appropriate metrics
Everyone loves data. The best salespeople know how to read the numbers and make informed decisions regarding their audience, approach, and product.
But the most relevant KPIs for your business may not be the ones you’re looking at. Instead of focusing solely on demographic information and company size, try to evaluate how many leads you’ll need in order to reach your aforementioned goals.
To do this, you’ll need to have a good idea of your closing rate. The average salesperson closes 20% of their leads, so if you need 100 sales this month to reach your quota, you’ll need 500 qualified leads.
But how many prospects do you need to get those 500 qualified leads? If only 25% of your leads are qualified, then you’ll need to send out 2000 proposals this month.
Those are the metrics you need to focus on. Start with the number of sales you need, then work backward to determine your initial KPI.
Commit to learning
As good as your sales techniques are, they can always be improved. Commit to learning a few basic tips from industry experts in the most basic practices, such as how to ask for the meeting, how to interact with different people, and how to determine qualified leads from tire-kickers.
Some of this experimentation can come from the customers themselves. Whether you’re selling data center infrastructure or single-family homes, you should devote a significant amount of time to understanding your audience and building a relationship with them. Use every one of your sales meetings as an opportunity to learn more about what their needs are, instead of simply trying to close a sale.
It’s always a good idea to cycle back and learn the basics of your own industry. Over time, salespeople can become so enveloped in their own product or service that they forget to keep up with the changes in the industry. Companies that offer virtual receptionists or travel packages, for instance, are constantly undergoing changes. It’s up to the sales team to become – and remain – experts in their field so that they can confidently communicate their product or service to the customer.
Evaluate your own performance
Self-evaluation is the key to constant growth, but most people don’t do it nearly enough. One study by Harvard Business School found a direct link between self-reflection and performance, so even a few minutes at the end of the week to ask yourself some key questions may dramatically impact your sales performance.
While you should always ask yourself basic emotional questions – “Did I feel confident?” or “Where can I improve?” – make sure to focus on your metrics as well. Did you reach your quota of prospects and leads? Did you send out the number of emails you said you needed?
In order for this to work, you have to be honest with yourself. Celebrate if you reached your quantifiable goals, or make a plan to rebound if you missed the mark.
During this self-reflection, you can also identify new areas to grow. Most great salespeople are also great storytellers, so if appealing to people’s emotions isn’t a strong suit of yours, evaluate how to do better. If your communication is online, try using some photo effects on your images to strike a different chord with your core audience.
One of the best things about an action-based sales process is the ability to track your growth over time. Instead of focusing on sales numbers, which can be notoriously fluid, you’re able to evaluate whether you are mastering your own objectives.
It may seem forced at first, but the stability and confidence boost you gain over time will be more than worth it.