We need to talk about sales processes

Flow chart of sales processes

Without sales you have no business. So why don’t companies have rigorous sales processes to match those for accounting or marketing, asks Tony Hughes of Huthwaite International

Ask a representative sample of decision-makers from UK businesses whether their company has proper sales processes in place and you’ll get a disappointing response.

Some will mutter something about a fancy new CRM system (which they may or may not actually use), but only 22 per cent (according to our research, in conjunction with YouGov) claim to have a common, widely understood and consistently applied set of strategies, tactics and behaviours to engage and persuade customers.

The research took in businesses of all shapes, sizes and sectors and the gaping holes where professional sales processes ought to be are more or less evenly spread among them all.

It’s unlikely that those same companies take a similarly ad hoc approach to accounting, manufacturing processes, corporate identity or whatever else makes them tick.

But, though selling is the one and only thing that actually delivers the revenue that will feed the employees and gratify the shareholders, it is often left to the personal whims and ticks of individuals to get the job done as they see fit.

There’s a solid base of detailed, observational groundwork and evidence-based models for best practice in this area, however.

How do buyers behave when they are weighing up a decision? What ought the selling organisation to be doing at each stage? How can you engage the prospect in a conversation that persuades them to buy your product or service?

Businesses thrive when they have a common language for describing a customer’s needs; a common set of behaviours for building value for your solution that matches those uncovered needs; a common means of analysing how advanced customers are (as an organisation and as individuals) in terms of their commitment to a purchasing decision; and a common way of planning and executing the negotiations that will capture the value they’ve generated.

Organisations around the world that have built sales excellence strategies on those foundations have consistently realised massive gains in new business. Can eight out of ten companies really afford to miss out on all that revenue growth?

Business-to-business selling these days is complex and multi-dimensional: everything from social media to powerful procurement departments has seen to that. Mavericks doing their own thing rarely produce the kind of results you can build a business on. It’s up to senior business leaders to establish a culture in which real rigour is brought to the sales discipline.

Of course, you may choose to infer from our research that many sales teams believe they have perfectly respectable processes and behaviours for communicating their value to customers and prospects, but the company leadership just doesn’t know anything about it. If that were my company, I’d be even more worried.

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About author

Tony Hughes

Tony Hughes

Tony Hughes is CEO at sales and negotiation experts Huthwaite International

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