How to Make Salespeople 25% More Productive in 90 Days or Less

You probably have salespeople working overtime right now on deals that will be:

  • bad business if you win them (too much trouble, not worth the revenue)
  • lost to a competitor
  • lost to no decision

If you’ve been around professional sales organizations for a long time, you already know that poor salespeople ignore qualification criteria; good salespeople, and their managers, obsess about it.


How to Design Your Sales Process to Help Customers Buy Now

Everyone’s attention these days seems to be riveted on sales.

And rightly
so, given the economy. Recently I received inquiries from several
people working with a large organization that is very concerned about
its sales process. Seems the CEO is having difficulty telling Wall
Street where next quarter’s revenues will be.

No surprise there! The economic crisis affects large and small
companies: everyone needs to know where next month’s revenue will come

Forecasting sales has always been difficult, but, in a threatening
market like this, the problem is compounded by the need to get enough
people to buy in the first place!  This is a scary challenge,
especially with the state of the sales process in most organizations.
Ask yourself:

  • How much thought went into the design of your company’s sales process?
  • Was your sales process designed for the kind of market we have today?
  • Does anyone really care how a salesperson got the business, so long as they actually get it?

If you are like most companies, the answers to those questions are:

  • “It wasn’t ‘designed’; someone just sort of did what seemed to work at the time”
  • “No”
  • “Nope!”

So, with the
sales process so much in the spotlight, what are you supposed to do?
How can you figure out what changes will have the right effects? How
can you get everyone to realize that improving the sales process is the

On Thursday
of this week, Robert Ferguson and I will present the first of two
initial webinars around design principles and tips you need to make
your sales flow like water - and get results fast. Part one is this
Thursday, February 19:

“How to Design a Sales Process

For Customer Value and Continuous Improvement"

Guidebook Launch Webinar
Thursday February 19, 2009, 3:00pm Eastern Time

Visit that page now, and register for this unusual and timely event.

Part two will be next Thursday, February 26. More on that event soon.

Michael J Webb
February 17, 2009

How to Design Your Sales Process to Help Customers Buy Now

Everyone’s attention these days seems to be riveted on sales.

And rightly so, given the economy. Recently I received inquiries from several people working with a large organization that is very concerned about its sales process. Seems the CEO is having difficulty telling Wall Street where next quarter’s revenues will be.


Can Your Marketing and Selling Process Be Improved?

By Michael J. Webb, Sales Performance Consultants, Inc.

Originally published in Marketing Times Spring 2005

(pdf of this article)

Process improvement has revolutionized manufacturing over the past two decades, but is only now coming to sales and marketing. Yet it is coming, and it s something every marketing and sales executive should know about and consider employing.

Process improvement, also know as quality improvement, encompasses scientific approaches to management such as Six Sigma, Lean, and Total Quality Management. In general, these methods measure and analyze the parts of a business process, eliminate unneeded parts, fix broken ones, add new ones, and monitor improvement.


What is Six Sigma... and Why Should Marketing and Sales Managers Care?

Michael J. Webb, Sales Performance Consultants, Inc.
Originally published in Marketing Times Summer 2005
Subsequently published in Marketing Watchdog Journal, August 2005

(pdf of this article)

Six Sigma is a funny name for a serious way of boosting marketing and sales performance. It's already transformed manufacturing in hundreds of companies, and it is now doing the same in marketing and sales in companies such as Bank of America, Dell, General Electric, HSBC, Service Master, Johnson & Johnson, Standard Register, Sun Microsystems, Xerox, and many more.


Book Review - "Escaping the Black Hole"

Escaping the Black Hole: Minimizing the Damage from the Marketing-Sales Disconnect
Robert Schmonsees, Thompson Publishing, 2005

How much of your marketing and selling budget is wasted?

In "Escaping the Black Hole -Minimizing the Damage from the Marketing and Selling Disconnect" (Thompson Publishing, 2005), author Bob Schmonsees demonstrates that in many companies that waste is as much as 25% as a result of misaligned assets, processes, and activities.

Schmonsees begins with an examination of the symptoms and costs of dysfunctional sales and marketing relationships, and traces them directly to the heart of the problem: misalignment of the key processes and assets that drive the day-to-day activities of marketing and sales professionals. He also provides the reader with two axioms that will help companies institutionalize the principles of solutions centric-selling and turn the way they go to market into a sustainable competitive advantage.

  • Marketing and sales must institutionalize a greater understanding of the customer's business problems and the implications of those problems on the constituencies and stakeholders they sell to.
  • The way a company markets and sells must be subservient to the way their customers buy.

Schmonsees brings a wealth of background to his project, including a stint as salesman at IBM, and chief marketing and sales officer for several medium and large software and services companies where he implemented early versions of lead and pipeline management and sales forecasting applications. He has invested in and advised dozens of high-tech startups, and founded a successful technology startup called WisdomWare in 1996. Along the way he lived in the trenches of sales and sales management, as well as living the life of a harried marketing executive. He has made the mistakes he chronicles in the book, and is able to present a reasoned approach for dealing with its challenges.

Schmonsees introduces what he calls a "Value-Centric Communications Model" based on a value map of customer and stakeholder needs, and product and service capabilities. That map is the basis for a deliberate process of developing, deploying, and gathering feedback on "sanctioned" marketing communications content used in the course of converting prospects to customers. This content is a means of integrating everything that surrounds the salesperson and touches the customer such as sales tools and training, CRM systems, marketing and product collateral, and promotional vehicles and media. In Schmonsees' view managing and maintaining the intellectual assets is the essence of connecting the marketing and sales functions, and of improving effectiveness and reducing waste in marketing and sales organizations.

Schmonsees' perspectives are expansive and candid. I found myself cheering at sections titled "B 2 B Branding Blunders" and "The Failure of Solutions Selling." At the same time, although he liberally shares stories and anecdotes from his background, many of his diagrams and concepts would benefit from even more specific case examples and illustrations.

Yet the business world needs more books like this one. Far too many corporations are saddled with marketing managers who have no clue what their salespeople's lives are like, sales managers who are weak on analytical ability or vision, and senior executives who have difficulty thinking like a customer. I highly recommend "Escaping the Black Hole" for its expansive and comprehensive and healthy view of how to improve sales and marketing organizations today.

Mr. Schmonsee's website ( contains information and resources for companies that want to escape the black hole. You can reach him at (540) 872-5379 or

Book Review: "Sales and Marketing the Six Sigma Way" by Michael J. Webb with Tom Gorman

Reviewed by Paul Harmon

(pdf of this article)

When most people think of Six Sigma, they think of it as deriving from the Quality Control movement in the mid-Eighties and being used by Motorola, GE, Texas Instruments and other manufacturing companies to refine their production processes. In fact, Six Sigma has come a long way. It has incorporated Lean techniques and it spread to other types of business processes. Michael J. Webb and Tom Gorman have written a book on how Six Sigma (and Lean) can be used to improve Sales and Marketing processes, and suffice to say that any marketing or sales manager who reads this will be convinced.

The book has a number of detailed case studies and several smaller cases. In all cases Webb focuses on identifying the problem and then suggesting a remedy. He argues that most sales and marketing managers don't understand their specific sales processes well enough to know how to fix them. He describes a case, for example, where managers urge standard solutions: Hire more salespeople, train the salespeople in a new technique, do more marketing. Here's a summary of one of Webb's examples:

"To bring in more business, the private banking division of a major financial institution decided to hire more salespeople. But first, it asked an internal quality improvement expert to examine its sales process. This person found that the division's procedure for opening accounts-and the information it required caused customers to drop out at that point. By changing its account-opening procedure, the division increased its revenue by 18 percent in one year with no increase in staff."

This brief example provides a good insight into Webb's approach which involves carefully studying the sales process to determine where problems arise. To facilitate a good analysis of the process, Webb insists that Marketing, Sales and Support must be treated as sub-processes of one overall process. He generally refers to the overall Sales and Marketing Process as being divided into Finding, Winning and Keeping.

One of his innovations is to track the number of prospects through the entire process. Thus, for each activity in the overall Sales and Marketing Process, he lists the average number of prospects being addressed. This is a variation of the idea of sales as a sieve or funnel, but it's much more powerful since it not only shows how each step reduces the numbers, but suggests which activities you would need to explore to determine how to increase the numbers being passed from one activity to the next. (I'll never do diagrams of sales processes in the future without using this simple technique.)

The emphasis on the average number of prospects being addressed by each activity in the Sales and Marketing process leads Webb into a detailed discussion of measures of all kinds and he rightly argues that getting good numbers is the key to understanding any process. In another nice example, Webb considers how one conducts a Sales Operations Audit that ties sales activities to Activity-Based Costing, and how that in turn allows the sales manager to tie process changes directly to changes in the financial statements of the company.

In still another case Webb introduces the idea of tracking exactly how the customer's process corresponds to the sales and marketing process. I hadn't read this before writing my advisor last month on Customer Process analysis, but if I had I would certainly have cited Webb. He clearly lays out how one should focus on the experience you are putting the customer through and examines how each step is perceived by the customer as either adding value or wasting his or her time. Powerful stuff!

The heart of the book is Chapter 4, An End-to-End Six Sigma Project That Increased Revenue by 94 Percent. This chapter walks the reader though a complete project that the author worked on, as a Black Belt that sought to improve the revenue from a Web site. This is as nice an introduction to doing a Lean Six Sigma project as I have encountered. Moreover, it is entirely focused on a sales problem, so it's a perfect introduction to Six Sigma for any sales, marketing or service manager. More broadly, it's a great introduction to Six Sigma for anyone interested in how one can use Lean and Six Sigma to address service processes.

In the Seventies, I worked primarily with banks to improve sales processes. At that time, I considered writing a book on how one analyzed and redesigned sales processes, which is only to say that I thought a lot about the problems of sorting out sales. My vision, at that time, however, wasn't as comprehensive as the vision of Webb and Gorman. They have written the best book on improving sales processes that I've ever read. Moreover, it's a very well written book that explains things simply and then provides enough examples to convince you that their approach is worth trying.

There are lots of books sold on sales and marketing every year. Most advocate a new technique or methodology. This book is different. It explains, in a convincing way, that you improve sales only by understanding exactly what your customer wants, what you are doing, and then carefully aligning each activity to assure that you provide the best value to anyone you are trying to turn into a customer. This is an analytic approach to sales that goes well beyond the usual focus on numbers to focus instead on the processes that produce the numbers.

Everyone interested in sales or marketing should read this book. Every senior manager who wishes his company was doing a better job of marketing and selling should skim it and then give it to his SVP for sales and marketing. Anyone interested in knowing how Six Sigma can be used to improve service processes will also find it worthwhile. Any business process practitioner should have it on his or her shelf and grab it whenever they are asked to help improve a sales or marketing process.

Paul Harmon is the executive editor of BPTrends. He is the coauthor of several books on expert systems.



Need to Improve Salespeople's Behaviors? Don't Bother with Sales Training or CRM Until You Face the Facts

by Michael J. Webb

(pdf of this article)

Have you ever wondered, what is the best way to incorporate sales training methodologies in a CRM system? Sometimes the question comes when a company wants a better return from their CRM software. Other times it comes from a sales training company hoping to capitalize on integration of
their sales methodology with some CRM software.


Three Proven Tactics to Get Salespeople's Cooperation in Launching New Initiatives

by Michael J. Webb

(pdf of this article)

One of the most common questions from executives trying to improve sales and marketing results is this:

"How can we get our salespeople's cooperation in our new (blank) initiative?"

Whether you are trying to implement process improvement, CRM, a product launch, or a lead generation campaign, getting salespeople's attention, support, and active cooperation is critical, yet is often painful and frustrating. Salespeople can often seem to be the most resistant, uncooperative group in the company.


Five Ways to Minimize Sales and Marketing Frustration, Waste, and Cost

by Michael J. Webb

(pdf of this article)

What steps of your sales and marketing process produce the most cost, waste, and frustration? Here are five important mistakes you can work on to make your sales and marketing more productive. Fixing any of these five areas will produce big returns for your organization.