Will This Year’s Sales Process Create the Results You Need Next Year?

“The ‘measurements’ weren’t telling anything about reality.
They were telling just the opposite …”

What do you measure in the day-to-day operation of your sales process?

Most companies have only rudimentary measurements (if they measure anything at all). They count initial contacts (e.g., phone dials or cold calls), appointments or demonstrations, proposals, and closes.

Unfortunately, this information is almost useless. It really is. One reason for this is that it is haphazardly acquired (salespeople, rightfully, hate to track this stuff).

For example, one VP I worked with was proud of the information in his CRM system. He had enforced a requirement that salespeople enter their opportunities into the CRM system in order to generate a quote / proposal.

The result? A great stream of data about quotations, and an impressive close ratio.

However, an analysis of those close ratios revealed the opposite of what everyone thought. We presented a team of managers and salespeople with a chart illustrating the close ratios of each salesperson, ranked from lowest to highest performance.

The person with the lowest close ratio, Chris, was one of the top producing salespeople in the company – had been for years

Of course, the salespeople were using the CRM only because they were forced to. They entered only the quotes they had to formalize with customers, the ones they were pretty sure they were going to win.

Chris, on the other hand, embraced the system and tried to use it as a tool to keep himself organized. He entered all of his opportunities, not just the “good ones.” That’s why his close ratio was lower than anyone else’s.

The “measurements” weren’t telling anything about reality. They were telling the opposite.

This doesn’t mean measures are impossible in this environment. It means you have to challenge your assumptions  – you have to make sure you’ve actually connected to reality. 

What You Think You Know Ain’t Necessarily So

Most executives are not used to thinking critically about the sales process. Their assumptions about how it works and what can be (and should be) measured have gone unchallenged for years. It makes them uncomfortable to start thinking they might not know what is going on.

Yet the world is changing faster now than at any time in history. Who would have guessed the dramatic impact the Internet is having? That customers would be seeking answers to their questions and problems via search engines many times every day? That old models of prospecting, qualifying, demonstrating, and closing don’t work the same way in this environment?

The fact is the typical measurements of most company’s “sales process” aren’t measuring much of anything. Scratch the surface, and you’ll find:

gaping differences in how various people interpret the terms such as lead, cold call, qualified prospect, proposals, etc.
performance and compensation expectations that conflict with what customers want
dramatic variations in how both sales and marketing people do their jobs

In this environment, even if there were a measurement system, it wouldn’t be able to do its job.


How a Marketing Kaizen Event Can Make
Your B2B Website Rock in 90 Days or Less
A Teleseminar for B2B Companies


Your Gut is Not Smarter than Your Head, But if That is All You Have …

Sales and marketing managers have little choice in this environment. You can’t blame them for it. You have to thank and respect them for surviving in such a savage situation.

Then you have to begin figuring out how to help them get out of this pit, because you cannot improve what you can’t measure. That goes double for a sales process, especially a multi-step environment with multiple buying influences.

This situation is not going to change on its own. The organization will continue to go down the same tracks, buying sales training, marketing campaigns, tradeshows, and so forth. 

Ask yourself, “Will this year’s sales process create the results you need next year?”

Improving your organization’s sales and marketing results is completely outside your control until you establish a reasonable, measurable process, one in which the connection to reality is validated. Middle managers, like marketing and sales managers, desperately need the signals provided by a measurement system to tell them when value is being added and when it isn’t. Right now, they are relying on gut feel, and this is what must be changed.

This is a scary thought for most sales and marketing executives, but it doesn’t have to be.

The fact is, there is a great way to execute a limited, effective intervention that will improve results measurably for your sales and marketing process in 90 days or less.

It is a Kaizen Event for sales and marketing.

It is obvious that companies should be applying scientific principles like Lean, Six Sigma, and Kaizen to their marketing and selling, but until now, there hasn’t appeared to be an effective approach. What companies need is a way to:

  • Gain more business in the short term
  • Assure a positive result, while limiting the risk
  • Ensure a positive experience by their team, especially by field sales
  • Enable ongoing, continuous improvement without assistance from the outside

Most importantly, they need to be sure that the process changes in a meaningful, positive way – right away!

In short, the situation with most sales and marketing organizations is tailor made for Kaizen Events. Last month (on November 5), I conducted the first in a series of teleconferences around Kaizen Events in sales and marketing. In that teleconference, I illustrated how the principles of process improvement (TQM, Lean, Six Sigma, and Kaizen) could be applied to sales and marketing. I provided a model for the right way of conducting value stream mapping in sales and marketing. The response was tremendous – more than 300 people have now registered or viewed that teleconference, many asking for more information.

This week, on Thursday, I’ll be demonstrating an even more timely application of Kaizen: I’ll be interviewing John Fox, expert in B2B marketing and the author of “The Marketing Playbook.” We’ll present a simple, high-voltage way to juice up your company’s lead generation efforts. This subject is of focal interest to our audience, but is only one avenue for sales process improvement using the Kaizen approach.

Most importantly, you’ll learn how this can be easily measured so that your company has the foundation for continuous process improvement.

I promise you – it is so easy to implement what you are going to learn in this teleconference.

The economic crisis is not abating. Your company needs to be doing this now to get into the best position for next year.

Visit http://www.saleskaizen.com/B2BMarketingDec04.aspx and sign up now.

Michael Webb

Dec 2, 2008

Michael Webb

Michael Webb founded Sales Performance Consultants to create a data-driven alternative to the slogans and shallow impact offered by typical sales training, sales consulting, and CRM companies. Michael helped organize and delivered the keynote speeches for the first conferences ever held on applying Six Sigma to marketing and sales. Connect with me on LinkedIn.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below
Adam - February 26, 2009 Reply

Thanks for taking the time to write this. I really enjoyed it.


Michael Webb - February 26, 2009 Reply

Glad you liked it Adam. You’ll enjoy the contents of our main site, http://www.salesperformance.com. You might want to check it out.


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