When I think of “process,” the first thing that comes to mind is Henry Ford and his assembly line. (I wasn’t with Henry back then, but I’ve seen photos and I’ve read a lot about it.)
That assembly line model continues to serve as the primary way the world of manufacturing gets things done today.
Unlike Henry Ford, in which actions on the assembly line work at a specific time and sequence in order to obtain a definite goal, that’s not the case in a sales process.
A sales process needs to be flexible — two steps ahead, three back, one step forward, and so on until you get to the money.
When people talk about the “sales process,” the term is used more like a general and often vague concept. If you ask a dozen business owners to define or explain a sales process, you’d wind up with several dozens of ideas, all mostly obtuse.
Unfortunately, some sales managers I’ve encountered have a very unusual way of explaining the sales process.
To them, when they say “sales process” to a team member, they’re really saying, “Work harder, work faster, make more sales. No more excuses,” That doesn’t sound like a process to me. It’s more like a farmer whipping a horse to plow harder, faster, deeper.
The Most Valuable Quality of Processes
In Mr. Ford’s assembly line, he learned quickly that every process could be studied, analyzed, measured, and improved. Even today, that’s what makes it so valuable.
Every step in Mr. Ford’s production line could be studied. Each could be analyzed and measured. With that information, his production line could be improved.
Now, think of a sales process.
- The phone rings
- The prospect asks questions
- The salesperson answers questions and explains how his business can help.
- The prospect likes the answer.
- The salesperson sets an appointment
- When they meet, the salesperson seeks to get to know the prospect and their specific needs, to ask questions, and to seek honest and sincere answers.
- Along the way, the prospect explains what he doesn’t like (such as the price).
- The salesperson educates the prospect about the company’s benefits, features, and value propositions and explains why his price is higher than his competitor.
- This process has a successful conclusion and the prospect hands the salesperson a check and signs the purchase agreement.
If you knew nothing more than this about how a sales process works, you’d be miles ahead of your competitors.
In time, you could step-by-step study, analyze, measure, and improve the very process I outlined above. You’d study how team members answered the phone. You could analyze how one team member does what he does in contrast with others. You could measure the effectiveness of how each team member handles each step.
To improve outcomes, you might ask the team members who do a better job to teach or coach those who need to improve. You might even write the steps down and/or construct a flowchart to help you remember what worked best and what didn’t.