In order to gain acceptance and support by managers, the sales process (unlike engineering calculations) has to match your real-world selling environment. Here are some suggestions as to how to further evaluate Customer Focused Selling:
Send a team of three people to a public Customer Focused Selling Workshop. This affords the following advantages:
Verification that the methodology represents a fit for your organization.
A foundation from which to discuss necessary modifications to the process and curriculum.
Attendees at public workshops can serve as role-play coaches if the company elects to have internal workshop(s).
The scope of effort in creating Sales-Ready Messaging can be determined.
Define the different types of sales that the process must handle, as described in Chapter 5. If the steps defined for a given sale don’t reflect reality, your salespeople will resist implementing the process. We strongly suggest integrating the standard milestones described in Chapter 15 with your customized ones.
Create Targeted Conversations Lists for your offerings and vertical markets. Once the titles have been determined, create a list of potential business goals for each. This will determine the scope of the effort to support your sales staff in making calls on Key Players.
Create a library of Sales-Ready Messaging to “load the lips” of your salespeople. This should include Sales Development Prompters, Success Stories, phone scripts, and so on. Failure to do so means paying only lip service to the sales process. Sellers making Key Player calls without Sales-Ready Messaging have no choice but to wing it. The outcomes of these calls become the opinions of salespeople (see Chapter 2). In these situations, all bets are off as to qualification, and therefore the quality of the funnel and ultimately the pipeline.
If possible, have sales managers attend a workshop first as students. These are the people most critical to the success of the sales process. This allows them two exposures to the methodology: once as a student and once as a role-play coach if you elect to have an internal custom workshop. In terms of commitment, seeing their managers in the back of the room sends a strong message to other attendees.
Train your salespeople and others who shape the customer experience. Most of our clients choose to train support or product people who make calls with salespeople as well. Because these people have the business and product usage knowledge and no sales background (baggage?), many of them take to our process like ducks to water. For those within your organization who are not making customer calls, but who need to understand the concepts, custom programs can be designed.
After the workshop, honestly regrade the existing funnels. Brace yourself for a rude awakening. The value of each salesperson’s funnel is likely to be reduced by between 50 and 80 percent. It takes a strong stomach, but the sooner the manager and the seller get the funnel to reflect reality, the sooner they know what has to be done to build it to levels that will sustain quota achievement. As the chief executive officer, chief financial officer, or vice president of Sales, take the same attitude as a library that offers an amnesty program: Return your books (even if you took out Gone With the Wind in 1986), and there will be no fines. We just want the books back. That is to say: Without recrimination, this is a new day. Let’s get the stale proposals, deadwood, and deadbeats out of your funnels and our pipeline. Instead of senior management discounting an unrealistic pipeline, we want the seller and the manager to do quality control much further upstream in the process.
Sales managers are responsible for allowing opportunities to enter a salesperson’s funnel and for grading those opportunities if they advance. Managers now share responsibility for those losses that take several months because during the execution of the Sequence of Events, they agreed to proceed at various checkpoints.
For the first 90 days, managers should work with their salespeople to get as many opportunities that remain in the funnel requalified to E status (Chapter 15). Once the salesperson has gained access to all Key Players and gotten consensus to execute a Sequence of Events, the visibility and probability of success dramatically increase. Many of these postworkshop evaluation plans are significantly shorter than ones done for new prospects, as many of the steps may already have been at least partially completed.
Reviewing opportunities with salespeople should become net. The debriefing questions in Chapter 12 become the basis for discussion. Generally speaking, the more lengthy the answers to the questions, the more tenuous your position on that opportunity. If the debriefing questions cannot be answered, the salesperson, with or without the manager’s help, must make further calls on the buyer. Also, begin to track how the seller learned about the opportunity (proactively or reactively), as we believe that is the single most important variable in determining win rate. Our experience indicates that 75 to 80 percent of the gold medals awarded go to the salesperson that initiated the opportunity as Column A.
Consider having your management team attend a Customer Focused Selling Management Workshop. This 2-day session focuses on funnel and pipeline management and on assessment and development of salespeople. It amounts to a hands-on workshop for the topics covered in Chapters 15 and 16. We recommend scheduling this session 60 to 120 days after sellers have attended workshops, so that managers have some real-world experience with the new methodology.
Any sales process should cover 901 percent of situations. The intent of our sales process is that managers make decisions on exceptions. There will be RFPs for which you understand that you are a silver medalist, but to which you elect to respond. It should be a manager’s decision, and please be realistic about the probability assigned, as it most likely will not track with RFPs that you were able to wire.
Review compensation plans to verify that they support your objectives. Companies with long sales cycles should consider an alternative to the recoverable/nonrecoverable draw quagmire. After 60 days in the territory, why not have new hires earn bonuses by hitting predetermined milestone thresholds? Achievement of milestones must be verified by sales managers by auditing prospect and customer correspondence.
Some Customer Focused Selling clients keep their experienced sales reps hungry by having a percentage of their base salary paid on meeting targets for the E funnel on an ongoing basis.
When new offerings are in development, create Key Player menus of goals as a sanity check to minimize the chances of introducing a product in search of a market. Sometimes early-market buyers don’t or can’t bail you out, resulting in product write-offs, not take-offs. When introducing a new offering, make the creation of Sales-Ready Messaging part of the development costs. You may be able to reallocate funds from your product training budget.
Once or twice a year, review your most significant wins and losses, along with your competitive position. Sales process and Sales-Ready Messaging represent a journey more than a destination. Please be aware that what worked 10 months ago may have to be tweaked. In sales, the landscape is in almost constant flux.
Consider hiring Customer Focused Selling consultants to help with the design and implementation of the sales process. Having been there and done that in several other organizations, they can provide an industry best practices view as well as an objective outside opinion.