Sales Process: Help or Hindrance?
VARs often assume if sales aren’t closing, or the pipeline is low, it’s the sales reps’ fault. Sometimes it is, but sometimes it isn’t. In last week’s post, “Why Sales Reps Fail,” I gave you several ideas of what to change to improve your sales reps’ results if they really are the problem.
But what if you have a team of great sales reps doing all the right things? They’re making cold calls, talking with the right people. They’re working opportunities, but the opportunities aren’t closing.
Two-Year Sell-Cycle Trap
One ISV we work with had a two-year sell cycle when we first met. The business owner thought the problem was the sales reps who didn’t know how to push customers to make a decision. Or, he conceded, maybe it was the fact that they were selling to large universities with multiple departments, each of which needed to agree to the software application before any degree of implementation could occur.
When we examined how the sale was occurring, we discovered that the sales team would start with one department and conduct a demo to build interest. They’d then get the name of another department that might be interested and conduct a demo for it. The sales reps repeated this process until they’d met with all the departments within the company that would use the application. Before they realized it, 18 months had passed and they had yet to provide a proposal.
What this ISV needed was a streamlined sales process. There wasn’t anything wrong with the sales reps’ capabilities. Prospects were interested. The problem was that the company didn’t have a sales process to efficiently guide universities in making a buying decision.
Consolidating the number of demos and bringing departments together reduced the sell cycle and helped schools make a decision must faster. We also created an opportunity for a low-cost, low-risk pilot earlier in the process to test the software capabilities rather than just demonstrating them.
Now the ISV is closing sales earlier in the sales process. They’re still building relationships with the different departments and conducting demos, but they’re also earning money along the way.
Consider your Process
Consider your sales process. Examine each step you take from prospecting through closing.
- Look for places where you may actually hinder the buying process because of your approach.
- Seek out gaps where you aren’t providing the right information at the right time to help the prospect make a decision.
- Watch for missed opportunities to close small sales that tighten your relationship with prospects.
While you don’t want to transition all the way to a two-call sales process like I cautioned against in “Four Strategies to Build Trust with New Prospects,” you also don’t want to fall into the trap of a two-year sell cycle.
Often VARs don’t realize what a critical role their sales process plays in ensuring opportunities close. They assume it’s the skill of the sales rep that makes the difference. But that’s only one piece of the equation. Having an effective and efficient sales process in place that the whole sales team understands and uses is the other often-overlooked critical success factor in closing business. Take a good look at your own process and see where you can make improvements to close more business.
Next up: How your target market may be getting in the way of closing sales.
By the way, if you’re at CompTIA Breakaway this week, come visit me with me at the KLA Group booth in the Tech Fair. I’m here through Thursday!