Between the Ears
If you’re a VP of sales and you’re thinking about making an investment in sales process or methodology right now it’s probably a stressful decision. For one it takes a lot of time to think through the possibilities of what could be valuable. You want to select something that’s going to squarely hit the mark. It takes a bit of political capital if you’re needing to get financial approval from your boss. It’s stressful because you’re not 100% sure your team will embrace it or reject it. Your credibility as a leader could take a hit.
There’s one question that you should ask yourself to help with the decision: How will it improve how your sales people think, dialogue, plan, and execute around selling?
Take the funnel for instance. It is still popular to assign percentages on funnel stages. Early stage sales opportunities might get a 5% or 10% assigned number. Opportunities that reach a proposal stage might get 50% and one that is in negotiation might get as much as 80% or 90%. But when asked how these percentages help a salesperson sell the answers are usually weak. They don’t promote dialogue. They don’t foster coaching. They don’t help set strategy.
Another example with the funnel is funnel value. We call it TVR, Total Viable Revenue. TVR is the sum of the dollar or euro values of each opportunity that has reached the Commit Funding stage of the customer’s buying process.
With TVR the seller and manager have a powerful piece of information to help the seller plan, organize and prioritize to maximize his or her productivity. TVR is used with the Funnel Audit to determine a 30 day plan every 30 days for working the funnel. But even some of my clients fall back into the habit of cramming the night before the test, completing their Funnel Audit Worksheets the night before. They’ve missed out on the power of the Audit as a planning and prioritizing process. When used properly the Audit helps the seller think with structure about his situation, weigh alternatives, assess the best option, and define the plan.
Finally, another example of using information to help you think and strategize better is when a sales process reveals something important about the sale that you had not considered. Let’s say you had made a few calls on a current customer and thought you had a pretty good idea of the stakeholders involved and their roles in the buying process. But you assumed that someone in purchasing had the financial authority to commit funding based on past experience with the account. In a strategy session with your sales manager she convinces you that your purchasing agent doesn’t have this power and you don’t know which stakeholder does. Now what do you do?
You could do nothing different and proceed as planned. Or you could meet with the purchasing agent and explore this topic of funding. By raising the topic you would learn something at least, such as what else is being considered or timing. But at best you might learn exactly who has that funding authority and even get advice on how to get a meeting with that person.
I haven’t made your decision easy but I hope you put all of your options through the test of how will they help me and my sales team think better, improve dialogue, and ultimately perform the job of selling more effectively.