Process? We don’t need no stinkin’ process.

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Everything that humans do is process. Everything.

Process is “a systematic series of actions directed to some end.” That pretty much describes everything you do, from brushing your teeth to designing a jumbo jet. The only time we escape process is when we’re asleep.

So why do many sales people react with, “Process? We don’t need no stinkin’ process.” (Apologies to Humphrey Bogart and Gene Wilder.) But you do. And here is the most important process you need: choosing the sales opportunity you’re going to work on right now.

That’s more important than your process for closing the sale because if you’re working the wrong opportunity, winning doesn’t matter. Neither does losing, which you will do more often than your manager will like.

That’s more important than your process for prospecting a lead because when that lead becomes an opportunity, chances are you’ll screw it up if you don’t get it into its proper priority in your pipeline.

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Deal Me In – Prioritizing in Cards & Sales

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One of the most significant daily challenges to a sales professional is deciding which opportunity to work on today. To do this, you have to get your prioritization right, and that requires each opportunity to be valued.

This is even more critical when you are working many opportunities at one time and when the opportunities are at different points in the sales cycle and have different levels of importance based on strategy, revenue, product, etc. This exercise requires a significant time investment, and getting it right is crucial to focusing your effort where it will have the best payoff.

Putting a value on an opportunity is tricky. Our OPM methodology helps by defining two distinct types of value. An intrinsic value depends only on the probability of winning the deal and the position you are in the sales cycle. External value refers to the factors we mentioned earlier such as potential revenue, strategic importance, product relevance and others.

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Baseball, Big Data, and Selling.

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A while ago I wrote a post on Sabermetrics which us using baseball statistics to make strategic decisions in improving a team’s performance especially when it came to individual performers. This was the subject of the story in the movie “Moneyball” staring Brad Pit. My post was how to use some of these ideas in building sales teams.

Now there is another book that discusses the role of Big Data in baseball.  (“Big Data Baseball ; Math, Miracles, and the End of a 20yr Losing Streak,”  by Travis Sawchik. This idea takes Sabermetrics a bit further and looks at the idea of sifting the huge amount of Big Data that has amassed in baseball to make long range decisions on a Club’s success rate.

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Managing the Bigger Sales Picture

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Selling is one of those professions in which the gauge of success is assumed obvious. Selling more product is a sure way for a salesperson to get recognition and financial reward. It’s no surprise then that an industry has arisen around teaching salespeople to sell more effectively. If salespeople or sales managers are looking for sales education, then it’s easy to get it. There are an abundance sales gurus ready to teach their own spins on selling, with a plethora of books, videos, programs and systems to back them up. But only a few have come up with the ground breaking thinking that reshapes the way people sell – they can be counted on the fingers on one hand.

I see one flaw in most sales training. The focus is on getting things right in the selling experience in a single opportunity. How to listen? How to ask questions? Making sure they are the right questions. Sure, this is important – direct conversation with the customer is the essence of selling. But a salesperson has more than one opportunity to sell. They can have a large number of ongoing deals that a vying for their time – I know cases where a salesperson had over one hundred open sales opportunities. That has to present a huge challenge for resource management especially in creating as much time for direct customer interface as possible.

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More About The Sales Cycle

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In a post a few weeks ago (you can find it here), I talked about the confusion that salespeople and sales managers are having with defining their sales cycles. I hope this post can clear that up a bit.

The sales cycle is all about time, and as time is the most precious resource the salesperson has, time management (as it applies to sales opportunity management) is essential to successful selling.

Sales cycle is one of the most commonly used terms in sales, but often misunderstood. The sales cycle is simply the length of time the salesperson takes to sell something. The sales opportunity has a beginning and an end. The time in between determines the sales cycle.

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What is the start of the sale cycle?

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I saw this discussion on the AA-ISP site just recently. It’s an ongoing issue with salespeople and managers, and especially so since metrics have gained so much dominance in the sales process.

The real problem is that unless you have a consistent, realistic estimation of when the sales opportunity begins, the sales cycle starts, or your favourite expression for this event, you can’t do any reliable analytics on the how long it takes to sell something. And getting the whole team to abide by the same definition is very difficult.

Back to the AA-ISP forum. The question was this:

“What do you consider the start of the sales cycle? For instance, we have a Sales Development Team and Account Executive Team. Our Sales Development Team will outbound call/email out to a pool of ~10,000 potential prospects (cold) and schedule demos for our Account Executive team. Would you consider the sales cycle to have started at first contact? when the demo is scheduled? or when the Account Executive holds the demo?”

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Any Salespeople For Tennis?

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I played tennis when I was a kid. I liked it a lot. I preferred one-on-one sports to team stuff. I don’t play now, but I watch the big stars playing, mostly because my wife loves those guys.

I once wrote about the important of statistics in baseball, with a view to applying that way of doing things to sales. Indeed, metrics have now become one of the hottest topics in selling. Tennis is a sport wrapped up in stats too. One number that has always interested me describes the importance of the first serve in the game.

Novak Djojovic wins 87% of his service games (where he serves first against his opponent.) So if you want to beat him you had better be prepared to break his serve. The thing is, advanced players can do lots of sneaky stuff with that first serve, and their opponent usually doesn’t know what’s coming. The opponent has to take a defensive position. A good first serve can determine the positional and strategic flow of the game – in favor of the player who made it.

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HBR Article On The Move To Inside Sales

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Following in the theme of my last post, I ran across the results of a survey done by Harvard Business Review on the move from outside to inside sales. You can find it here.

The writers surveyed over a hundred companies in high tech and business services. Over fifty percent say they are moving from an outside (field) sales to an inside sales model.

I found a few of the other conclusions interesting.

Inside sales is the favourite among early growth stage companies – it’s cheaper to get your message over to more potential customers.

Field sales is more effective for complex sales with long sales cycles, and inside sales better for Cloud delivered standardized package sales.

Reasons for the movement from outside to inside sales models were thought to be:

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Are Outside Salespeople Quaking In Their Boots…

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First what is an outside salesperson. It must be the opposite of an inside salesperson, right?

Yes – according to Ken Drogue the expert in the field of inside sales:

Ken says:

“The most pragmatic definition of Inside Sales is simple: inside sales is remote sales. It has been called virtual sales, professional sales done remotely, or one of my recent favorites “sales in the cloud.” Where outside sales or traditional field sales is done face-to-face.”

So, really the difference between “in- and out- side sales” is the amount of time you spend face to face with the customer.

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The TASC Top 10 – Number 3 You don’t know whether to talk or listen at a key customer meeting.

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Here’s number three in the “TASC Top 10” tip sheets for sales automation that come from the “legacy” days of SalesWays, originally written by our sister company Ardexus.

This one goes to the heart of how ASPEC looks at the sales cycle – as a natural flow of the the communications between the customer and the salesperson as the sales cycle evolves from start to end.

ASPEC says the sales cycle flows through three “phases” – Probe, Prove, and Close. These phases are as much a part of all sales as sunrise to sunset as day moves to night. All sales, from simple (retail) to complex (think BIG, like fleet of airplanes) follow this pattern. That’s how ASPEC can sensibly tell the salesperson what kind of strategies are needed for a precise point in the sale. 

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