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.
So, this is most important process that you, as a sales professional, need. And yet every CRM system out there, except one, lets you do this with absolutely no help or guidance. They let you triage your pipeline by whatever strikes your fancy at the moment.
Imagine if the emergency room at your local hospital had no triage process and cared for the patients they wanted to rather than needed to. You, an average Joe, come in with chest palpitations. And Hugh Jackman comes in behind you with a sprained ankle. The nurse takes one look at the two of you and Hugh has an Ace bandage and a painkiller before you ever see an EKG.
Or, you take your minivan to be serviced at the dealer, but then this really cool Corvette comes in. You better have the Uber app on your smartphone.
Or, your company’s accountant decides to pay the bills based on which vendor will give him a kickback. Oops, he’s doing jail time while you’re in bankruptcy court.
So why would you, as a sales manager, turn your sales team loose with absolutely no consistent and effective process for deciding on which opportunity to work on today? George will focus on deadlines and work the opportunities that are due to close soonest. Patty will work on the one that has the highest dollar value. Kevin likes the one with the cute receptionist. And Joan responds to whomever is demanding her attention the loudest.
The goal is simple: identify the opportunity that provides the company with the highest value. Not dollar value, because losing a million-dollar deal is a lot worse than winning a $50,000 one. No, by value I mean which opportunity is most likely to contribute to the overall success of the company. Solve this consistently and you have an advantage over discounts and feature sets and any other trick in your competition’s bag of them.
That’s not to say you take away all discretion from them. After all, they are your chosen sales team, and they are on the front lines every day and know the sales environment better than anyone. But when they’ve got 20 or 50 or 100 opportunities to work on, wouldn’t they appreciate it if you gave them a list of 5 or 10 or 20 and said, “These are you highest priority. Work on them first.” They can choose the order within that list, but you’re confident the right ones are getting attention.
How do you do that? How do you consistently know which opportunities have the most value? In sales, value is the result of just three simple factors:
- Time. How much has passed, and how much is left for me or my competitors to affect the outcome?
- Intent. Is the customer serious about completing the purchase?
- Progress. How well am I doing in getting my solution selected?
Note that dollars and deadlines and fun and noise are not in the equation. Results are.
Establishing and constantly updating the time/intent/progress of every opportunity would be an overwhelming task. And yet that is what your CRM is asking you to do. And, your CRM is running on a computer! That is the ideal tool to do this – instantly, constantly, accurately.
So use it.