A year after helping a client of mine with their sales process implementation, the Sales Operations Manager (SOM) asked me to spend a half day facilitating a review and refresh of the sales process with the sales team.
Our agenda at the request of the SOM was the following:

  1. Review of the plusses of the sales process
  2. Details of the deltas (gaps) of the process and the implementation at their company
  3. Refresh the group on best practices when having an initial conversation with an interested prospect
  4. Best practices for over-the-phone sales calls
  5. What’s so important about “Artificial Patience”

I asked the shortest-tenured salesperson to take notes figuring he would gain most from this task.  Below are his notes with some elaboration and editing.
Aside – I learned the Plusses and Deltas tactic for audience participation from another client, Leadership Strategies (LSI).  LSI’s bailiwick is teaching folks how to be great facilitators.
Say you are in a meeting and you need feedback on an idea or program, or whatever.  Too often, you receive a lot of blank stares or repetitive “what she said” responses.  So, instead of asking for direct feedback, ask everyone to take two minutes to jot down the plusses or positive things about an idea or concept, then the negative ones or deltas on their own scratch paper.  Then, go around the room getting everyone’s plusses first, then the deltas and put them up on a white board or easel.
I often joke that this is the “Focker” facilitation tool.  In the movie “Meet the Fockers”, Ben Stiller’s parents loved Ben so much they never criticized him and overly praised him to the point of cherishing his 9th placed ribbons.  Similarly, we don’t want to upset anyone by labeling negative feedback as a “minus”, so we call it a delta, as in a process engineer’s “gap”.
I.  Plusses regarding the company’s sales process implementation

  1. It’s great having a structure
  2. Love the SOE [Sequence of Events, documenting the process the prospect says they will undertake to evaluate the sellers offering(s)]
  3. The Process reinforces that it is beneficial to treat prospects as unique, even if they are not.
  4. The Process Establishes Trust & Credibility
  5. It’s a Consultative not stereotypical approach
  6. Company-wide support around the sales process
  7. Product Specialists are motivated because they love process
  8. Company-wide alignment with Success Stories, Plausible Emergencies, and Usage Scenarios
  9. Not manipulation, rather based on persuasion
  10. Pausing throughout the process helps give the buyers room to express themselves and not feel hurried
  11. The Sales Process is all about the Customer and reinforces the sellers ability to Qualify/Disqualify
  12. Don’t forget you (sellers) have a role on demos – Bring it back to Value; Ask: “Does ‘this’ help with the discussed challenges?”; Ask:  “Are their other challenges you are experiencing that we have not addressed?”
  13. Important to get appropriate pushback from product specialists; they withhold resources if they see they are being brought into the opportunity too early, before it’s properly qualified
  14. Because the company has adopted the sales process top-down, managers know how to coach, manage.  They provide  a 2nd set of eyes on correspondence and a reality check – slapping down happy ears
  15. Salesforce.com has been aligned with the Sales Process and now houses all info, so sellers live in it.

II.  Deltas regarding the company’s sales process implementation

  1. May be too formal/heavy based on audience; for example, need pared down champion letter for small opportunities
  2. Need more on how to do first call when they ask for a trial
  3. Need a balance between heavy qualifying and serving the prospect
  4. Need help w/ research about prospects businesses
  5. Compromise btw 30 day trial and customer’s evaluation process
  6. More help w/ e-mail correspondence such as with templates and language barriers
  7. How to deal w/ reclusive, distant (personality-wise) prospects- Suggestion:  rely on emails more than conversations
  8. When prospect is doing a trial, it’s tough to qualify from lead to opportunity – Suggestion:  wait a little for the prospect to gain familiarity then call to ask some light diagnostic questions.  If eager to talk, go to full solution development.
  9. SOE not getting designed results w/ losses, need to figure out qualification questions when prospect receives SOE less than enthusiastically.
  10. No one at prospect has time to discuss the current situation – challenges, issues, goals, objectives [comment – so, find others to talk to).

III.  Warm/Initial Interest Calls:

Do Research On front end.  Then build credibility and rapport with the following

  • I am a Certified ____________ (at this company, all salespeople hold particular industry-recognized certifications)….
  • Are you currently _________, How long, etc…
  • How did you get here?  “What made you do this today?”
  • What tools are you currently using?
  • Tell me about your team size, makeup?

IV.  Best Practices from the Moment You Schedule Something to Placing the Call  – Group Feedback

  • Review Notes On Past Correspondence
  • Know Your Audience
  • Goals and Objectives for Customer, the Call, and Your Next Steps
  • Agenda
  • Align with prod specialists
  • Confirm Call Before
  • Send an electronic Meeting Request
  • Who’s going to be on call?
  • Be prepared with success stories
  • Next Steps-Make Suggestion
  • Follow Up w/ e-mail and ask for feedback

V.  Artificial Patience – When do you need to slow yourself down, even if it seems unnatural? Consider these…

  • Initially when the lead comes in, take a step back early in the conversation and ask, “What is your objective, what are you hoping to accomplish?”
  • After a solution development call, consider waiting to send an e-mail follow up until the next day.  Let it sink in, give yourself time to make sure you do a good job with it.
  • Ask yourself before calling up with a limited selfish agenda, “What is another e-mail/call going to accomplish”?
  • End of Quarter-Be Careful!!
  • When an evaluation drags out, sometime life does get in the way. Chill.
  • In between items on your sequence of events – consider letting them marinate.

Good Selling!