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    Why Do Sales Professionals “See Red” When You Say “Sales Process”?

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    One of the challenges sales leaders face when trying to help a team improve their sales performance, is resistance to the phrase “sales process.” In fact, sometimes when you wave the words “sales process” in front of a sales professional, they become like a bull with a red cape waved in front of its face.

    Defensive, angry, and ready to charge.

    As someone who talks a lot about sales process, all day every day, I am all too familiar with this response. Why is this, and what can we do about it?

    Why Salespeople React to “Sales Process” Like a Bull Reacting to Red

    Contrary to common belief, bulls in traditional bullfighting competitions aren’t actually reacting to the color red. They react to the movement of the matador’s cape. And they react to it, because:

    • They’ve been chosen for aggression
    • And trained to charge toward movement

    Now compare this to your sales team. Sales professionals self-select into the profession for certain qualities. A great salesperson is

    • Self-motivated
    • Independent
    • Creative
    • A little bit hard-headed

    After all, you have to be hard-headed to accept “no” over and over and keep going, or to negotiate a good deal when the customer is pushing for discounts.

    Then, sales professionals are “trained” in environments where they are either left to their own devices, to “charge” after customers on their own terms. Or they’re placed under micro-managing “leaders” who talk down to them and tell them what to do even when they don’t know what to do.

    Sales process and systems are often implemented badly, causing more damage than good.

    In other words, they’ve often been “trained” to see “process” as something that a manager hands down to them that constrains them. And they’re willing to fight to prevent that happening.

    They fear that sales process will mean:

    • Losing autonomy
    • Being forced to use a one-size-fits-all approach
    • Losing their ability to be creative and responsive to the situation
    • That their skills aren’t valued
    • That they’ll be held accountable

    And for someone whose very nature is to be self-motivated, independent, creative, and a little hard-headed… waving these constraints in front of them is like waving a red cape in front of a bull.

    How “Sales Process” Has and Continues to Fail Salespeople

    I had a stimulating conversation with Scott Santucci a few weeks ago about this topic. We agreed that it makes sense that salespeople are reacting badly to the terms “process” and (in his case) “systems.” After all, process and systems are very often implemented badly and end up causing more damage than good.

    Santucci says the biggest problems with “process” in sales and marketing come down to these five issues (quoting from his LinkedIn post):

    1. Pursuing a non-existent "buying" funnel. (My take: In complex sales especially, a funnel is a completely imaginary concept)
    2. Stacking more elements on top of each other. (My take: Here you end up with a Frankenstack)
    3. Attempting to patch up constantly appearing leaks. (My take: You’re fighting the Hydra while your ship sinks)
    4. Specialized roles arguing about ownership and goals. (My take: You’re fighting each other instead of collaborating to help the customer)
    5. Negligence leading to missed opportunities. (My take: You’re missing basic steps because you haven’t harnessed the power of checklists)

    “All of these occur without any real ability to ‘see,’” Santucci adds in the same LinkedIn post. “Because the system is designed to monitor and produce activity, not to drive value-added actions that assist clients through a decision-making process.”

    So, Is Sales Process Doomed?

    Obviously, I don’t think sales process is doomed, or I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing.

    But how do we deal with a topic that causes salespeople to turn as red in the face as a bullfighter’s cape?

    First and foremost, we have to decide that our approach to process is going to be to help salespeople and help customers. It can’t just be about collecting data, and it can’t be about controlling salespeople.

    It needs to support them so that they are free to do their best work, while supporting your organization so that you can execute on strategy, while supporting collaboration across the company so that everyone is working together.

    And it needs to do that without tying salespeople to a one-size-fits-all approach or making them feel like they’re reporting to a babysitter.

    We need to be having valuable conversations within our teams and treating our salespeople as the experts that they are (or need to be.) We need to gain their insight, wisdom, and cooperation the same way we would a prospect we want to bring on board with our offering.

    And then we need to actually deliver.

    Obviously, I believe Membrain is the best tool available for executing strategy and process that actually helps salespeople. And I believe our partners are the best consultants available to help you develop that strategy and process and get your teams on board. We’d love to talk with you about it.

    George Brontén
    Published August 16, 2023
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn