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    World-class sales organizations continually optimize their process—here’s how you can too

    Despite all the data demonstrating the value of implementing a formal sales process, the vast majority of companies still have not done so. Many others do have a sales process, but it’s located in a folder on a shelf, and rarely consulted.

    But you don’t have to put your process document up on a shelf for it to get dusty. In today’s fast-paced world, a sales process that hasn’t been updated in even a few months is practically obsolete. World-class organizations use the latest technologies to continually optimize their sales processes, to ensure it matches the real experience of their customers and sales people, and meets changing market conditions to make their teams as productive as possible.

    The good news is that the technology is now available to make optimization attainable for any B2B organization. This fact also makes it simpler for organizations without a formal process to build one that actually works.

    Here’s what you need to know about sales process optimization and the technology behind it.

    An optimized sales process provides a reliable buying and selling experience that makes the most of each sales team’s time.
    Henrik Öquist

    What is sales process optimization?

    Sales process optimization refers to the act of taking a standard or custom process, and adapting it to work optimally under the specific conditions of your organization’s sales environment. Every brand serves the market in its own unique way. Customers have their individual buying preferences, systems, and processes, and every product and service line serves those customers in different ways. An optimized sales process takes all of these factors into account to provide a smooth, reliable buying and selling experience every time that makes the most of each sales team’s time.

    The old sales process optimization formula

    Until very recently, most organizations lacked access to practical means for truly optimizing their sales process. Whatever optimization did occur was accomplished through casual conversation. A sales manager might ask salespeople what was working and what was not. He or she might then attempt to propagate those best practices throughout the organization by coaching others on what the best salespeople were doing.

    This approach is certainly better than nothing, but it is limited in its ability both to truly understand the driving factors and to reinforce and systematize those activities.

    World-class sales organizations have long built custom systems to manage the optimization process, but until recently, these systems have been out of reach for most.

    How new technology makes process optimization attainable

    The right technology allows companies to measure and analyze activities inside the process based on outcomes at each stage of that process, in order to identify weaknesses and build on strengths. This is best accomplished inside the CRM, but to do so, we must adopt a new way of looking at CRM.

    Old CRM technology treats sales process as a series of dropdown boxes. Managers and executives can see how many prospects, leads, and opportunities are in the pipeline, but not much beyond that. Assuming that the data is accurate (which it often is not), this information provides very little insight into what might be causing slowdowns.

    New sales effectiveness technologies, like Membrain, bake process into the CRM in a highly visual format that requires salespeople to meet process guidelines before moving prospects to the next stage. This provides significantly more visibility into where slowdowns are occurring—visibility that can be increased simply by visualizing the key data that is collected at each point, as necessary.

    For example, many organizations lose deals late in the process due to mistakes made early in the process. This leads to wasted time and resources, but it can be very difficult to understand what caused the problem. With Membrain, a company can easily set the system up so that salespeople record specific data during the qualification process before moving the lead forward in the process. For instance, they can be required to list stakeholders and make note of each stakeholder’s attitude toward the initiative that involves investing in your solutions.

    Once this information is available, managers and executives can readily correlate these early-stage activities and outcomes against late-stage win/loss analysis. As an example, they may discover that deals that do not have a high-level executive involved in the early stages of the sale usually die in a later stage. They can use this information to embed engagement of a high-level executive into the process at an early stage. By doing this inside the sales effectiveness tool, the new process requirement becomes instantly accessible and enforceable across the organization.

    In some cases, a problem may be identified as occurring at a specific point in the process, but it may not be immediately clear what is causing the problem. In these cases, sales management can convene to discuss potential causes, and identify additional information to collect. Once the information has been collected, leaders can then use it to draw conclusions and build better steps in the process.

    For example, we wanted to know why some of our strategic partners were closing a lot of business, while others were not. The answer was not obvious, so we got together to discuss potential causes of the disparity. We decided it might have to do with when the partner brought us in to meet with the client. We added metrics into the software to measure that information.

    Within a few weeks, a clear pattern emerged. The partners closing the most deals were introducing us to their clients very early in the process, while others were introducing us much later or not at all before implementation. We shared this data with our partners to clearly demonstrate how bringing us in early could benefit everyone. Implementing the new approach with all our partners increased win rates by 88% across the board.

    The role of coaching

    One of the greatest benefits of using technology to support sales optimization is improved coaching. In a traditional CRM, a sales manager can see how many prospects, leads, and opportunities a salesperson has, and how many he or she closes—and not much more.

    In an optimized system, the sales manager can see exactly where the salesperson is stumbling or needs support. Is one salesperson closing 50% of deals that reach a certain stage, while another closes only 20% of deals that reach the same stage? If so, what activities or behaviors are missing that could improve the second salesperson’s performance?

    This information empowers the manager to provide clear, targeted coaching that has an immediate impact on a salesperson’s effectiveness, and thus optimizes the process both at the organizational and the individual level.

    Easier process implementation

    For companies that do not already have a formalized process, the same software that enables process optimization can significantly simplify initial implementation of the process. Instead of building a giant, monolithic sales process right out of the gate, companies can quickly create a rough outline, build it into the system, and then analyze the data to tweak the system based on what’s happening in the real world.

    We love to see our technology enable clients to achieve exponential results through sales optimization. You can download a case study to see how optimization has helped other companies like yours, or talk to us today to discuss how we can do the same for you.

    Click here to schedule a personalized demo of Membrain

    Henrik Öquist
    Published September 21, 2016
    By Henrik Öquist

    COO for Membrain, the #1 sales effectiveness software for complex b2b sales. A father of three, a former game developer and dedicated to giving sales organizations better tools to achieve consistent sales performance. Henrik has helped companies from start-ups to large enterprises develop and operationalize sales processes and to use technology to make it easier to execute their sales strategy.

    Find out more about Henrik Öquist on Twitter or LinkedIn