Sunday, July 31, 2011

Does Your Selling Process Need an Overhaul?

The 2011 Sales Performance Optimization survey by CSO Insights contains a wealth of information about the attributes and effectiveness of B2B selling.  One of the important findings in the survey is that sales success depends on how you sell as much as what you sell.

How you sell has two components in the CSO Insights framework.  The first is how customers (and potential customers) perceive the value that a company provides.  At the lowest level, customers see the company as nothing more than an approved vendor that provides acceptable products or services.  At the highest level, customers see the company as a trusted advisor whose products, services, and other contributions are key to their long-term success.

The second component of how you sell is the selling process you use.  CSO Insights says that companies fall into one of four levels when it comes to selling process.  Those at the lowest level don't have a defined selling process.  Every salesperson does his/her own thing.  At the highest level, a company has a formal, well-defined selling process, continuously monitors its use by the sales team, and adapts the process to changing market conditions.

The research by CSO Insights shows that the higher you are along these two dimensions, the more sales success you will have.  For example, high ranking companies have more salespeople who achieve their quotas and higher closing rates.

The quality of your selling process has become critical because of changes in the way business buyers make purchase decisions.  In essence, the buying process has become more complex, and you need a robust selling process to cope with this increased complexity.  Consider just three of the ways that B2B selling has become more challenging to manage (based on data from the CSO Insights survey).
  • Sales cycles are longer - About two-thirds of companies have sales cycles for new customers that are four months or longer.
  • It takes more calls to close a deal - Nearly six out of ten companies say it takes at least six sales calls to close a deal with a new customer.
  • More people are involved in the buying process - Three quarters of companies say that a final buying decision requires input from at least three people.
Is your current selling process up to the challenge of managing the new sales environment?  Do you have a formal process that is used consistently by your sales team?  Is your process documented in written form, and is it part of your training for new sales reps?  Do you consistently monitor the effectiveness of your selling process and adapt it to changing market conditions?

If you can't answer "yes" to all of these questions, you should probably take a close look at your current selling process.  There's a good chance you're leaving substantial revenue dollars of the table.

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