How to Create an Efficient Sales Process that Empowers Sales Reps
This article is written by our featured guest writer, Erin Sprague.
For many of us, we find ourselves in yet another recession within a relatively short amount of time. It’s like déjà vu all over again. How are we supposed to sell – let alone create an efficient sales process – during an economic meltdown?
Some team members, however, are facing a significant economic shift for the first time. For many people in the sales space, this will be an opportunity to learn what it truly means to sell well. In times like these, companies leap from operating as a vendor and problem solver to a consultant and advisor.
In 2010, I was working in my first corporate sales role at a Chicago startup that was experiencing a magical moment. Groupon had launched a tremendous customer acquisition platform for local businesses and was on fire. Shortly after I started, we began to experience our own sales slowdown as the company’s growth combined with some customer fallout meant that selling became a lot more challenging.
I’ve been reflecting on my time there lately, and the sales process steps that worked well as we re-focused and re-ignited our sales team to drive results.
I want to share my experience to help your company create an efficient sales process and find opportunities to thrive during a recession.
1. Deeply Commit to a Consultative Sales Process
Groupon was the first company to introduce me to the importance of adopting a consultative sales process. Our sales reps had to make a significant shift. We went from beating customers away with a stick to begging, pleading, and throwing away margin to get businesses on our site.
We had to change our approach. We trained our salespeople to understand the importance of finding a fit vs. making a sale. We created a strict roadmap and spent significant time training existing team members and front-line managers to adopt our sales process.
Breaking down the consultative sale process in a precise step-by-step method was instrumental. Here are three steps we took to get started on an internal sales process:
Usually, your top sales reps consistently leverage key tactics and behaviors in a methodology that works for them. By observing and diagnosing their successful traits, you can replicate these results across your less skillful or experienced team members. Knowledge sharing creates sales process efficiency – meaning more A and B players instead of Cs.
Create a Recipe for Success
Has anyone out there tried to tackle making Beef Bourguignon, then decided to forego using a recipe the first time around? (If so, please let me know how that worked out for you!) A sales process is critical because it provides your sales team with a recipe that yields consistent results.
The sales process (aka “recipe for success”) also helps sales reps determine where things went wrong if a lead didn’t work out. Sometimes, new recipes need an experimental phase. Refine the process until your sales recipe consistently returns positive results, then make sure to document, document, document.
Document Your Sales Process
Documenting your sales process allows salespeople to celebrate small wins along the way (e.g., championing new prospects identified, appointments set, and contracts out) and understanding the life cycle of a deal.
Salespeople often say that they “hate having a script” or “like to do things their way.” The good news is, creating a general sales process does not mean either of those things. Call scripts and robotic behaviors don’t serve an organization. Clear goals for each step of the process empower your sales team to break down what feels like an overwhelming task (I have to close a deal?!) into bite-sized, manageable steps.
2. Prioritize Sales Team Training to Grow Confidence and Accelerate your Sales Process
In my experience working for a variety of organizations, I’ve found that the following skills are the most crucial training topics for sales teams:
- Objection Handling
- Prospecting & Referrals
- Product Training
Leaders are looking for sales reps to grow in these core skills because they are the most difficult to master, but they can directly contribute to the company’s bottom line.
At Groupon, these four skills were the sales training programs that we went back to regularly. The repetition and focus helped grow my confidence immensely on the job.
Sales Team Training Techniques to Grow Confidence
Salespeople who believe in themselves and the product can focus on spending their time building trust, asking questions, and finding the right solution for their customers instead of scrambling to close just any deal. Review this list of training techniques to help your sales team confidently sell on the job.
reinforce strong negotiation skills
Put an emphasis on sales training courses that develop strong negotiation skills, particularly creative problem-solving (expanding the pie), active listening, and empathy positioning – versus more tactical negotiation tricks and bartering behaviors.
Arm sales reps with the tactics and behaviors customers typically leverage in a negotiation. For product training, emphasize the emotional side:
- What do customers love about your product or service?
- Can team members share key customer success stories?
- Are there initiatives to identify champions amongst your existing customer pool?
Remind team members of why they are selling your product and the impact it can have (instead of quizzing them on specific features or product specs).
Identify customer champions
“Customer champions” also make for great referrals and ease the anxiety of prospecting. Help team members grow their customer network through existing, stable relationships.
Coach employees to improve performance
The best way to drive meaningful change is through your front-line manager. After you create a sales process and validate opportunities, identify a coach to improve employee performance. Coaches help to reinforce best practices in a consistent, challenging, but meaningful way.
leverage Bite-sized learning
To avoid “training drain,” leverage bite-sized learning and encourage team members to contribute to the learning ecosystem with their personal experiences. Roleplay, based on a real employee/customer story, can be a fun training game out of the many sales training team building activities.
Address your sales team’s mindset
In times of economic hardship, managers and sales leaders will have to combat sales reps' desires to lower margins and give away products out of fear and scarcity. Addressing your team members' mindset and developing sales training that grows their attitudes, behaviors, and skills will help them be more successful.
3. Connect Sales Goals, Training, and Incentives into an Efficient Sales Process
The beauty of the startup world is how quickly you can make something happen. The danger is sometimes you move too fast and miss what’s important.
Many organizations (whether a startup or not!) experience this sense of urgency. We get excited or hyper-focused on a sales training program, marketing plan, or a new set of goals that don’t connect to the reality of people’s day-to-day priorities and needs.
Training is essential within a challenging economy, but how you pay, incentivize, and manage your salespeople may have to change as well. If what people prioritize in their day-to-day job doesn’t support your company’s shifting priorities and definitions of success, your training will fall on deaf ears.
Now is the time to look at pricing strategies, SIPs, and how to track sales KPIs. Connect regularly across all of sales leadership and sales support teams to develop holistic project plans that support aligned priorities. Train, manage, coach, measure, and reward the behaviors that move your company forward.
Looking for a Custom Sales Training Program?
Empower your sales reps with confidence on their next call by documenting your sales process and training them on it frequently. A sales training program housed in an LMS can help your sales rep understand questions like:
- How to ask open-ended questions
- What are the steps of the sales process?
- What is the most important part of the sales process?
- What are the opportunity stages?
Unboxed Training & Technology is here to help whether you need to improve your B2B sales training or B2C sales training program. Our team can identify gaps in your current training program and develop a custom sales training program to fit your needs.
Give us a call today at (888) 723-9770.
Erin Sprague is a seasoned sales professional, career coach, and learning & development leader. She has a passion for connecting the dots between capability analysis, feedback from business leaders, and sales results, in order to create training & development programs that allow learners to thrive, and drive results for the organization.
A native of Western Michigan, Erin is a recent transplant to Washington, D.C after spending 15 years in Chicago, Illinois. She has worked for companies large, (Hilton, Kraft Heinz), medium (Groupon), and small (Trustwave), always in or alongside sales teams. She has delivered consistent results for these companies – driving participation, engagement, performance, and high satisfaction across trainees.
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