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Why your small business needs to build its sales process

Small business owners and entrepreneurs have an interesting relationship with sales and selling. They can tell you why things are going well when they are, but are often completely lost trying to understand what’s going on when sales slow down.

There are a couple of factors to consider when addressing this.  First, entrepreneurs and small business owners are passionate about their product — you can see it in their body language and hear it every time they speak. Passion is infectious, and as a result, persuasive. And sales is all about persuasion. This explains why many of these people seem to be natural born sellers who succeed without sales skills or a viable sales process.

But as sales slow, markets shift or competitors enter the picture, there is less to leverage, and entrepreneurs struggle realize the same success.  While some may look to improve skills or bring on sales people, they avoid the one thing that has helped them throughout the rest of their business — process.  Of course as soon as you say “sales process,” people recoil because they  think it needs to be complex. It does not.

A good sales process is like a good map, allowing you understand how to best get to your destination — in this case, a new customer.  It allows you to consider alternatives or detours in case you encounter roadblocks.  A good sales process is a dynamic one — it can evolve with your market and changing expectations, and since it will help you engage with buyers, it will continue to grow with their demands.  A simple workflow that breaks down your sales in a clear set of steps, potential outcomes, and corresponding actions will allow you to stay focused and on task.

Some think that they can avoid that process by hiring “experienced sales people.” But without a process, how will one ensure a rep is doing the right things, why they are succeeding, or more importantly, why they may be falling short.  A process will allow you to understand where you can help, and where they are doing well.

Start with the basics, and build as you need to.  Generically, we use a process called EDGE. It connects sellers with buyers by focusing on the buyer.  For buyers, EDGE stands for Explore – Define Requirements – Game Plan – Execute; for sellers: Engage – Discovery – Gain Commitment – Execute.  By capturing what actions need to be taken to Engage with a buyer, getting to Explore possibilities; as the buyer moves to Defining requirements, you map out what questions will help you Discover their requirements, and help you Gain commitment as they move forward.

The best time to develop the process is early, especially when things are working according to plan.  If you leave it to a downturn there will be distortions as you try to get back on track and it will be difficult to capture the practices that lead to success in the right market.

Finally, simple does not mean easy; sales isn’t supposed to be easy, it is supposed to be consistent, disciplined, and repeatable.  Without a process you can’t know if you are repeating the right or wrong things.

Tibor Shanto – Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author of the award-winning book, “Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers.” His blog, The Pipeline:  http://sellbetter.ca/blog.  Contact – Tibor.Shanto@SellBetter.ca or (416) 822-7781.

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