How many sales processes should you have? Is one sales process enough? Is it possible to have too many sales processes? These questions are a frequent topic of discussion among sales leaders. This blog post will help you answer the question, "Do I need more than one sales process?"
Although research by CSO Insights and The Aberdeen Group repeatedly indicates that top performing sales organizations employ a stage-gated sales process, they have not addressed how many sales processes a company should have.
To tackle this question, the first step is to recall that an effective sales process has 3 vital characteristics:
- It is mapped to the customer's buying process. If there are multiple buying processes, then it is likely that multiple selling processes are needed.
- Each stage has defined exit criteria. If the stages have different exit criteria, then a single process may not be sufficient.
- The process is supported by job aids or tools. It is possible to have a single selling process that adapts to different buying processes by unique sales tools that help move the customer to the next stage, or validate that the customer has exited a stage. One process; but multiple variations.
The need for variation is often driven by go-to-market strategies. In a September 2011 report, Aberdeen Research Group noted that best-in-class sales organizations are more likely than their peers to use:
- Strategies that employ channel partners
- Multiple sales roles (inside sales, outside sales, key accounts team)
- Separate initiatives for existing customers
One of our clients, a B2B SaaS provider, deploys two sales processes: one for latent demand (leads that they have created through inbound marketing and demand generation) and another for active demand (signified by a Request for Proposal). Everything about the two processes is different – steps in each stage, job aids used, and exit criteria. And yet the result is the sale of the same solution.
Some organizations deploy multiple sales processes with shockingly ineffective results. Customers are confused by the different approach of each silo, and cross-selling is severely limited. This is most often the result of growth by acquisition. Separate sales forces are merged, everyone converts to one HR system, one payroll system, one email system, and one financial reporting system. But the inherited sales processes linger. Multiple sales processes - incorrectly mapped to the buying process, with ill-defined exit criteria and unproductive job aids.
Another key factor is automation. There may be justification for more than one sales process but can your CRM system handle it? For example, the Oracle CRM OnDemand system can be configured to select a default sales process based upon the User's Role. If the user then selects a certain Opportunity type, the appropriate sales process is activated for that transaction.
So, the answer to the questions about the number of sales processes depends upon the following:
- Buying process – do you have a different buyer for your product/solution? If so you may need more than one sales process.
- Geography – is there sufficient variation among your buyers and your sales force as the geography changes? If so you may need more than one sales process.
- Product – do your products differ so greatly, maybe one is a purely transactional sales and the other a complex one, that they cannot be sold in the same way? If so you may need more than one sales process.
- Channel – do you have different sale channels (e.g. direct, OEM, VARs, inside sales, Key Accounts, etc.) such that each one has such different needs that they cannot use the same sales process framework? If so, you may need more than one sales process.
Despite all this potential variation, the goal should be to simplify – do not burden the sales force with complexity if you can avoid it. Your sales process can be a strong competitive advantage. Having the right sales process structure will yield the maximum potential from your market.
Thanks to John Kenney / Sales Benchmark Index
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