Reduce Your Sales Cycle Time by Strengthening Your Sales Process
Updated: May 30
A Strong Sales Process is a Vital Tool for High Performing Sales Teams
Back in the early 2000s, we sold and trained a lot of people in the manufacturing industry: steel manufacturers, companies that manufactured parts for the aerospace industry, car manufacturers, etc. From that experience, I learned that the big focus in manufacturing is to create a repeatable process in order to have reproducible and consistent output.
That concept was something that I carried throughout my career in training and sales. If you wanted to have reproducible and consistent results in sales, then you needed to have a consistent and scalable Sales Process. A process that any member of your sales team could execute consistently and get reproducible and consistent results.
So what is a sales process? A Sales Process is nothing more than a series of repeatable and reproducible steps or stages that all of your salespeople can walk their prospects through to end up at a predetermined goal or outcome.
Now, will your sales process produce the results you want 100 percent of the time? No. Even manufacturing processes don’t produce the desired results 100 percent of the time. That’s why they target a certain percentage of their process output to occur within specified tolerances. Those process outputs that don’t make it within those tolerances are called waste. And the efficiency of the process is determined by minimizing the waste and maximizing the results that occur within those predetermined tolerances.
Your sales process is going to do the same thing with converting your leads into viable prospects, and eventually customers. And you want your process to do this as efficiently as possible.
Characteristics of a Good Sales Process
Here are a few other things to consider when creating and updating your sales process:
Flexible: Your sales process must be flexible enough to accommodate changes in the sales environment, the state of the prospects your sales reps are dealing with, and the sales reps themselves. For instance, if your sales rep is delivering a presentation to a prospect and the prospect gets up and says, “I’m ready. Let’s get started." Does your sales rep say, “You can’t. We have to go through the objection stage first?” Or does she say, “Here’s the contract. Press hard. The third copy is yours.” Your sales process must be flexible enough to give the sales rep some room to maneuver.
Extensible: Sales processes aren’t static creations that exist in a bubble. They live and grow with the changes in the sales environment, your market, and your product line. You need to be able to adjust it by adding or removing steps as your market shifts and changes.
Modular: We talk about the steps or stages in a sales process. In my coaching, I often refer to processes within these modular steps, such as the process for opening a sales call, or the process for handling objections. Each stage inside your sales process is also a process with defined starting and ending points.
Replicable: Your process is no good if only the top 5 percent of your sales team understands it well enough to use it. Your sales process must be accepted and used by everyone on the sales team, not just the seasoned sales rep, the super brilliant, or those with the ‘gift of gab.’ Sure, all these things help the sales rep move prospects through the sales process. But your entire team needs to be able to use it and produce the desired results.
More Observations from the Olympic and Paralympic Games
As you know, I’ve been watching the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games this year. While inspiring, I saw a lot of parallels between the way athletes trained and competed at these games and the training and processes performed by salespeople.
This year, there were several new events in both Games. One that caught my attention was the Universal Relay in the Paralympic Games.
In a traditional relay, you have a team of four men or women move a baton around the track. The first team to carry the baton across the finish line wins. And the team that wins is the one in which each athlete runs the best race they can and then efficiently passes the baton to the next athlete. In a typical relay, the team members are similarly matched.
The Paralympic Games took the relay to a new level with the Universal Relay. First, they mixed it up by allowing men and women on the same team. In addition, the first leg of the relay had to be a visually impaired runner, the second had to be a runner with an upper body impairment, the third had to be a runner with a coordination impairment, and the final leg had to be a runner with a lower spine impairment and needed a wheelchair.
I watched the US team dominate the field as they moved the baton down the track with as little friction as possible. In this case the baton was a tap on the right shoulder within the allotted zone. Three rookies ran the first three legs of the relay with veteran racer Tatyana McFadden, 5-time winner of the New York City Marathon, running the anchor leg. They completed the race for a world record and a gold medal.
Insights on the Sales Process Taken from the Universal Relay
When I watched this performance, it hit me that this is a great metaphor for the sales process. Each runner took the baton from the previous runner and moved it to the next runner. And each runner was distinctly different from the others in the relay.
That’s what your sales process does. Each unique stage takes a prospect from the previous stage and carries them to the next stage with a minimum of friction to eventually get the prospect over the finish line as quickly as possible.
I also heard one of the sports commentators make an observation about the Universal Relay during the Paralympic Games’ closing ceremonies. He said that the Universal Relay highlighted the idea that each athlete in the relay was providing a foundation for the next athlete to stand on and perform to the best of their abilities.
As before, we can make a direct comparison to the sales process. Each stage of the sales process is providing the foundation for the next stage. If the sales rep executes each stage of the sales process with precision and integrity, they create a strong foundation for the next stage in the sales process, and the prospect can be carried through to the conclusion stage and the close.
That’s why at Tyson Group, we believe that how you open a sales call is more important than the close. If you open the call correctly and you follow your sales process, then the close will happen effortlessly.
Bottom line, review your sales process. Remove as much friction as possible and make sure it’s executable by all of your salespeople. If your entire team can move prospects through each stage efficiently, they can build on the foundation from the previous stages until they carry the prospect over the finish line in record time.
Sales leaders of high performing sales teams regularly review their sales process to ensure it's aligned with their team. Take the Sales Team Science Assessment here and discover how well aligned your team is with your sales process.