Sales Process in 2017: An Interview with George Brontén, Part 2
Feb 02 2017
George Brontén is the founder & CEO of Membrain, sales effectiveness software that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. He is a lifelong entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. I spoke with George recently about current state of sales process maturity. Here is the second part of our interview. If you missed the first part, here you go!
TS: Welcome back to the second part of our interview with George. Last week, we talked about the current state of sales process implementation and maturity.
Now, in your experience, what results are sales organizations getting at the informal sales process level, which means an organization knows what to do but lacks a formal implementation and reinforcement?
GB: An informal approach is often based on the assumption that each salesperson will know what to do with whom, when and why. And that nothing falls between cracks (or that some loss is acceptable). There are salespeople who will shine at the informal level because they have an internal “map” – the experience, skills and motivation – but they are few and far between. I was working under this assumption myself when building a sales team at my previous company, and my realizations about the high costs and ineffectiveness of this approach spurred me to create Membrain to help companies move from an informal to a dynamic approach – a lot of fun!
TS: Many companies find that implementing a sales process is challenging.
GB: There’s a quote from the American inventor R. Buckminster Fuller that is telling: “If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.” I think this is important, as there’s currently a large gap between theory and practice. Sales process on a laminated piece of paper is not enough. The sales process needs to become visible and easy to understand and follow, for everyone from the latest hire to the most senior salesperson. Supported by technology, the sales process provides the foundation for self-coaching, opportunity-level coaching and process optimization that will truly move the needle when it comes to sales effectiveness.
TS: What else is required? Methodology? Skills?
GB: First, you have to recognize that having or building a sales process that truly drives sales effectiveness is not an easy task. Then yes, you cannot have the process without methodology, because if your sales team doesn’t have good methods to move a buyer though the process of buying, the process will just be a reporting exercise. And to be able to execute it all, salespeople and sales managers need the right skills – so training and coaching becomes important.
A problem that I see today is the lack of a holistic approach to professional selling and sales effectiveness. Too often, sales leaders rush to buy the latest sales training or the latest app that promises “automation” by emailing faster, calling faster, or predicting the future by analyzing “big data.” All of those shiny objects might create a temporary boost, but what’s really needed is a solid strategy that is executed with discipline and continually improved to consistently achieve higher goals. Selling is not an art, but selling can be artfully executed!
TS: Could you share three recommendations for sales leaders who want to implement a true sales effectiveness initiative?
GB: If only it were as easy as a three-step checklist! If I may assume that the company has competitive solutions that are well-positioned and the value proposition is attractive, I would suggest the following:
- Start with the why
State why you need to structure your sales efforts and how you will measure progress and success. As an example: “We need to structure how we sell by capturing and systematizing best-practices and educate our team in how to use them to improve win-rates from X to Y by Z by December 2018.”
- Understand how and why customers make buying decisions
Analyze your recent wins and losses in depth to determine what made you win business and when your efforts were not sufficient. When doing interviews with prospects and customers, ask questions about their decision-making journey to find out the important milestones and criteria used to embrace or exclude you. Capture the key stakeholders, milestones and value-creating steps and document the needed resources and skills to successfully execute the sales process from start to finish. Make sure to include your top sales and marketing performers early in this exercise to get the buy-in for the initiative and to model their successful behaviors along the way.
- Systematize your process and methodology
Design a sales process based on the second exercise, embed your preferred sales methodology and use sales effectiveness software to make it easy to understand and follow, so it becomes part of daily operations. Make sure that you train the sales managers how and when to coach salespeople to ensure maximum sales momentum. This is particularly important when you need to introduce new behaviors to win business. Also remember to strike a balance between simplicity and sophistication. As previously mentioned, a common mistake is to make the process too complex, too all-encompassing, and hence make adoption by salespeople and managers difficult. It’s like the famous Leonardo da Vinci quote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
TS: Excellent! As you can imagine, I LOVE especially the simplicity quote. It really is the ultimate sophistication. Thanks so much for sharing so many practical and straight-forward insights and ideas on how to leverage technology to drive sales effectiveness.
Membrain created some free tools to create a sales process and learn more about methodologies that can be found on their resource page: http://www.membrain.com/resources
About George Brontén
With the life motto “Don’t settle for mainstream,” George is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills and processes. He shares his thoughts on the award-winning blog “Art & Science of Complex Sales”.