Sales Leaders: How Much Structure Is Too Much?

August 31, 2015
How Much Structure is Too Much

In the absence of process lives chaos.

Imagine how different our experience and outcome might be without good process churning in the background of a hospital operating room or the cockpit of a 747. The same is true with high-functioning selling organizations. A good sales process and corresponding structure fuels superior results. As sales leaders we know from experience, and research confirms, that rigor and discipline around a common language and process dramatically increases the productivity of sales reps.

But not all sales process is created equally, and execution against subpar process and structure creates risk to our business and even speed to bad results.

Plenty of research exists around the benefits of implementing process and structure, but not much data exists on the impact that bad process has on our business results. How do we pressure-test our own situations to make sure that we are executing against the right structure?

Enable vs. Inspect

Are we enablers of good process or inspectors of bad process? Compliance to bad process will most certainly lead to an uninspiring result. And if process is built without high-sensibility to the customer, then we risk too much administration and not enough good old-fashioned face time.

Indeed it is a good idea to inspect what you expect.

However, too much focus on inspection without regard to the quality of the effort, does not empower the best result. By creating a sales process and systems that enable behaviors predictive of success, we gain a better result by means of superior engagement with the customer. If our sales process and systems stand in the way of better customer engagement, then we need to call it out and fix it.

Check the box

As any pilot will attest, having a checklist prior to takeoff assures that important steps are not forgotten. In sales, we often take shortcuts and sometimes this plays to our own disadvantage. For example, taking the time to define a high-value agenda (and pre-call plan), and communicating this prior to a meeting with the customer, is a best practice that contributes to a better result. But we don’t always do it.  When we do, we get a better result, and this is a box worth checking.

Creative expression and agility can also be differentiating in a sales pursuit.

And if we become too rigid or focused on checking the box, we potentially miss an opportunity to differentiate or align with the customer’s buying flow. Both elements are important to consider when updating the sales process. Think about how to empower great results by creating a process that is both dynamic and rigorous at the same time. One without the other is a miss.

Break down barriers

Discuss 3 questions with your back office leadership:

1) Does our sales process and system enable or burden our sales people and customers?

2) Do our systems and processes prompt our sales people to spend more face time with customers, or less?

3) Was this system engineered inside-out or outside-in, meaning with the customer in central focus?

Your answers to these questions are a good meter relative to whether or not change is warranted. It’s no secret that salespeople dislike administration, but there is also no denying the absolute need for good systems and process. The key is to be intentional about what to keep doing, stop doing, and start doing. In other words, protect the necessary elements of your administrative flow, but also be willing to challenge redundancy, bottlenecks, and over-engineered processes. Complexity after all is the silent killer of profitable growth.

The best sales leaders choose holy wars with great care. Working together with back office leadership to break down barriers faced by the sales team can be a worthy effort for all, including the customer. If your systems and processes are too heavy and complex, then ultimately it is a burden and risk to your achievement of growth targets.

Maximize High Yield Time with Customers and Salespeople

When building and updating your sales process and systems, think about how to optimize high yield interaction between selling teams and customers. The most successful sales systems and processes are those hard wired to light up best practices, quality of action, creativity, and skill in execution. Inspection of the status quo will never achieve great results. Inspect what you expect, while making sure that expectations are rich in behavioral elements that lead to greatness.

Think of it this way – it is a MUST to build a clearly defined sales process that drives excellence and accountability. It is a MISS to be an inspector of bad process, as inevitably bad process sucks the life out of real results.


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Written By

Russ Sharer

Russ Sharer is a Chief Sales Officer at The Brooks Group. Russ combines his 30+ years in B2B Sales and Marketing with his in-depth facilitation experience to connect the dots for program participants with a practical, “easy-to-learn” approach.
Written By

Russ Sharer

Russ Sharer is a Chief Sales Officer at The Brooks Group. Russ combines his 30+ years in B2B Sales and Marketing with his in-depth facilitation experience to connect the dots for program participants with a practical, “easy-to-learn” approach.

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