I was thinking recently about the twin challenges facing sales leaders who are hoping to achieve sales greatness in post-COVID 2021. To reap the rewards, sales leaders are pondering whether it’s the individual skills of their sales pros that need tweaking to face the 2021 marketplace; or whether it’s the overall team sales process that could potentially be out of step with the changed landscape.
In trying to explain this with clarity to a recent webinar audience, I came up with an example from my childhood. If you, like me, are a fan of legendary sitcoms, you may recall the episode of “I Love Lucy” when neighbors Lucy and Ethel are asked to work at a chocolate factory. The process is explained simply enough: The candy passes through on a conveyor belt and continues into the next room where it will be packed; Lucy and Ethel’s job is to pick up the candy, wrap it in paper, and place it back on the conveyor belt.
Of course, the comic genius that ensues finds the ladies unable to keep up with the process – instead, shoving unwrapped candies into their mouths and otherwise struggling mightily to complete a basic task.
This, to me, helps illustrate the fact that you can have a great process, only for your skills to let you down. Or, you may have some holes in your process that need to be addressed in order to support skills development.
As sales professionals, we see this time and again. Think about the end of a sales period – the last week of the month, as an example. All of a sudden, you realize you have too few opportunities ready to close, so you start to bend over (like our protagonists above) and discard the process, cutting prices, giving away product, reducing margin, to get the customers to move. You can easily see how companies can pay the price when process is thrown by the wayside.
In truth, most organizations have room to improve both skills and processes to keep apace with buyer’s expectations.
Here are the five questions you can ask today to diagnose whether your challenges are skill-based, or more process-oriented in nature:
1. Are your presentations too generic?
If so, the buyer may feel that they don’t have enough information that’s applicable to their purchase, and the seller will invariably have difficulty demonstrating ROI. This is likely a process issue.
2. Do you practice selling consistency in your organization?
Or do your sales pros just kind of wing it? Do they act like improv comedians, where they try to just sort of react to whatever the customer is saying? If you are inconsistent in the way in which you sell, you likely need to tweak your process.
3. Can you trace the issue back to where it’s occurring in the sales cycle?
Is the deal falling apart at the initial conversation, or just before the close? Are your sales pros unable to move from one stage to the next? Based upon the answer, this can be either a skills or a process issue.
4. Do you have a standard metric that you use to measure against?
If so, what percent of your team is achieving it? If you believe, for example, that 50 percent of all meetings should result in proposals, but no one is meeting this, it is definitely a process issue. Or if one or two people are missing the target, it is likely a skills issue.
5. Are your issues a “can’t do” or a won’t do”?
Is there something that’s keeping the sales pro from doing their job? If it’s a “can’t do” issue, it tends to be skills-based – they may not know how to prospect, or they struggle with presenting the value of the company to your customer, or they don’t know how to ask for the business. Conversely, “won’t do’s” – things like whether the reward structure is a sufficient motivator, or whether the team dynamic inhibits their ability to collaborate – tend to be more process oriented.
Clearly, in our post-pandemic reality, it’s time to make some permanent, and lasting, changes to keep in step with our buyers. You may find it will take a focus on your sales pros’ skills, the team’s sales playbook process, or a little bit of both, to make sure you’re tasting sweet success at your company.