The term sales process is used freely within most organizations.
The reality, however, is that most sales functions do not resemble processes. If you reflect on a typical process elsewhere in the organization, you’ll recognize that the most fundamental pre-requisites for process are absent from the sales environment:
- A standard workflow
- Division of labor (specialization)
- Centralized workflow management
In most sales environments there is no process (in a formal sense of the word). Most are structured as industry used to be prior to the dawn of the industrial revolution.
In place of process we have artisans: individuals who have assumed absolute responsibility for the entire end-to-end sales function. (Actually, in most organization, these individuals own the entire client-interface.)
There are numerous negative effects associated with the artisan (or autonomous-agent) model:
- Salespeople are distracted from selling by the numerous competing demands on their time
- Salespeople tend to oscillate between business-development and fulfillment related activities — resulting in a highly-variable (and unpredictable) flow of sales
- Shared responsibilities (an oxymoron) result in conflict between sales and other functions (particularly fulfillment)
- Salespeople are all but impossible to manage (sales managers lack both accurate information and control)
Sales Process Engineering addresses the root cause of these negative effects by challenging the autonomous-agent model. SPE transitions salespeople from autonomous agents to (true) team members.
The essence of SPE is division-of-labor. And, division-of-labor is impossible without a standardized workflow and centralized workflow management. Of course, these are the three pre-requisites for formal process we identified earlier. In theory, then, SPE results in the sales function transitioning from its current pre-industrial form to a process (in the formal sense of the word).
In practice, the implications of SPE are significant:
- Salespeople focus exclusively on selling (typically performing four business-development appointments a day, five days a week)
- Salespeople are supported by a team of specialists who take responsibility for promotion, clerical tasks and technical activities
- The management of sales opportunities (and salespeople’s calendars) is centralized and management is provided with both current and accurate data and with the control required to execute their decisions
While SPE may appear radical, in reality, it isn’t.
SPE involves nothing more than leading the sales function down the same path that manufacturing has trodden over the last 150 years.
In the last 150 years this journey has provided manufacturing with staggering improvements in both productivity and quality. SPE offers sales benefits of a similar magnitude. However, because this is a path that manufacturing has already trodden, sales can make the transition in months, not years.
Typically, SPE results in the following:
- A significant reduction in the size of the sales team
- The conversion of most existing (technical) salespeople into project leaders (responsible for managing the interface between sales and fulfillment)
- A ten-times increase in the number of business-development appointments performed by the remaining salespeople
- An improvement in customer service
- A reduction in sales cycle-time
- Minimal capital expenditure
- Minimal increase in operating expenses
To learn more about SPE, please take a look at the following:
- One-page SPE Primer
- Whitepaper: How to build a high-throughput sales process