One of my favorite newspaper cartoons is Dilbert. Dilbert is a software engineer living in a cubicle world surrounded by the absurdities of modern corporate life. My favorite episode is when Dilbert is conversing with a marketing manager who is urgently trying to get him to do something Dilbert doesn’t want to do. Finally, the frustrated marketing manager says, “Look engineering boy, I know you can’t resist the siren call of a good process.”
Admittedly, as an engineer by training before going into sales, I enjoy a good process. I’ve observed that in telephone sales, a good process makes the difference between success and failure. Place the best salesperson in an environment with no guidelines, no requirements, no support, no training and they are doomed to fail or at least, produce lackluster sales. Put an average salesperson into a good process and they will succeed.
In a nutshell, the sales manager stands between the telephone salesperson and the organization, and needs to be able to: A) design a business model which will generate the results required within an acceptable cost-of-sales budget; B) plan sales activities (e.g., positioning, call outlines, activity goals); C) select the right employees; D) orient and train representatives, both reoccurring training for experienced representatives and onboarding for new reps; E) create effective policies which are standing answers to reoccurring questions and constraints on the activities of the telephone salespeople (e.g., pricing, credit terms, product adjustments); F) coach telephone salespeople to close the gap between high and low performers; G) provide emotional nutrition to balance the emotional labor invested by the salesperson; H) and finally, solve operational problems between the telephone salesperson’s customers and the organization. These activities together produce a system, a process which is scalable, and successful.
Too many times, organizations hire salespeople first without designing the process that will make them successful. Not only is this demoralizing, but it is expensive. To often, if the salespeople don’t succeed, they are blamed, not the fact they don’t have call outlines which are effective, territories with real potential, or emotional and organizational support.
Motivation is important in sales, but the clearest motivator is the clarity of the sales task. If the salesperson knows to be successful, do “A”, then “B”, and finish with “C”, they will do these things. And success will sufficiently motivate the salesperson to do more. If they don’t know what to do next, and don’t know the pathway to be successful, this alone will be demotivating, regardless of the compensation plan or their aptitude for the job. Anytime a salesperson is struggling to know what to do next, motivation is diminishing, commitment evaporating.
In many organizations, the sales manager was a leading producer, plucked out of the sales group because of their success, and these sales managers may see their primary job as assisting other salespeople close big deals, thereby ignoring the tedious task of establishing a good sales process. But sales management is more about designing and leading a process where the salespeople can be effective.
You know, I just can’t resist the siren call of a good sales process, because that’s where revenue is born.