Updated: Jul 6, 2022
Regardless of how hard you try, the sales process is always going to vary based on the people involved, what you're selling and even the time of year. Really effective sales people have a process in place to help them understand what works, and what needs adjustment. Here's what it looks like, and how you can learn to use it too.
When you're an entrepreneur or individual practitioner, there are some things than can really prevent you achieving real sales confidence and consistent success. For example:-
Focus: You don't sell all day every day, but depending on the prospects you're selling to, you might be competing with sales professionals or business development executives who do. You have to be really on top of your game to outperform them, and while you absolutely can, it's going to require commitment, creativity and consistency.
Process: There are aspects being an entrepreneur that have to be opportunistic. This is great to begin with, but it can kill your effectiveness as you scale your business. It's very easy to forget important aspects of the sales process and just run with what's there, and then you get busy chasing poorly qualified opportunities, and spend more time selling, with diminishing results.
Data: If you don't have a checkpoint in place that enable you to compare your performance, identify areas of improvement and make changes to your process, these problems can snowball and really hurt you.
Solitude: As an entrepreneur, you're part of a small team, or maybe even a team of one. After a while, if your sales process isn't delivering, your lack of results will likely put you into a real funk about selling. Without someone to discuss this with, and no clear plan for change, you can lose your confidence and start 'coping' instead of 'excelling'.
So what can you do about this?
Most forward thinking sales organisations have a process in place that really helps them drive continuous improvement in their sales process. It's called a Structured Deal Review, and while they can be very lengthly and complicated, they don't have to be. Having a consistent and recurring deal review process in place, with someone who you trust, is essential, and can quickly deliver some great results.
Here's why it works:
Perspective: When you're immersed in developing an opportunity and closing a deal with a customer, you can lost sight of what really matters, and get a real case of 'Deal Lock'. This happens when you become obsessed with a particular deal, either because it really big, it's with a client you'd love to work with, or the 'competition' is someone you really want to win business from. Maybe a previous employer or a company you just don't think can deliver value as well as you can. As a result, you get over invested in 'the deal', and you can just see the sunk cost, it's too hard to walk away from! The longer you stay at it, the worse it's going to get. Reviewing it with a trusted third party, who's going to have a more clinical perspective, can be the most effective way to resolve this problem. A conversation with them can help you see a bigger picture, enabling you to shift your approach, and preserve your sanity!
Structure: For a deal review process to work well, it's got to have a cadence, be reliably executed and a have a 'review process' of its own. This means you can ask some key questions like 'How is this time different from last?' 'What's changed?', 'What skills have I really focused on and where can I improve?' An effective deal review process will be documented consistently (and easily!) so you can go back and review your progress from time to time, and you know you're building a solid skill foundation. It's not anecdotal 'mansplaining' full of 'what you need to do is...' type of advice, but it's a conversation that helps YOU understand and learn, and enables YOU identify and embark on appropriate action steps. Additionally, it will really help you teach the necessary skills to others when and if you choose to take that step.
Community: Ideally, when you've developed your skill and you've had a number of deal reviews with the same person, you can start introducing new participants. Maybe a customer you really trust, or another entrepreneur or a business advisor who deals in the same market. This is a fantastic way of expanding your community, and positions you as a thought leader in domains outside of your area of professional practice. Selling is really a natural process, we all do it to differing levels at various stages of our lives, and entrepreneurial success can have a lot to do with giving yourself permission to be excellent. This might sound a bit crazy, but confidence in the actual process OF selling has way more impact on our results than we give it credit for.
In summary, don't just assume that your sales skills are fine, but rather assume they're not, and be completely confident that you can always improve. This is a real 'Day 1' mindset that will serve you exceptionally well, and by following even a little bit of a structured review process, you'll start mastering 'Sales KaiZen' and even enjoying it!
Here's the 'How to':
Download a deal review process worksheet here.
I ❤️ sales, and I enjoy helping other people improve their sales performance, so if you have any questions, get in touch!