I thought I should post this, following a recent mentoring session, where the mentee asked me the following question. “Why do I need a sales process, surely a good sales person must be able to improvise, rather than follow a process?
If you have been in sales and or sales management, you are likely to have come across this, or a similar question. The answer… “because that is what we do around here” from a mentoring, and or coaching perspective may require a little less of a binary response. The presupposition, that a “good” sales person can be good at selling, without following any type of sales process is an interesting construct. It also implies, that personality and improvising are enough in themselves to make the sale without a sales process. Of course, following this logic the natural response was, Nick "people buy from people they like” so personality has to be a fundamental driver in sales success. The continuing logic is then perhaps, that a really good person with personality, given the right number of leads, has to be successful. Agreement can be found in this at some level, so far as, anyone can sell something, given the right number of leads. (Qualified leads) and of course, provided that that person, has the personality and mindset, to overcome the rejection and client resistance that comes from making hundreds of calls rather than a few.
The flip side of the question is I suppose whether it is worth investing time in developing a sales process; if it’s only about finding people that like you, and your personality?
So is the process there to merely guide our personality through a workable structure? Having coached and trained hundreds of sales people, it is always interesting to see the variations and approaches that are taken in client meetings. As a coach and mentor, I am a huge supporter of variation and flexibility of approach; and love the variety of individual application to a sales process. It is however a balance, as perhaps too much variation and flexibility is not a good thing.
If for example, I am relatively new to sales and find I have little guidance, training, and or coaching to build my sales skills and experience; then I run the risk, that if I am left alone to my own devices and I will burn through sales leads at a rate of knots.
This may lead to a situation where my competence is being questioned, leading to some level of sales anxiety, self-doubt and perceived failure, especially in the new world of remote working.
So to reduce the cost to the business, often new sales people are taken with their sales manager on the sales visits or now do joint video calls where the purpose is for the manager to observe the newcomer on the call. The intention is that, where appropriate the manager will deal with any complex issues and offer actual direct feedback. You may or may not recognise this experience, however sometimes in my experience this is what happens.
It is my first meeting, I am excited and curious about working with the prospective client; however just before I get on the call or go into the meeting, the sales manager says, look I will do this meeting, you can observe me, as I don’t want you to burn this lead. Like me you are now probably thinking a few things; I wasn’t going to burn the lead! I hope he isn’t going to keep my commission if he does close the deal? Or perhaps there is a little relief washing over you, as you sit back to observe our manager do the call whilst taking copious notes.
Meeting over. You and I, now have the experience of being “observers”. We’ve witnessed personality and a sales process combining, to create a harmonious flow and joyful sales event. That event ended either in the sale, or the agreement with the prospective client agreeing to the next steps, of the defined process. Or perhaps you and I are observers of a battle of wills, a demonstration of two elements clashing together like a drumstick on a symbol, with the sounds of clashing still screaming in our ears. Of course, as a sales person I immediately create a positive construct, recognising that all meetings are my opportunity to learn and deepen my experiences.
With this positive mindset and my detailed notes, I look to debrief the sales call with my manager in an attempt to enhance my learning experience. The sales manager is on his own sales high, he says “that was an awesome meeting, we will get the deal for sure.” The little voice in my head kicks in, “how about my commission, as it was my lead?” That is of course deflected, as I focus on the more pressing and meaningful task at hand. It is perhaps in this moment, that the immediate challenge is recognised. How am I going to map my managers personality traits across the process that made it so awesome? Also without the structure of an actual sales process, how do I create systematic process that would be repeatable? How do I create a sustainable, repeatable model that delivers the personal performance I need?
If the question of being “good” is correlated with performance then perhaps it requires a systematic approach to measuring my sales ratios and actual results. It is often only in the things that are measurable, that I can recognise what is working and what is not. It is certainly the case in my experience that “good sales people” strive to create their own sales process that measures their deliverables in an attempt to move them towards the ultimate goal of a 1:1 closing ratio.
The question then becomes, “Is personality a measurable thing?” Or a perceptual thing that is useful, (i.e. Act as if) yet not measurable. As we start developing and experiencing our systematic process, we perhaps look further into pandoras box. The question of personality, our persona, as sales people, manifests through our traits. Is it our personality traits, or our underlying identity being expressed in sales, that delivers “good” sales performance.
Is it you? Or are you just acting in the role through copying someone else?
This is perhaps where a fine line is to be highlighted. Where modelling and simulation are, I believe, fundamental to learning a new skill; and its through dedicated practice and getting to the stage where it is intuitively known, where our true identity is brought to bear into our own authentic sales process. Perhaps as we progress through our personal and professional sales development, rather focusing on creating a persona a personality, we define our own identity as people and apply that to our defined process. Copying someone else is generally, unsustainable, inauthentic and often creates the evil of failure.
The Hope that remains
As the story goes; if hope is to be found in our pandoras box of sales, having explored the evils in the box perhaps hope is found in knowing that “good” is found not in separation of personality and process, but in making them into one new identity.
This is where I believe you will find the real underlying answer to the question. A utopian state “the zone of ultimate sales performance”.
Stay safe and if you are in financial services and recognise the value in a mentor and or coach.
Take action and mail me.
International Coach and Mentor
Founder of Beyond thinking
A boutique Financial services search business.