Most sellers follow some sort of sales process. The companies for whom they work may not label specific stages or track opportunities within them; nevertheless, the process exists. As an independent business owner, I was keenly aware of how many people I needed to contact to hold a certain number of consulting appointments to sell a certain number of products. I didn’t label my stages, but you better believe I knew how to work my numbers to hit specific revenue targets. If I didn’t, I couldn’t pay my bills, and as a straight-commission sales person, those numbers, at every step of the process, mattered.
Even in multi-billion dollar companies the CEO lacked clear line of sight into the sales pipeline because tracking methods varied so widely across the business units. Through a laborious manual process taking several days, if not weeks, sales leaders pieced together a revenue portrait that they thought might be accurate. The C-suite then used this information to report to Wall Street.
When companies recognize the cost of an inefficient process, manual tracking and time out of the field, they despair over how to fix it. Yet each of the eleven business units protested, “But we’re so different…”
Gaining traction in creating an enterprise-wide sales process depends first on evaluating the general sales motion for the company between go-to-market and quote-to cash:
- Consider all steps that entail your sales process – starting with prospecting (i.e. an “above the funnel” stage) through close. The number of steps or stages depends on the complexity of your business and your sales cycle. Once defined, these stages can apply consistently across your enterprise.
- Reach agreement on what criteria needs to be met to advance an opportunity. Think about your product development process. Most best-in-class processes have “gates” to pass before a new product is ready for hand-off to the next development stage. Sales works the same way. When you agree on the outcomes or triggers that advance an opportunity, you create similarity in your process that creates an apples-to-apples comparison of potential revenue.
- If one business unit needs a technical specification to move forward and your services group needs to do a product demo, that’s OK. The only caveat is that the activities within the stage drive the agreed upon “gate” criteria, which typically includes a completed action with the customer.
Creating synergy and process across your company enables senior leaders to make better data-driven decisions. Reducing costs, improving talent management, and gaining better visibility to the health of business make the hard work of creating enterprise sales process a worthwhile investment.