We Need a Sales Process!

27 August 2014


When the CEO says “We need a defined sales process”, what are they really saying

First, the CEO clearly has a belief that process will increase sales. Secondarily, I believe the CEO is asking for a repeatable, visible and measurable system that replicates top sales performers.

The devil is in the details. So based on the organizational mandate for a sales process, here is a generic version of what Sales Operations typically delivers:

This Sales Stage Funnel is not necessarily wrong, but let me suggest a different level of thinking.

Ray Kurzweil, is widely known as one of the earliest developers of Artificial Intelligence programming. His work is primarily based on the pattern recognition of the mind. Kurzweil says the human brain contains 300 million pattern recognition circuits and purports that they are responsible for most aspects of human thought. He also suggests that the brain is nothing more than 30-100 million bytes of compressed code in the genome. Today, the foundational work of Kurzweil can be experienced through many technology tools such as the Shazam music recognition App or the I Phones Siri personal assistant.

Why is Kurzweil’s work important to the defining a sales process

Sales CRM best practices will quickly guide you toward creating 6, 7 or 8 selling stages and on the surface this gives you a nice clean sales process. The reality is that this approach is simplistic and winning more business is much more complex than sequencing simple stages. Winning more business is based on adaptable pattern recognition of the mind.

When companies study their top performing sales representatives, they will find the top performers are processing thousands of human behavior and purchase patterns they have learned in life. They are fast thinkers that quickly adapt to the situation they are in. They are constantly accessing their own personal sales plays based on pattern recognition. Often they will find winning plays and then repeat them sale after sale. This is why when you ask great salespeople, how they win, they often respond, “I just know what to do.”

Similarly, NFL Quarterbacks are leveraging the same talents. Although all are athletically gifted, what truly differentiates the good from the great, is their ability to very quickly assess, process and react to what is quickly unfolding before them. You can see this happening in every NFL game as Quarterbacks recognize defensive formations and then change plays via last minute audible signals. They are accessing their memories for pattern recognition data. Football players call this their instincts or sometimes muscle memory. To get even better at pattern recognition, NFL teams help build muscle memory through endless hours of repetitive drills, game simulations, studying aerial photography, game film review and hands on coaching.

So, when the CEO says, “we need a defined sales process,” what they are really saying is, “help me build pattern recognition muscle memory to win more.”

To accomplish this, Sales Operations teams must embark on a comprehensive diagnostic mapping initiative. They must map, at the individual level, the various patterns top producers are recognizing and acting on. There is both a buyer pattern and a selling pattern. They then need to aggregate these patterns into adaptable templates for the organization. From there, these interactive templates must be taught, be highly accessible and be constantly reinforced through practice, simulations and hands on coaching. Only then will your sales process deliver superior results. Clearly, this requires a significant investment of time and resources to execute properly.

The sales process funnel at the start of this article is easy to deliver, but building a comprehensive organizational sales process that continually accelerates revenue is a significantly more challenging endeavor. Companies, and their CEOs want the latter.


Learn more and meet Ian at this year's Sales Force Productivity Conference, 15-17 September.  His panel session is "Leading Sales Force Transformation."

About the Author

Ian Levine is a sales effectiveness expert having led transformational efforts for start-ups, middle market companies and Fortune 1000 firms. Ian's experiences in direct selling, sales management, sales operations, sales technology, product development and marketing allow him to bring an unusually broad and practical perspective to all revenue effectiveness topics. Follow Ian on Twitter.

About the Author
Ian Levine

Thank u so much Ian Levine for post this blog.
I need sales process information.
I can use this information for grow up my business.

Some good points made here Ian. Sales performance is a complex activity and the majority of sales people like simplicity by nature. Balancing the two can be very challenging though not impossible.

In the past I have deployed selling systems to help with the management of opportunities. Although they were helpful for the “smarter ones” the majority struggled to truly apply the approaches due to the subjective and complex nature of things. We are getting great response with our “Deal Sheet” app for Salesforce which tries to handle this a bit differently. Taking key elements of the buying process and simplifying the evaluation stage is helping the sales people to “get it”.

Of course any app is not going to fix the problems many companies face. Sales management capability is often lacking for good, objective pipeline and forecasting evaluation. There is an inherant fear of qualification as this reduces the pipeline value against which many sales managers are measured. For many it seems they feel it’s better to have a big pipeline that will never close than a smaller pipeline that has a higher win rate.baffles me sometimes 🙂

True that Ian. I truly believe that a if sales process can be embarked into a team and practiced in an effective manner, deals can be closed and maintained with no doubt. Then experience will teach Excellency.
Thanks for the discussion.

Discuss this blog

Become a member

Become a member