The sales process audit: 7 magic questions to ask (and answer)

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By Logan Strain

If you have a real, concrete sales process in place, pat yourself on the back. You’re one of the few people who get that companies with a formal sales process in place generate more revenue. But after you’re done congratulating yourself, take a step back.

How well is that process actually working for you? Not on paper—in the real world. Establishing a sales process and never checking it is a bit like buying a car and never changing the oil. Sure, it will run for a while. Until it breaks down and leaves you stranded on the side of the freeway. If you want to really understand how well your sales process is doing, ask these seven questions. And be honest.

1. Is It Being Followed?

There’s the theory. And then there’s the reality. If your sales process is ignored, it’s not worth the effort that went into creating it. Your organization is most at risk of a shunned sales process if your department has a high turnover rate or is rapidly expanding. Everyone has their own sales style, and that’s fine. But new hires who aren’t taught to respect the process may bring their own personal philosophy to sales. And if they aren’t being encouraged to follow it by their managers (see No. 5), they’ll just ditch it.

2. When Was The Last Time It Was Updated?

Your process should serve as the framework for your sales operation. But you shouldn’t revere it like it’s engraved on stone tablets and delivered to you by a sales messiah. It’s a living document.

If you notice that it’s been many moons since the last time you’ve updated your sales process, ask why. It might be because no one is following it, so there’s just no reason to change something that’s never used. Or it might be that no one has offered changes. Or they’re afraid to.

If you want ideas for changes, just ask your team. They’ll have the boots-on-the-ground insight that can help you update your best practices. As an added bonus, they’ll also feel more committed to the process. When you have a sales framework imposed on you, it can feel a bit stifling. But when you have a hand in actually shaping it, you’ll just naturally more engaged and invested.

3. Are There Unnecessary Steps?

A main goal of any sales process should be to shrink to sales cycle as much as possible without harming long-term growth. Unnecessary steps in a sales process are like unnecessary parts to an engine. It just adds pointless complexity and wastes valuable resources. If any part of the process can be eliminated without harming sales, give it the axe.

4. Are There Missing Steps?

But at the same time, less isn’t always better. Better is better. You don’t want to miss out on sales by eliminating steps that could actually help bring in business. To take a simple example: how many times does your process recommend that you follow up with a lead that was unresponsive on the first contact attempt? Once? Twice? Three times?

It’s not an easy question. If the lead is dead cold and never gets back to you at all, you don’t want to waste scarce time that could be better used pursuing warm leads. However, you also don’t want to quit too early and possibly lose sales that could be earned with better persistence. It’s possible that adding a step (additional follow up) might be worth the extra time investment. But you won’t know unless you try it out and see how it works.

5. Do Managers Reference It During Training And Coaching?

All sales teams take cues from their leadership. If the managers respect the process, they’ll work to emphasize its importance during meetings and coaching sessions. On the other hand, they view it as an unnecessary hindrance, or maybe just a loose guideline, they’ll ignore it.

If your process has an implementation problem, it might come from the top. If you don’t have leadership on board, there’s no hope that the rest of your team will value it. If you expect your process to work, everybody needs to understand why it exists. But your managers should value it more than everybody else.

6. Is It Baked Into Your CRM?

Your sales team, your CRM, and your sales process should all sing the same harmonious tune. But sometimes the software you use to run your business is off key.

If it’s hard to track your sales process in your CRM, you’re just encouraging your team to stop using it. Telling your staff to adhere to a certain process, but then giving them software that makes it difficult to track that progress is confusing. Mixed signals are like speed bumps for a sales operation. Take your process to your CRM’s account representative. They should be able to advise the best ways to make your process and your software line up.

7. How Does The Team Feel About The Process?

Don’t forget the human factor. Your team will be the ones who are actually expected to follow the process. The more your team likes it, the better they’ll feel about implementing it. If they dread checking off those boxes and taking the steps necessary to close those sales, your performance (and your turnover) will stunt your department’s growth.

The best way to learn how they really feel? Just ask them. Worried that you won’t get honest feedback? Send an anonymous survey with Google forms. Your team will speak more candidly when they believe their comments and suggestions won’t be linked to them personally.

As Mike Tyson once observed, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” And everyone has a concrete sales process until they have to actually start selling. Asking the right questions through your sales process audit will guarantee that what you have on paper can hold up in the real world.

Logan Strain is a digital content specialist for The Control Group.

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September 3, 2015
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