Sales Maturity and Processes

In a nutshell all sales processes involve the following; finding prospective clients, contacting them, qualifying their interest and closing. Where marketing maturity takes incremental leaps in terms of time and effort, the sales process does not mature in quite the same way…

Soil stage

Nearly all sales problems start in the same place, which is a misalignment of the end goal. Sales are judged on the clients they produce and in many cases the rest of the organisation simply does not care how they do go about this as long as they are bringing clients in.

There are numerous problems with this approach; it makes it very difficult to scale, means that sales people will more likely focus on easy-wins and will lose longer term opportunities and in nearly every organisation, sales are overstating the anticipated likelihood of prospects closing in order to hit targets.

Businesses must remember that there are many factors out of their control when it comes to making a buying decision, and think about the behaviours they want to drive. If your sales process is immature and you do not have accurate figures in which to forecast potential returns on effort, then instead incentivise the effort itself. In the soil stage it is critical to clearly define the terminology and criteria you will use in your sales funnel, as well as a way in which to track these prospects through that funnel and offer up proof as to their status. Most companies need some form of CRM, but at soil stage it may be appropriate to simply work from excel spreadsheets in the cloud.

At the soil stage of maturity, it is likely that you will lean on the different approaches and personalities of your sales team rather than nailing down a process, but it is key to have good note keeping for the future.

In terms of new verticals/new products where there is a known immaturity, seek out specific rejections to your approach. Target a smaller sample of prospects and look for specific reasons why your product/service may not work. This could be because you are targeting the wrong job titles, or that you must first become an approved supplier or need a specific industry certificate. Any sales effort will always likely encounter rejection, but here you are looking for specific reasons you may not have planned for before committing more time.

Plant Stage

At the plant stage of maturity, I would start looking at sales through the lens of continuous improvement. Sales matures as more data is collected which can help to refine messages and process. The first step is to identify opportunities for improvement in the process workflow. Look specifically for ways in which to reduce burn time, recurring objections that may need to be handled, bottlenecks, etc. From here you plan how these processes can be improved and this is where marketing and sales should work closely to think about missing materials etc but also to establish a general guideline as to the route that sales should primarily take. At a minimum this overview process should include avenues that must be exhausted before a sale is classified as cold.

It is during the plant stage that best practice is established, key messages and positioning are cemented and you can begin to initiate a overriding process and protocol with growth in mind. It’s still likely that through practicality you would be reliant on sales people and their own approaches, but in the plant stage you are capturing these approaches, evaluating their effectiveness against key targets and sharing with the group.

One of the major obstacles at this stage is that of privacy. Sales calls and conversations on linkedin happen in a silo that you cannot see and then this has to be typed up, creating admin work. If you choose to install tracking/recording software you may risk alienating more senior sales people, and ultimately any organisation wants to be seen as trusting their employees…but it can be difficult to pay sales without a lack of results or evidence.

Garden Stage

Even at its most mature, it is dangerous to start giving sales restrictive processes they MUST follow, as ultimately they can only be lead by the actions of the prospects. It is however critical to establish best practice, techniques and messages as per our last maturity level. With this information to hand there is a level of complexity and additional technology that organistions should consider.

The first is lead scoring. This takes into account the seniority of that person, organsation, but also activity they have completed such as joining the mailing list, liking an article etc. Sales generally read activity better than marketing and can see patterns when someone is likely to convert, as an example for most companies the ‘About us’ is normally visited when someone is actively interested. The lead scoring system could be tied to Reverse IP tracking so that any website activity can also be taken into account. This level of detail gives you a fuller picture as to the buying cycles and behaviour of your prospects.

At garden stage you should have enough infrastructure in place to be at the level at which an overall process is followed and can be quickly understood by news sales people. They should be able to draw off a wide range of materials and be fed inbound sales from marketing, they should have tools which limit their admin time as much as possible and serve them data and insights that can help them close the deal.

A sales process in and of itself should never be that complicated and should act more as a guideline than a strict rule. Sales maturity does not have such a sliding scale in the way that marketing does as at its core it should have repeatable processes that ultimately result in sales closed.