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ISM Article

What’s Your Sales Methodology?

5 Nov, 2012 By: Tom Callinan imageSource

Let’s think about you building your dream house. You go buy some land and you have the perfect house pictured in your mind. You dig a hole and pour your foundation. You then start to put the first floor on the house. It rains one day and you notice your basement has two feet of water. Maybe you should have spoken to somebody about the grade of your land. When you start to put the second floor on the house you notice that the framing on the first floor isn’t square, so you have to cut each beam differently to fit. Your doors and windows don’t fit properly so you have to cut extra plywood to fill the gaps in every opening. The roof and windows all leak, the floors slope in different directions, and the finishes have gaps everywhere. But you have your house.

What were you missing? That’s easy, a plan, process, method, whatever term you use, to build a home. Do you have a plan for your sales team? Or envision a dream team without the methodology to get there?

Do you know a professional team that runs by the seat of their pants? Does your favorite baseball or football team go on the field without a game plan? Does each player know precisely what he or she is going to do given the opposing batter, players in the game or formation? The military goes into battle with a strategic, methodical plan of action for a reason. Or lots of them.

So a sales methodology is key to you having and maintaining your dream team of sales professionals. How do you put a sales methodology in place?

Start with territory structure.

If you are going to measure relative success of your sales team they need to have equal opportunity. There are many definitions for a territory and two key components. The first component is customer/prospect type and the second component is the type of sales person you deploy.

If I were selling a product or service to small companies; less than 50 employees; my territory would be geographic and I would probably use telemarketers. I would want to ensure that each territory had approximately the same quantity of small businesses. If I were selling to companies with greater than 50 employees, I’d define the territory with “named” accounts and deploy outside sales professionals. Clearly you could have multiple levels: small companies, medium, majors, enterprise and verticals such as K-12 or higher education, GEM, legal, and medical. So you could cover the state as your geography and assign territories by stripping out the enterprise accounts, then the vertical accounts, the major accounts, and finally the medium sized businesses. What’s left is—the largest quantity of prospects with the least potential in revenue—goes to the telemarketing team after the high revenue opportunities are assigned to outside sales reps.

Use account plans.

You’re selling in complex environments, defined as multiple decision makers in multiple functional areas (departments). Your sales professionals could be talking to somebody in strategic sourcing on Monday, finance on Tuesday, and IT on Wednesday. They could be speaking to a director, VP, or SVP. The discussion might center on output devices, software, or professional services. Do you really believe that one person could possibly have the talent and knowledge to handle all of those discussions?
Not a chance. You must have a structured approach to team based
account planning.


Did you ever miss the forecast your sales professionals turn in? Better question, ever achieve the sales team’s forecast? Isn’t there some irony in letting an employee basically tell you what they’re going to do for the month? Add to that equation that if they give you bad information they will be in for a tough conversation but if they tell you what you want to hear they’ll have a great meeting.

You need a standard forecasting method that ties to your account planning. If you have team based selling the sales person isn’t the only person with an opinion on when a sale is going to close. If you have clear criteria for forecasting you will have a significantly more accurate forecast. Your forecast sets the direction for the period, be it a month or quarter. If you get this wrong you probably waste another period not focused on what you need for long-term success.

Three simple areas: Territory, account planning, and forecasting. But like everything that looks simple—pouring some cement and nailing some sticks together to build a house—it isn’t simple. There are processes to ensure each of these three macro areas are executed properly.

Back to the house:

You need a blueprint. For the home the blueprint is on large sheets of paper, one for each area of the house. You have your footings and foundation page. You have your framing; your electric and plumbing; your trusses and roofing. You have a step-by-step process to ensure all of “the pieces fit” together. In the sales field your CRM should be your blueprint. You need to have the sales professionals territory loaded into the CRM, be it geographical for small accounts or account based for larger accounts. You need to have your account planning process defined in the CRM. The process should detail the information you need on each account and revenue potential for the account. And you need to have your forecasting methodology defined in the CRM.

What prevents companies from adopting a true sales methodology? Pain in change and not correctly using the CRM are two. Pain in change speaks for itself so let’s take the CRM issue. My belief is that the business owners and sales leaders believe the CRM is the responsibility of the sales person, when in fact it is the responsibility of the executive team.

Think about this article and how the sales methodology can help you grow your business. Think how difficult it would be for your sales team to follow a sales methodology without having the process defined in the CRM. Think about where all of the account information will reside if not in the CRM. By now it should be clear to every executive reading this article that it is critical that you get involved in your CRM set-up to ensure it supports your sales methodology.

Our industry is rapidly evolving and to maintain your leadership position your company should be evolving. Take a serious look at your sales efforts and more specifically, your sales methodology. Is your sales force still working with the same processes they used when selling analog copiers? If they are, it’s probably time to adjust and reap the benefits of a solid sales methodology.

About the Author: Tom Callinan

Tom Callinan

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