The Sales Experience

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Building a Winning Sales Team with Process and Technology

December 2, 2014

Revenade leaders, Scott and Tim, discuss insights about how sales processes and technology help businesses operate to the best of their abilities.


Hello and welcome to the Sales Experience. A podcast where we will share insights, lessons learned and best practices from sales leader. Each session we will do our best to provide experienced based information that you can immediately apply to help your company grow its top line.

Hi, I’m Sarah Lohrman and today I’m going to be leading our podcast where we’re going to be discussing a common theme across all businesses. Most businesses and organizations have one common thing in order to execute and operate to the best of their ability. They have to use a combination of people, processes and technology.


Excellence and success occur when the three of these flow seamlessly together, but today we’re just going to be focusing on process and technology.


Before we dive in, let’s start with a brief look at this day in business history where we’ll highlight a key event that took place on this day. In 1851 Charles Henry Dow was born in Connecticut. Who was Charles Henry Dow you ask? Dow was a prominent American financial journalist who along with Edward Dee Jones inaugurated the Dow Jones Averages and helped wed media to the stock markets. Dow and Jones worked to produce news reports for Wall Street brokerage firms and quickly formed Dow Jones and Company. Dow Jones was known for creating salary reports of market action and developing a statistical method for measuring the market that to this day is still used to calculate the Dow Jones Average.


Sarah:                     Now I’d like to take a minute to welcome back to the program, Scott Williamson and Tim Phillips from Revenade. Scott Williamson is the founder of Revenade and serves as the firm’s managing partner. For over 25 years he has helped companies throughout the world develop and execute strategies that accelerate profitable revenue growth.


                                    His partner at Revenade is none other than Tim Phillips who serves as the Managing Director. Tim brings over 30 years of professional leadership and executive experience as well as immeasurable knowledge and experience in the sales arena. Thank you both so much for joining us, again.


Scott:                       Thanks, Sarah.


Tim:                          Good to be with you, Sarah.


Sarah:                     Great. Today we’re going to be tackling some topics that are important to any business, specifically process and technology. I’ve asked you guys to talk about processes and technology together because it seems that you can’t really have one without the other. Scott, can you talk a little bit more about what makes processes so important?


Scott:                       Sure. So, when you think about it, sales is really no different than any other kind of business process in the fact that, if you don’t have something outlined and people understand how to use it, then you don’t know how to track it, you don’t know when you’re done, you don’t know when you’re halfway done. Imagine FedEx without a process for shipping products. Right? So, I go to the FedEx store, I drop off my product and say, I want to get it from Houston to Cincinnati overnight and imagine there is no process. How in the world would FedEx get that product from Houston to Cincinnati.


                                    The same thing is true of sales. If I were to walk up to you as your sales manager and say, I need you to meet a three million dollar quote, but I had no process for doing that, how in the world would you know what to do?


Sarah:                     I completely agree. I’ve seen it time and time again with certain clients that I’ve worked with. Sloppy processes lead to sloppy sales. Tim, can you discuss what makes for a successful process within a business versus an unsuccessful process?


Tim:                          Yeah, I think the best way to look at it is, we use the process in that the word itself sounds a little bit mechanical. But one of the things that we’ve found that sales people in particular really relate well to is the concept more of having a playbook, if you will. As if you had a professional sports team, and we have people that were playing various positions, so let’s think about a football team. I’ve got linemen, I’ve got running backs, I’ve got wide outs and I’ve got a quarterback and everyone on the team has a particular role. So, what we want to make sure is, is that we have the right people in the right positions, given their gifts, skills and talents.


                                    But moreover is they know when we’re running the play, what are the other people doing and what is my responsibility to the team? So, in terms of that, is we want to look at the processes really, what is the process of the sale from start to finish? We find a lead, we need to qualify it, we then need to make sure that in that qualification they have a compelling need for our product or service, they have the means with which to purchase it, and we’re talking to the right person who can make the decision.


                                    Now, all of the people who are involved in that, we can have inside sales people, we can have field sales people. And we can have sales manager that are all involved and particularly in complicated sales, it really is a team effort. So, the idea of the process but then taking it to the next level which is the execution of that process in the form of a playbook, we found it really helpful for a lot of people.


Sarah:                     That’s a really good analogy, it really sums up process perfectly.


Tim:                          Well you know the team metaphor is always the good one because unfortunately, a lot of people have the misperception that sales is a lone wolf activity, and it really isn’t. Sales is truly a team activity as various people have different roles in the overall process for us to be successful. And so, it’s really important that everyone not only understand what their role responsibility is, but also the supporting cast and other team members so we know where the touch points are if you will.


                                    Using a little bit different sports metaphor is if we had a relay team. And so we’ve got 4 people on that relay team and they’re each running 100 meters, we have different people that are put into the team at different levels given what their capabilities are, but if we don’t pass the baton successfully, between each individual member of the team, then we’re disqualifying, we’re out of the game. So we want to make sure everybody knows, in addition to my role, how will I receive and pass and receive the baton so to speak.


Scott:                       I think that’s right because if you go back to the analogy of the playbook, if we don’t have the playbook, then all we have is a group of individuals, performing individually, and I call that chaos or randomness. So sales may happen but we don’t know why they are happening and we can’t guide or coach anybody to make sure they happen more efficiently. So if we have that playbook, we understand that plays that are going to be run. We understand how and why we are doing certain things, what that really does, and a lot of times, you’re right, Tim, process, people think of that as a cold mechanical word, but in essence what it is, a process is a liberator because it takes certain things off the table that I as the individual sales person don’t have to worry about it anymore, so that in fact, I can actually be more individual.


                                    The individual genius, so to speak, of the sales person comes out because here she now longer has to worry about the rote things that we do every single time. They’re just there. So the, in going back to your analogy of the playbook and sports, think about this, how many times do you see a very mundane play that’s run in football, let’s say, since we’re a football crazed nation, and the quarterback goes and knows that a wide receiver is going to be in a certain area, but protection breaks down, next thing you know he’s improvising. The only reason he can improvise is because he knows he had a play to start with. And that individual genius comes out and the next thing you know, he scores the touchdown.


Tim:                          I think also, it depends upon the, where we are in the maturity of the enterprise also, because a lot of times start-ups and smaller companies often it’s the owners themselves that are wearing all the hats and they are selling and delivering or they’re selling and manufacturing or whatever it is. But as they are start to grow and they bring on sales people, and I thought your word was spot on, so many times we see it, is they get to the point where they have some sales people and then they devolve into chaos.


                                    Because we aren’t aligned, we don’t know who’s doing what, and bringing that order to the chaos is what the process does. The beauty of that though is, we have the ability to measure it, if we can measure it we can manage it and if we can manage it, most importantly is we grow the team, we can also teach it.


Sarah:                     Exactly. So, switching gears a little bit, technology is a huge buzz word and topic and now-a-days in the business world, does technology affect processes positively, or are they creating more problems than they’re worth.


Scott:                       So I think it’s a little bit of both. And Tim and I probably speak in analogies more than the average human being, so I’m going to switch from football to, let’s talk about car racing because I love cars. And I can give anybody a fantastic very fast well handling car. And that doesn’t mean they are going to win the race. It just means they have a lot of technology at their disposable now and if they put the pedal to the metal they may hit a wall or they may win the race. It depends a lot on the person, but it also depends on the process.


                                    Think about NASCAR. I think NASCAR is one of the most amazing things in the world. You’ve got a bunch of guys and gals who are fearless in these cars that probably go way too fast for their own good. And they’re just making left turns continuously. Right? And yet somehow with inferior technology, certain drivers consistently win. It’s not just the drivers, could be the pit crew too. So when the car comes in, there’s a certain process that goes along with that technology. There are tools, and so in addition to the car, there are tools that allow them to get those tires off the car quickly and they can track it, which they do. The technology allows them to track it, the technology enables their process and it allows that team to actually perform the way they should.


                                    Same thing with sales. The big technology of course, that I’m sure we’ll end up talking about here today is CRM. CRM is not an end-all be-all, it’s just a tool.


Tim:                          Right. Well the biggest pitfall and mistake that I think we’ve all witnessed over the past 5, even going back 10 years, is the belief and I think it goes to great salesmanship, I think hyperbole salesmanship, in the fact that the CRM can become an auto pilot for your sales organization. And in that, what has happened is, we started our conversation, Sarah, with regard to process, process always comes first. Because it’s the process that leads us to decide what is the appropriate and best CRM based upon what our process is. Unfortunately, I think there was a period of time where we saw CEOs and business owners, with CRM envy.


                                    One had one and one didn’t and they came back from the weekend and they told their CIO, well they just got a CRM and by god we better get one and I want it now. And so what did they do? They ran out and they did a quick evaluation and they picked one, without any consideration whatsoever for what we sell and how we sell and the process through which we sell. And what happened in that was, taking it out of the box, that out of the box configuration then became the defacto sales process for the enterprise, and actually can be extremely dangerous and it can also really hurt the performance of the overall sales team.


Scott:                       Or they go crazy and they customize a solution to the point where it adheres now to all their bad process. I was actually on the phone this morning trying to get the cable or the internet restored in my home and I was on the phone with, in this case a customer service agent, but in today’s world the customer service agent is also the salesperson. And it took me 5 minutes to get through a series of questions that I had already answered just to get on to talking to that person, and then this very, very kind, very polite and efficient person took me through the same set of questions again, and that was all because they had decided to implement it the way their own, in this case, stupid process was as opposed to rationalizing and saying, how do I implement the right way.


                                    Same thing with CRMs. I see it over and over again. I see people do either what Tim talked about, which is adapt their process to the CRM out of the box. And I don’t care if it’s Salesforce, or it’s Oracle, or Zoho, or whomever. Those are process that are made for everybody. And each business is a little bit different. But again, you’ve got to be careful on the other side not to spend the rest of your life customizing your CRM to meet your sales process. So it’s a tool. It’s something that’s there to aid you, but it’s not the end-all be-all.


Sarah:                     Great. Most of our listeners already have CRMs in place. Tim, can you discuss some of, kind of the top issues with CRMs that actually directly affect the sales team?


Tim:                          Sure. The main thing with regard to the CRM like any other system, it’s only as good as the quality and the timeliness of the information that users put into the system. And unfortunately, a lot of people, especially sales people, really haven’t been trained, nor do they see the value in it to helping them sales more faster. So, they view the CRM as this negative system to which they have to be the slave to constantly be putting information into it, because I am going to walk into the sales meeting Monday morning, and what’s going to happen? The sales manager, first words out of his mouth are, this isn’t up to date, why is this opportunity shows a particular close date was two weeks ago, how can that be?


                                    So, there’s a balance and finding the right balance, and I think the key is finding through education of the sales person, is how do you best use the CRM, to help you become a more effective sales person, leveraging the process and the technology then becomes a force multiplier for the sales person to position and close and sale more faster.


Scott:                       I actually think there’s a generational gap here. Or there’s a differentiation based on age of the person who is using the CRM. People more like you and me, Tim, sales traditionally has been more of that, at least maybe a couple decades ago, that loan wolf activity and I mean there are movies about this, the quality of the leads. You tried to make sure that you horded your information so that, that was part of the value of what you brought. You wanted to make sure that nobody knew what was going on with your accounts so that, that was some job security for you.


                                    So what I’ve seen are people who are, what I’d call in the second half of their career, are much less willing to enter data into the system because there is a fear factor associated with it there. People in the first half of their career, these people have been wired since the time they could utter their first sentence, or before that, these people who have been on AOL, they’ve been on the internet since childhood and they’re not afraid to share information. They’re not afraid to put anything out there, so I’ve found with our clients that actually the younger folks are much better at putting data into the system.


                                    So, the thing to do as the business owner, or the VP of Sales or whatever, is how do you put the appropriate incentive structure in place to make sure that people actually get that data in? The people from Tim’s and my generation, we’re kind of viewed as a stick. I’m going to have to do this, or somebody is going to beat me if I come to the sales meeting without that. So I’ve done things that have worked fairly well, where we’ve put certain stipulations in place for those people, who probably react a little bit better to a stick, that says that, you won’t get paid your commissions unless your opportunity data is in the system. Unless your contact information is in the system, so you have to just, not just close the deal, but you also have to make sure that that certain set of data is in there.


And then for the people who are more able to do that, we need to make sure that we highlight that and we reward them as well, so that when deals do close, or when deals change hands, that we have the ability to reward them  through that cycle. So if you have an environment where changing accounts a lot, if that data is in the system, then even the folks in the generation that don’t want to put data in the system, see that, oh you know what? I’m changing—we change accounts a lot, and so I know that if I put my data in, and if somebody else puts their data in, that’s probably better for me when that account changes over to me. Right? So it’s a little bit of give and take here and there. But I completely agree that aside from not implementing the system properly to start with, then it’s operationalizing it, and not getting data in.


People don’t see an advantage and we’re not training them. So, we need to train them. We need to give them the proper incentives and we need to highlight and reward those types of actions.


Sarah:                     So I see most of these scenarios, over and over again, with all of my clients that I’ve had. As we kind of wrap this up, can you guys give us two big key take-aways about how to make process and technology flow seamlessly together? What would the big ones be, training first or—


Tim:                          You know, Sarah that’s a really good one. I think that probably before training the number one thing that people need to focus on, is getting their process documented either electronically or on a piece of paper within the four corners of a piece of paper. What are the actual steps that we go through as an organization to sell what we do? And then, define who has what role, responsibility for doing that. So that is really the basis for a process. And then with that, it simply becomes refinement and then of course we’ve got to be able to communicate it, and then it would lead to the training. What do you think, Scott?


Scott:                       Yeah, I think Tim’s right on. I would document it and I wouldn’t turn that into some big never ending project. I like your advice of, on the four corners of a sheet of paper. Again, certain sales organizations are a little more complicated than others, but for most people I think you could, literally take one sheet of paper and say, here are the boxes that represent the steps that we take and here are the people that are involved. Whether to swimlane or something else and just say, this is our core process. And I wouldn’t just have one person do that, I would work with the team. I would certainly assign one person to be responsible for doing that, but have the person work with the team, and in the course of doing the discovery, figuring out and documenting what that process really is, we’re doing a couple things.


                                    One, we’re documenting a process, but the second thing is we’re also getting our team to participate in this. So, we’re getting them to debate and share best practices across the board, because I guarantee not everyone is doing it the same way. And then once I had that documented, I would formulize it a little bit more then I would communicate and train people on it. And I wouldn’t touch technology until I did all of that.


Now, in the process of doing the discovery, you may find, here are the touch points with technology. Here is where technology, either supports what we’re doing, or is in fact, an inhibitor of us. And so I think we’re going to find, going through that cycle, where there are parts where maybe we use a spreadsheet or the CRM or whatever it is, and we do it just because it’s there, not necessarily because it’s the right thing to do. So I would kind of recapping, Tim, I would document the process. Make sure I understand who the players are in there, understand the time frame by which different steps happen. Make sure I understand the technology touch points, communicate and then train.


Sarah:                     So really the take-away is that if you clearly communicate your business processes and streamline them throughout your enterprise, you’ll have much more success across the board and you’ll be able to leverage the latest and greatest technologies to make your day to day jobs easier.


                                    You know this was a really interesting discussion, and I can’t wait until we dive into the third area next time, people, but for now I’d like to thank Scott and Tim for joining us today, to discuss and share their experience and best practices for sales.


                                    We hope you enjoyed this session, and we look forward to seeing you on our next podcast, as we continue our journey through the world of sales.