The practitioner or the process?
Is a high conversion ratio the results of the process, or the rep? Should your sales department development focus on using the best sales process or finding the best reps? Making things more difficult is that getting the “best reps” isn’t always possible or practical, and sales people don’t always follow the same sales process. So what should you do?
For a startup, focus on the right sales person first. An appropriate sales person will overcome a poor or missing sales process but a perfect sales process will not make up for a misfit sales person. Besides, you don’t yet know the right sales process at this stage.
Key Start up Rep Requirements
Your startup sales person needs to be comfortable trailblazing. Most are not. Find out the size of their previous employers. Look for insurance sales, realtor, commission only, business owner experience. These are likely backgrounds of your start up sales person. Tip: if your prospective rep is asking “what does your average rep earn?” “How many reps do you have working now?” “How long has the company been in business?” They are the wrong person.
Your startup rep needs to have a strong and genuine interest in your industry and product produced/service provided. Ideally this person imagines themselves as the kind of person who under different circumstances or with different skill sets could be in your shoes. Look for patterns in their past or people in their lives that would indicate a genuine interest in your type of business.
Treat them like a business partner and not just a hired gun or an employee. Most of the time you’re asking them to take a risk compared with other job options they have so you must compensate them for this risk. Offer a program that lets them earn equity, profit sharing and management responsibilities.
Constructing the sales process
Now that you have your rep begin constructing the sales process with their input based on actual sales calls. Note: Don’t spend too much time designing a sales process before sales calls take place. Your startup rep’s jobs is to go out and collect information (as well as sales).
The elements of a sales process are, connecting to decision makers, getting their attention, qualifying them, educating them, learning about their business, recommending a plan of action or solution, and closing for a decision. Start with this basic outline and develop the exact techniques based on your rep’s feedback and analysis of the data. Use a CRM for accuracy. Measure the conversion ratios between each of the above elements and work to increase all of them.
When testing a sales process it’s necessary to make at least 100 calls, preferably more, before modifying the process again in order to marginalize the other variables. Make one change at a time for the same reason, when you change two things at once you don’t know which changes produced the results, positive or negative.
The initial stages of the sales process may be the most important because it’s a noisy market out there and prospects are bombarded with sales calls and marketing messages. A direct sales call should be targeted. The reps needs to do some cursory research and let the prospect know why your company is contacting them specifically.
Early in the process establish credibility by talking about people/companies you’ve served who are similar to your prospect. Quickly begin asking questions to avoid a one-sided sales presentation.
In general avoid sounding like other sales people do, we recommend not stating your company name in the first breath, ask informed questions and be respectful of your prospects’ time by not trying to warm them up with small talk.