Sales leaders are always looking for ways to save money, time, and effort, and to increase productivity. Making it easier and more efficient for sales teams to improve their performance is in their DNA. But despite good intentions and intense evaluations, sales leaders are often thwarted in their attempts to pinpoint areas of wasted resources. There may be procedures that plod along at a painstakingly slow pace, but the source of the inefficient workflow is too complex to track. It’s hard to know where to look.
In particular, B2B sales leaders know that it’s critical to optimize their sellers’ selling time. This means eliminating redundancy, removing unnecessary steps in processes, and relieving the burdens of routine administrative tasks. Effective selling is all about freeing sellers as much as possible from disruptive (“red” time) tasks, so they can do what they do best—and what they are expected to do for the company—which is to sell (“green” time).
Savvy sales leaders can achieve this ideal on their own to some degree. But there are many hidden sources of “red” time that are difficult to spot. In a real-world example, a B2B company with 150+ sellers recorded every minute of their reps’ time for a month. An examination of time periods devoid of selling revealed they were spending 40% of their time on administrative tasks. The company was experiencing other difficulties as well, so they instituted a quick fix: Salespeople were not permitted to attend non-client meetings without manager approval. Admittedly, this was a simplistic and one-dimensional solution, although it held the potential to achieve some level of results.
A close examination of that company’s (or any company’s) entire sales process, from top to bottom, would likely reveal a host of other sales process defects that are adding unnecessary time, energy, and cost to selling activities. Improvements would point to the deployment of various innovative solutions. This kind of keen analysis and discovery of solutions is the purview of business process engineering.
The Business Process Engineering Approach
Business process engineering (BPE) is a form of business process improvement. It involves studying business processes to identify operations that need to be redesigned or streamlined for optimal cost and performance efficiency. Business process engineering starts with a wide-angle view of the entire sales process, and an assessment of how all steps in the process interact. A keen observation and in-depth analysis of an organization’s tactics and methods in this manner will lead to a diagnosis of the root causes of ineffectiveness and holistic solutions.
Whereas B2B sales leaders often make improvements in a piecemeal fashion as time and resources permit, the dramatic upgrades to core business processes that are often needed require a business process engineering approach. Adopting the following best practices of business process engineering can lead to significant improvements in your sales productivity.
Know your objectives. Building an efficient sales process starts with an understanding of the objectives and the end game. Processes differ based on the challenge(s) being addressed. Your company may want to generate more qualified leads, increase cross-selling, develop more accurate account profiling, or require improvement in the full, end-to-end sales cycle. With the goal in mind, begin by documenting each step in the process.
Document the process. Peel back the onion of the sales process as a whole. Stripped down to its fundamental elements, you can get a comprehensive view of how each stage aligns with the other stages. Put it all on paper or in a spreadsheet. The main thing is that it’s all clear and descriptive. How logical is the alignment? Is there a smooth transition from prospecting to initial lead generation, and through the buying journey to assuring a sale nurtures a happy, loyal client?
Produce a process map. Documenting every step in the sales process results in a process map. The process map outlines all the things that sales reps do each and every day to locate prospects, nurture leads, build their contact lists, organize their workflow, and track conversations and emails and other touches with prospects. Every single step and every click in sales execution is measurable; every step either adds or detracts from value.
A process map can range from the very simple to the very complex; and the steps are rarely in a linear 1, 2, 3 sequence. But it should be detailed and descriptive. It’s not uncommon to quickly see how the activities of sales reps often differ from their sales leaders’ expectations. Are there gaps in the process? Are steps unnecessarily repeated? What obvious changes need to be made to streamline or standardize any part of the process?
More than likely, several procedures could be improved with better technology, but it’s not always about tech. There may be an over-duplication of steps that could be reduced. Or certain steps may produce opportune times to facilitate more meaningful conversations with prospects. The map may show clear evidence of where your sales reps are spending too much time performing routine administrative actions when they could be more productively selling.
Interpret metrics. Once the process map is completed, assign each step a metric. The metrics serve as a basis for measuring and comparing progress from one step to another. You’ll need to analyze the metrics to identify where essential actions are missed or dropped, are disconnected, are in the wrong sequence, are causing bottlenecks, or are otherwise disrupting sales.
A few examples of metrics that can be gauged are:
• Number of connects per rep per day
• Number of conversions per rep per day
• Client feedback received
• Lead-to-contact time
• Lead-to-SQL time
• Time elapsed before closing
• Time elapsed to move to another prospect
• Channel of engagement
• Weekly training per rep
• And more
Examining these metrics can help provide insights into the most efficient selling motions. For instance, if your goal is to close 100 deals a month and a company is only seeing 80, you may be able to devise an appropriate solution. It could be as specific as recommending the exact problem to be discussed in the next conversation.
Evaluate your tech stack. Technology is obviously essential within the modern sales cycle, but many B2B sales organizations don’t know how to use it effectively and are thus missing out on its optimal benefit. There are several reasons for this. One is that B2B companies are bringing on new sales reps with no prior experience with customer relationship management (CRM) systems, creating a disconnect in terms of how to appropriately use it. In fact, Salesforce users rarely take full advantage of its broad capabilities. Salesforce is much more than a repository of information! Companies can circumvent lack of know-how by conducting online, on-screen training sessions to familiarize new reps with all the different tech they will use.
Another stopgap is that, although B2B companies may have decent databases, the sales teams don’t always know how to easily access them, or the different systems within the organization are not intuitively linked, thus preventing easy access and sharing of critical information. How are you using your existing technology? Does your sales team understand how to use it to its greatest effectiveness? Is your tech stack accomplishing what you bought it for in the first place?
Make training continuous. One of the areas where B2B sales companies can easily see gains is in sales rep training. Training starts with onboarding and should never stop; it is an ongoing element of a winning sales strategy. In many cases, merely training a rep in more effective ways to speak with customers about a new product can result in a rise in revenues.
Sales managers need insight into what sales reps are doing so they can focus training on each rep’s particular difficulties and rectify their mistakes individually. To do this, sales leaders should be using conversation monitoring software on an ongoing basis. This is one way to embed continuous improvement in a successful sales process.
Determine an appropriate sales structure. A completed process map and metrics analysis can help companies ascertain the most desirable structure for their sales operation. Large companies with legacy systems in place may be especially surprised to discover that facets of their current approach are wasting resources.
The proper sales structure depends upon what the company wants to achieve. Different structures will have different requirements and challenges. It could be that coordinating tag teams of outside field reps supported by inside reps can handle a greater volume of prospects, for example. With a fully remote team, reps must be able to quickly input all prospect-related contact data into a central database that is easily accessible and sharable, and immediately updated by everyone on the team. Often, companies have a sales quota they must reach by a certain date, and the structure should provide an optimal way to meet that target.
Streamline lead nurturing. Filling the sales pipeline with qualified leads and speeding these into closure mode is a key to staying competitive. Sometimes, inefficient use of tech disrupts the flow. Other factors may be involved, too. For instance, prospects aren’t getting the proper follow-up. Or, in establishing a relationship with a prospect, too many different people are talking to the prospect. Ideally, one or very few sales reps, who are familiar with the prospect’s profile, should be interacting with a prospect and cementing the relationship. Besides benefitting prospects, it means fewer internal hoops to jump through to get to a close.
A common misstep is at the point where a rep identifies an interested, qualified lead and hands it to a field sales rep. Handoffs typically occur during a phone call or email so it has ill-defined or immeasurable service level agreements (SLAs). Ideally, companies need well-defined SLAs stipulating contact with the prospect within a certain period of time.
It’s necessary to understand all the inputs and outputs related to a lead and break down the process into buckets, including all the granular steps involved in managing each lead and the various business departments involved in any handoffs.
The MarketSource Way
Business process engineering is both an art and a science. And its application to B2B sales is something that MarketSource understands well. Our professional business process engineers know how to use and interpret data and apply it to solving multiple sales process problems in creative ways.
– Our comprehensive reporting system shows how a B2B company’s metrics are measuring up. We integrate those metrics into continuous improvement workshops designed to affect significant gains in sales and revenue.
– We assign a team solely focused on evaluating technology that fits a B2B company’s organization and purpose.
– We regularly pilot-test new technologies. B2B companies who partner with us for sales acceleration avoid the expense of technology investments when they rely on our tech stack.
– Our proven method for successful onboarding and training of sales reps assures sales a high level of performance.
Recap: Tips to a predictable outcome. Whether you decide to apply business process engineering practices to your sales process on your own, or partner with an experienced third party, here are a few pointers for a better outcome:
Get all corporate SMEs in a room, including sales, marketing, IT, and senior executives, to agree on what is prompting a need for change and why business process improvement will unlock value for the company as a whole.
Map out all the steps in the sales process in a spreadsheet.
Establish a baseline of metrics by which to measure progress and results.
Confirm that all redesigned or streamlined steps remain smoothly connected to other processes and subprocesses and are directed toward achieving agreed-upon objectives.
Build workflows as much as possible into the CRM. Recognize the possibility of technical limitations that may necessitate an alliance with a third-party sales acceleration partner.