Stop Focusing on Your Goals and Start Honoring Your Process

Become a better sales coach and sales manager.

A Sales Paradox: The result is the process. A critical mind-shift every salesperson must make to transcend from mediocre performance to breakthrough results.

8-Steps to Creating a Coaching Culture by Keith Rosen
“Are you kidding?” is the initial typical reaction I hear when sharing this line of thought with salespeople as well as sales managers. For now, suspend your judgment and read on.

Even before you can engage in the type of sales benchmarking activities that I wrote about the other day or even take the time to refine your selling skills, you will come head to head with resistance to selling by the numbers if this change in attitude around how we approach selling is not fully embraced beforehand.

I was reminded how important this was during a seminar I delivered last week in NYC. At the end of the seminar, one manager raised his hand and posed this question to me. He said, “Our sales cycle has changed dramatically. Our salespeople can no longer make a call and take an order. Our product offering has been modified and as a result, the average cost of our product has increased, which has all contributed to a longer sales cycle. However, my salespeople are still reluctant to change. They’re still stuck in that transactional way of selling. They’re getting more frustrated and discouraged because sales aren’t happening fast enough, all because they’re unsure how to manage this longer selling cycle. I’ve told them many times over, that our sales cycle is no longer the way it used to be, and we need to be more patient with the process and more consultative with our customers. I’ve explained to them over and over again, that we need to modify and re-engineer our selling process in response to these new challenges, the changes we’re up against and how our customers make a purchasing decision and buy from us. What else can I do?”

As this sales manager was explaining his challenge, I was thinking to myself how important it is today, more than ever, to become process driven. Without this change in our thinking, salespeople will be unable to honor the process needed to convert more conversations into sales, let alone build out a more robust process and selling strategy that will enable them to do so. As such, the eternal conflict between our tactical strategy and our thinking will continue to rage on.

As my colleague Dr. Tony Alessandra explains in the following statistics, “It’s amazing how many times success can be assured by attending to the basics of the job.” For example, in a study of 257 Fortune 500 companies, the following was found:

17% do not determine an approximate duration for each sales call.
23% do not use a computer to assist in time and territory management.
28% do not set profit objectives for their accounts.
37% do not use prescribed routing patterns in covering territories.
46% do not look at their use of time in any organized way.
49% do not determine the economical number of calls for each account.
49% do not use prepared sales presentations.
70% do not use call schedules.
75% do not have a system for classifying customers according to sales potential.
76% do not set sales objectives for their accounts.
81% do not use a call report system.

So, the question is: How can you assure your future success by eliminating these oversights?”

The fact is, companies will fail to invest the time in order to eliminate these process oriented oversights and embed these necessary changes into their process if the sales culture is too focused on getting to the result by forging ahead in an attempt to close more sales. Managers can continually push their people to become more mindful of these numbers, however, it’s the process driven questions managers need to be more sensitive to rather than the result driven questions that managers obsess over that continue to perpetuate this toxic way of thinking. Those questions sound like, “Are you hitting your numbers? How many follow-up calls did you make today? How much good volume did you book this month? How many leads did you run this week?” While important, these questions only focus on half of the equation. What is missing is the “How,” that is, the questions that focus on the process the salesperson needs to engage in to achieve the desired end result.

Managers need to stop coaching to the result and start coaching to the process, instead.

Become more mindful of the process that will drive the results you seek. Without the change in your result driven attitude that’s keeping you stuck in the first place, all efforts to better manage your selling strategy by a numeric formula are certain to be short lived.

For salespeople and sales leaders, the fundamental shift in our attitude that needs to occur is this; move away from being so result driven and instead, become more process driven.

We must honor this paradox and break free of the limiting thinking that confines us to the current level of performance we’re experiencing. If we truly want to excel today, realize the result is truly the process.

Photo Credit: Angela Waye (On Shutterstock)