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3 Clues that Your Sales Process is Broken

I worked for a CFO once who would regularly say, “That sounds like a broken process.” I got tired of hearing that, not because he was wrong, but because he was right.

I often get calls from Founders or Sales Leaders asking if I will come in and evaluate their sales reps. because they aren’t sure they’ve got the right players on the team. I gently say to them that I’d be happy to interview each rep., and provide feedback, but only after I’ve had a chance to evaluate their sales process. Most of the time I find the people aren’t broken, their sales process is. Without a formal sales process and KPI around it reps. will flounder and sales leaders will be frustrated and clean pipelines will be a fantasy.

Here are the 3 biggest “Broken” sales processes I find:

  1. Issue: No consistency in how each rep. is moving deals through the pipeline

    More often than not, when I do a pipeline review with sales leaders, it’s clear that each rep. Is using a different set of criteria to determine what stage in the sales cycle each deal is in, ie - shooting from the hip. This makes it impossible for the sales leader to accurately predict which deals have the best chance of closing, when the deals might close, and what the true next step should be.

    Solution: I create a Pipeline Stage checklist for my clients. This is a list of criteria that must be present for a deal to qualify to go into the pipeline or move to the next stage in the pipeline. Click here to see a sample.

  2. Issue: No formal “Walk Away” Criteria

    “Move them forward or move them out” is something reps. will hear frequently from me. Reps. must have a walk away criteria. The more formal the process the easier it will be for a rep. to make the decision to send the “Dear Jane” email and be able to focus their energy on more fruitful opportunities.

    Solution: Here are some criteria that I suggest to leaders to help reps. decide to move on:
    They said No!
    You’re told another priority has moved in front of this evaluation/decision and “why don’t you call them in 3 or more months.”
    There is no FIRM next action/meeting and you’ve had no 2-way communication with them in 60 days.
    The prospect missed the last scheduled appt. and has gone under for the last 45 days.
    You lost your contact or DM and you’ve not made contact with the replacement in 60 days.

  3. Issue: Not identifying “Stalled” deals quickly enough to act

    Sales reps. are eternal optimists. Here’s how the conversation goes:
    Sales Leader - “It seems like Blue Digest has been in the pipeline for a while”
    Sales Rep - “Oh, this one is definitely closing! Judy says any day now”
    Fast forward 45 days…
    Sales Leader - “What’s up with Blue Digest?”
    Sales Rep - “They had another project take priority, but it should be any day now”

    Solution: Deals are going to stall out, it’s how you handle them that’s important.

    First I determine how long, on ave., past closed/won deals stayed in each stage to help set the baseline for current deals in the pipeline. Once you’ve determined how long, on ave., a deal should be in each stage then you can set up reporting to alert you when a deal has been in a stage X days longer than it should be. At this point, it’s easy for the leader to say to the rep. that data indicates that this deal is at risk for not closing and work together to devise a plan to help flush out the reality of the situation.

    Putting a formal sales process in place won’t take long. Get your team together and debate what criteria needs to be present for a deal to qualify to go into the pipeline to begin with and for each of the deal stages then going forward you can validate that a deal has been put in the appropriate stage in the pipeline.