The problem with most defined and structured sales processes isn’t really a problem, it’s just a fact of life: people cannot be relied upon to behave in ways that are predictable or rational.
You can create a fantastic outbound strategy. You can hire the greatest sales team. You can create the perfect stack at the perfect price. You can look at reams of data that tell a story that should help you create highly effective repeatable processes that lead to predictable outcomes.
Each of these things will vastly improve your prospecting success. You would think that using data, algorithms, processes, and tools that are leaps and bounds ahead of what we previously had available to us would guarantee us all sales success.
And they would. If it wasn’t for the innate humanness of people.
This is an important factor to consider when creating your programs and processes. A sales pipeline shows you all of the data you can extract from a conversation, but if a prospect is withholding important data points, exaggerating, claiming a role that isn’t theirs, behaving in a less than ethical way, or just has a personal issue with your sales executive based on a real or perceived conflict, then all of your painstakingly developed process is essentially useless.
This shows the importance of having a team that keeps records of their day to day work. For your peace of mind, and theirs, as well.
Consider this scenario:
Your sales rep has been working on a large deal for nine months. It would be an exceptionally good deal for your company. All logic indicates you should be winning this deal. You are offering a better solution. You’re offering it at a price that’s competitive. The prospect has attended all meetings. They have revealed an appropriate budget. Jovial dinner meeting. Contract request. Then? Nothing. Prospect suddenly goes dark, and then never returns another phone call.
How does this happen?
We often never find out what happened, and it’s frustrating. As a sales rep, it will be enormously helpful for you to have a well-documented outline of the process to share with leadership. You did everything right, but the deal didn’t go through.
Now, picture that same scenario from a leadership perspective — your sales rep has been telling you for nine months that this deal is coming down the pipe, bragging about how great it is. You’re excited. When the deal goes nowhere you want to know what happened. However, your sales rep didn’t log any calls, take any notes, or update your CRM with any information.
Protecting against the small flaws
When your sales team is pushing back against doing a little extra work in the CRM, remind them that you pay commission on outcomes, but their base salary is contingent on them following a process that has been clearly outlined for them from day one.
A lost deal sucks, but not knowing where the wheels came off the bus sucks even more. Being able to retrace your steps and see where you might have missed a step or ignored a sign given by the prospect is very important for the improvement of both your sales skills and your sales process.
A lost deal sucks, but not knowing where the wheels came off the bus sucks even more. Being able to see where you might have missed a step or ignored a sign given by the prospect is very important for the improvement of both your sales skills and your sales process.
It’s true that your deals can fall apart due to small, unpredictable, human reasons. Your sales rep accidentally offended your prospect’s wife at dinner by making a joke that she didn’t appreciate. Your prospect’s buddy from college called a few days before the deal went through to talk about his new IT company. Your prospect went on vacation and changed their priorities while away for no discernable reason. You’re not always going to know why or how you lost a deal, but ensuring that your sales team is following your process and documenting the entire deal step by step gives you a much better chance of understanding parts of your process might may need change and improvement.
Sometimes unexpected deal abandonment just shows you that people aren’t something you can plan process around. People buy for weird and irrational reasons. You can combine the best AI, with the best sales process, and the best sales people, but you can still be thwarted by a prospect behaving in a way that no software system could have predicted.
People buy for weird and irrational reasons. You can combine the best AI, with the best sales process, and the best sales people, but you can still be thwarted by a prospect behaving in a way that no software system could have predicted.
Leave room in your sales process for human nature. Sometimes it will work in your favor, and sometimes it will leave you scratching your head and confused. We’ll never automate our way out of the uniqueness of each human mind. Sales reps: show your work — even when you do everything right you’re going to lose deals, and you want to demonstrate you followed process. Sales leaders: remember, your team can do everything right and still lose. If they’ve documented their approach, look for the hole, but remember that there may not even be one.
Until people think exactly like the AI solutions that we’re choosing for our sales process, we’re going to have unpredictable results from sales processes built around AI. Take advantage of the advancements in sales technology, but don’t lose touch of the fact that deals happen when real people connect with other real people, and some deals fall apart for reasons we may never fully understand.
Photo: mojo cp / Shutterstock.