In part two of the blog series on common mistakes, I would like to talk about what I see as a fairly common error when designing sales processes: the desire for perfection from the start. These managers often have a fairly complex sales process in mind. They have flow charts, complex routing rules, and elaborate scripts that they wish to implement. They will spend hours discussing the pro’s and con’s of a particular phrase. They will endlessly debate whether it is better to call back contacts once a day or twice a day, and will spend weeks creating mock reports that they feel will give them real insight into their process. And they will often do all of this at the expense of actually starting to make calls and see what the reaction of prospects is.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that you need to do some careful planning when you implement new inside sales software. I have seen enough setups where it is obvious at a glance that they took the wrong direction from the start, which will now lead to many hours of work attempting to correct the mistakes of the past. I do not believe, however, that you know what the perfect process is before you have even made your first call. Trying to guess everything ahead of time often simply delays the process of trial and error that is really needed to fine-tune the process, and can often lead to great frustration for both the managers and the salespeople.
In this area I think that sales departments can learn a lot from the evolution in software development methodologies. One of the first ‘coded’ methodologies for software development was the Waterfall method, where development went through a number of steps – requirement, design, implementation, testing, etc – and only proceeded to the next phase after the completion of the previous one. End users came last. As development processes evolved they became more and more iterative – learn and refine at each step with constant feedback loops. The latest buzzword in software development – I can’t count the number of conferences we have been invited to in the last few months – is Agile development. This is another iterative-based development model but which encourages a more people-centric viewpoint using feedback, rather than planning, as the primary control mechanism?
Does that ring any bells? Sales is by definition people-centric, and with the scripting and information gathering tools of solutions such as VanillaSoft you can quickly gather centralized feedback that is then used to adjust the sales process in real time. This Agile sales process development model is getting more ink lately. When speaking with new clients, I highly recommend that they do a good basic implementation and then start calling to validate and revise their initial assumptions. There is no quicker way to learn, and no more valuable feedback than that which comes from actual contact with prospects. Paradoxically, aiming for perfection from the start often distances us from that goal.
Read the first posts in the series: