The Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering

There are countless ideas, principles, facts and nuances that alone and in combination contribute to a truly outstanding performance in sales or sales management.  We read the books and articles, listen to the speeches and lectures and learn from our own experiences and mistakes.  But what is the best way to organize all that knowledge so we can apply it most effectively?  The answer lies in the Three Core Principles of Sales Process Engineering.

Principle #1 – Continuous improvement of the sales process is fundamentally essential.

Who can argue with that statement?  It’s motherhood and apple pie.  It’s blatantly obvious that both individuals and sales teams must continually work hard at getting better.  If we stand pat and the competition improves, relatively speaking, we’re falling farther and farther behind.

speNo need to belabor the point.  None of us has any real choice other than to embrace and commit to the concept.  Just be aware that it’s one of those seemingly innocuous statements that carry implications with some seriously sharp teeth.  In fact, by accepting principle one, you have also just accepted principles two and three.

Principle #2 – Objective metrics – lots of them – are required to judge the quality, the amount and the pace of improvement.

Are you (and your sales team) better than average?  My company surveyed over 300 sales executives, and this was one of the questions.  Based on the responses, we “concluded” that 83% of sales teams are above average.  Hmmm…  Think about that.  Does the bell curve not apply to sales?

Consider a different question.  By what percent are you improving the quality of execution of each of your most critical sales activities?  If you are unable to produce the statistics, you have no valid means of answering the question.  You have no facts; nothing to back up your own subjective opinion.  In other words, you just violated your commitment to principle #1.  If you can’t show me your rate of improvement, how can you or I know if you’re improving at all?  Maybe you’re getting worse!

Here’s yet another question.  How many sales metrics are enough, how many different sales activities should be measured?  The hard, cold fact of the matter is that most sales organizations formally and regularly track only two; revenue and profit.

Take a different perspective and consider the big league baseball manager whose team is on a losing streak.  He calls a team meeting and informs the players that after a careful examination of the key metrics – both of them – he knows exactly why they are not winning and what needs to be done.  He informs them that all they need to do is score more runs and to keep the other team from scoring so many.

Gee thanks, coach…  In the context of baseball, using only two metrics is ludicrous.  It’s not possible to effectively run, no less coach and improve a team with only two after-the-fact, “results” metrics.  “Process” metrics – and lots of them – are requried before any kind of reliable coaching can be done.

In the words of W. Edwards Deming, “What gets measured, gets done.”  To that I would add, “The more that gets measured, the more that gets done.

Principle #3 – A well-defined sales process is a pre-requisite for determining meaningful metrics.

Humor me for a minute…  Take out a blank sheet of paper and write down the three key measurements you would use to judge the quality of the performance of your wicket-keeper.  I’ll wait…  Got them?

Maybe you recognized “wicket-keeper” as one of the players on a cricket team.  Odds are quite low (unless you are from the UK or India) that you were able to come up with any meaningful metrics.  Here’s the point…  If you don’t know anything about the wicket-keeping process, there’s no way on earth you can define even one meaningful wicket-keeping measurement.  In other words, until you implement principle #3, you cannot get started on implementing principle #2.

This concept also applies to sales.  You must have a clear, detailed, written sales process, embraced and used by everyone in your company.

Without that clearly defined process, development of meaningful metrics is simply not possible.  Without metrics you cannot know if performance of any given key sales task is improving or declining, or at what rate, or how you compare to others in your company or industry.  Not knowing if you’re getting better or worse or where you stand competitively to begin with, means you don’t really care that much about continuous improvement.

Think About It…