During a recent conversation with a friend of mine, whilst discussing sales and the development of sales processes, she asked me, ‘Isn’t it all just common sense?’
Common sense is defined by Merriam-Webster as, ‘sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts.’ Thus, ‘common sense’ (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experience which most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have.
And so it got me thinking – is it just common sense?
Well, it may be simple in theory and so it should be simple in application but the reality is that it’s not particularly common. Not enough business out there have defined sales processes and key metrics in place. And that’s not because it’s a difficult thing to do, but often because the importance of having them isn’t clear enough.
So if you’re a sales professional or run a business with a defined sales process and KPIs in place then it may be common sense to you – but for the majority of businesses out there, these elements don’t exist to the extent which they could. And so we’re missing an opportunity.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of such things. Having processes and measurements in place is simple in theory but fundamental to the development of a sound and profitable business.
Firstly, it allows you to measure the progress of customers or groups of customers through the process. Let me give you an example. If you define your sales process as having six steps, from actually prospecting and looking for customers through to them becoming regular buying customers and you know that in order to get one buying customers you need to have at least 10 potential customers enter the first step in the process, then it allows you to ask some questions, and using the information, make some decisions.
What happens to 90% of these potential customers? Where are they ‘lost’ in the process and why?
Do you need to go and find more potential customers? It makes sense that increasing in this area will flow through and lead to an increase in buying customers.
Is there one particular stage where the attrition rate is disproportionately high? If so, what can be done to improve this?
Secondly, it allows you to measure the relative performance of the sales team.
Who are your most effective sales people and why?
What is it that they’re doing differently and how can this be replicated?
What is not working?
Thirdly, it allows your sales people to know where they are within the sales process for each of their customers and therefore determine what types of activities should be next.
This isn’t about creating a mechanical approach to business, after all it’s all about the people! However, it is about being able to understand what is working effectively and why, in order that it can be replicated. It’s also about being clear that there isn’t 100 best ways to do something – there isn’t and there can’t be.
Of course, there needs to be flexibility and the chance for a tailored approach, but knowing the optimal way to approach your customers, in a way which resonates with them, is really important if you also want to be able to measure and develop your customers and your people aligned to this.
This may or may not be common sense – that’s not important. What is important is that it’s done and done well.