I was skimming through a book that I have read a few times, Major Account Sales Strategy: Rackham, this weekend looking for a particular data point when I came across this great advice:

We usually find ourselves giving two pieces of advice. The first, simply, is to reduce paperwork. In some organizations salespeople spend up to 10 hours a week completing paperwork in the name of the selling strategy. Much of this time is unproductive; much of the information is faked to a point where it’s an unreliable guide for management action. A measure of the health of a sales organization is the amount of time it spends relating to customers compared with the time it takes relating to the internal needs of the company. By this measure many organizations are sick, and we’ve seen some that border on terminally ill. So our first piece of advice is usually to cut paperwork.

Our second piece of advice is to build a selling strategy that focuses on the steps the customer takes in making a decision, not on the steps the salesperson take in making a sale. The two are not the same. As we’ll see in future chapters, strategies based on the selling process are usually far less effective than strategies based on the buying process. Our problem, as salespeople, is that it is far easier to understand the steps of selling than those of buying. And it’s far more dangerous, because we tend to base strategy on what we understand, rather than what’s effective.

Having worked in organizations that valued the process over the content or progress of the sales organization, I cannot agree more. As for the second piece of advice, that is one I need to rethink. You always gain something when you re-read the best books, kind of like finding another joke inside a Monty Python movie that you have seen 100 times.

Addition: from HBR, article ‘Wisdom on Improving Sales and Marketing’:

In your career, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about sales process improvement?

To be patient and to work for progress in small steps …  the more successful they (sales reps) are, the more resistant to change they become. Show them the big picture, reinforce process changes with tools and good management, and make it simple.

It is all about making it simple and selling how the change helps everyone. Having been at the receiving end, I know that when I understood the ‘why’, I would buy in. Bully me, or make it too complex … and forget it. Good thoughts.

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