Sales Process Optimisation

effectiveness improvement  in business- to- business selling


where the effectiveness of the salesperson in handling a complex selling process is key


An Overview

Companies selling business-to-business solutions are daily bombarded with offers to improve their sales efficiency.  New sales training, psychometric analysis of salespeople, methods of maximising face-to- face selling time, target account selling methodology and so on  - a plethora of ways to help the sales force sell better. All may help and generally money spent on sales training is well spent but in the main the promise is undelivered. What is taught soon gets forgotten and any productivity improvement is transient.



What is radically new about this approach which was developed by US consulting firm, Results Now! to improving sales effectiveness is that it reveals what is already working for your company and enables you to formulate a unique selling process for your company that is optimised for success.  Only those activities and  sales efforts  that really work will be used and   used fully.


Here’s what three Sales VPs of US  software  companies  have said about the Results Now!  study:


“The report showed exactly what we had to do”


“Pointed up the tactics we needed to focus on”


“Implementing universally the sales tactics that were proven to have worked for us enabled     us to double our overall  win rates”



No company can afford to operate sub-optimally in sales. But the evidence that they do so  is widespread.  The tell-tale signs are., among others, an increasing proportion of forecasted sales lost to competition, high turnover of sales people, falling revenue per head, decreasing market share.


How should companies avoid getting in to this uncompetitive position which if unchecked will lead to free fall disaster?   If you are in this state already how can  it be corrected?  Using the benchmarking methodologies developed by  Results Now! it is possible to get your sales force working at optimum effectiveness relatively quickly.


 All other things being equal, in business-to-business selling (where the sales person doing it right is typically a critical success factor),  the organisation with the most effective sales force will win.


1.  How  sales process optimisation can be achieved



Every company needs to audit their selling methods from time to time to make sure that they are working at peak efficiency.  What worked in the eighties may not work now. Even an apparently effective sales organisation’s performance may  be well below what it could be. Danger signs are:


·      increasing number of  sales lost to competitors

·      sales cycle lengthening

·      falling revenue per sales person.


If what your sales people do is the main determinant of your sales success,  the degree to which your sales machine is working effectively  will be a critical success factor for your company’s health and, possibly,  its survival.  The smart thing to do therefore is to move ahead of the competitors by ensuring that your sales organisation is operating as productively as possible


Selling Cycle Analysis



As a rule, some salesmen selling software and services business-to-business  outperform the majority.  Why?  Are they more intelligent?   More gifted? Do they work harder?  The answer is probably a bit of all these things. But experience shows that even average sales people can win more if they perform certain tactics more frequently.  Unfortunately, despite what the sales trainers say, there’s no text book or sales training technique panacea that states what these tactics and activities are. What works for one company may not work for another. The winning tactics for  any particular company  can, however, be determined by a study.


The Results Now! approach goes concentrates on the sales process  and not on the sales people themselves. It identifies  the selling process used by your sales people and quantifies it.  The objective of the analysis will be to discover which selling tactics are actually used by  your sales people, how often they are used and correlates this data with successful outcomes.  The results of the analysis show convincingly which sales activities should be used to give you the best chance of winning every time.



Analysing a minimum of  100 accounts forecast to be closed by  your sales people (these sales situations will have resulted in a win, loss or a ‘no decision’)  will show the tactics that have been used and the frequency of use.


For example, in one company, it was found that when sales people used the tactic of taking senior people from prospect organisations to visit their company headquarters, there was a win rate of 70%.  Yet this tactic was used in only 20% of named sales opportunities that were worked and forecast to be closed within the next 3 months.


Another tactic-driven issue revolves around the question “Is X competitor our biggest threat or is no-decision the main enemy?”  Tactics can be designed against a specific competitor but if there are more losses to “no decision”, a different set of tactics may need to be used in the sales process.


2.  Benefits of the Selling Cycle Analysis


A higher Win Rate

Once you know  what the optimised sales process for  your company looks like it is easy to persuade all sales people to adopt it.  The number of closed accounts will go up because your  sales people will increase their use of those selling tactics proven to be the most successful.


Shorter ramp -up time for new sales people

New sales people will be encouraged  learn  and use the effective selling tactics from the beginning;  they will understand which tactics to emphasise over others and how to perform them.


Better management insight

You will have obtained a baseline selling cycle  and measurement points with win rates to use for forecasting, coaching  and tracking performance improvements.. You can provide management support to the sales person for those tactics that work and discourage those that do not.


What is required?


A list of all the accounts forecasted by your sales people over the last 3 or 6 months. 100 is about the minimum to get significant results. We will need to interview each sales person to discuss each forecasted account in detail.  About half an hour per account should be planned.


3.  Buying Cycle Analysis



The objective of this separate exercise is to learn  about the buyers’ perceptions of all the vendors they considered initially  and the reasons for their selection.  We seek to discover how these views altered as their selection process  continued from the ‘long list’ through the ‘medium list’ to a ‘short list’ and final choice.  Patterns typically emerge that will point management to appropriate corrective action.


Each interview is based around five points: pain/problems with the existing situation that led to the decision to install a (new) product  and the looked for improvements:  positioning  (which vendors they considered as potential solutions and why they chose to evaluate them):   proof  ( how did each vendor go about proving the value of their proposition and how did buyers rate the product against their own criteria):   pricing and packaging  and, finally,  product (what were the buyers’ experiences of seeing the  products demonstrated or trialling them).


4.  Benefits


The results of the BCA will give you critical, objective information about how  you and your competitors perform as seen through the customers eyes. Some issues will present themselves  as obvious candidates for action;  other information will suggest areas for more investigation and internal discussions on your part.


Example:   one company discovered that there was a marked difference in their success depending on which function (end user  or IT department) led the evaluation. This was  because IT had preconceived ideas about the company’s product architecture, which they tended to regard as old-fashioned,  whilst  end users cared mainly  about functionality and did not worry too much about architecture.  This finding led the company to think hard about investing too much effort in prospect situations that  were IT-dominated unless they could bring the end users into the decision process more strongly. It also suggested to them that their marketing communications might be more effectively directed towards end users rather than IT.


5.  Summary of Deliverables


The SCA will identify the tactics actually being used by your sales people and their success rate.  It will highlight a number of ways in which you could make  quick, practical changes to your selling process to enhance the likelihood of success.


We present the report to you and, if required, will take part in a workshop with your key sales managers to explore the results and discuss how the winning tactics can be adopted by all the sales people.


The BCA will raise issues that will have implications, not only  about improving your sales tactics, but for marketing, communications, and/or product development.


For example, suppose a pattern were to emerge that your company was consistently being eliminated early on in the selection process on the basis of  buyers’  perceptions about poor support or, at the demonstration stage, because of perceptions about  product functionality/performance.


6  Finally


Curiously, despite the obvious benefits, this kind of study is still rarely done in the UK  Few companies therefore have taken the trouble to find out how their sales people sell, what works for them, how their customers buy.  Armed with this intelligence an organisation can then optimise their selling activities.   It is essential to undertake this study, incidentally, before any sales force automation project is embarked upon. 


A company  that undertakes this exercise will know what they have to do to increase their win rates over their competition.  They will be in better shape than their competitors  and move forward faster.  Their competition may not survive unless they too sell smarter, not harder.



gfa Sales Improvement

44 (0)1608 66 37 52



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