The quote above is attributed to Dr. W. Edwards Deming the American statistician, college professor, author, lecturer, and consultant. Another quote often attributed to Dr. Deming is “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”, while it might not be accurate to apply this quote to Dr. Deming , many of us have experienced a time when our company did not deliver do to a process breakdown! Management rarely puts up with an easily resolved issue though measuring processes and implementing corrective action.
I have had an opportunity in my career to look into many small and mid-size companies and see the process (or lack thereof) that drives sales. Often, if I saw management operate with limited tools, subjective decision-making, fragmented communication and limited accountability that a sales team is managed, product failures or customer complaints would quickly gain the attention of upper management and corrective action would quickly be forthcoming.
Sales has often been considered an “art” as opposed to a process, and while there is a certain truth in that, process certainly plays an important part. Consider an under performing manufacturing asset such as a delivivery vehicle, computer system, or a key supplier. Underperformance would quickly get the attention of those responsible for those assets and action to correct the situation would be implemented. Does this happen when we consider sales as an “art” but not a process?
An example is how a “lead” is managed. A “lead” has value. It cost money to exist and will cost more to nurture. And if it is an unqualified lead, the more time, money and effort that is extended, the more underperforming it becomes. What of that solid lead or potential account that has been or is being “worked on” or “I left a message” without delivering results? What about that “great” lead that is chased down only to find at the RFQ stage you can’t meet the price point or you just found out that the buyer’s sister is your competitor. Managing a lead through a defined pipeline is essential to leveraging the value of that lead.
So what does this all have to do with instant pudding; measuring, managing and selling? It is commonly said that most buyers buy after seven touches or “impressions”, it is also commonly known that most reps quit at three. They are looking for the instant pudding. A process supports accurate qualification; that the prospect buys what you sell, allows management to see a lead as it progresses, institute corrective action and creative solutions if it gets stuck and provides tools and content for seven touches. In a competitive environment being top of mind and at very least positioned as a secondary source is the appropriate investment in a valuable asset of your business, a lead.
Managing a sales effort through process tools and management protects a multitude of valued assets: the lead itself, accounts that have significant growth potential, time and sales resources. Ultimately it also does what it is intended to do. Sell more of your product.