Why You Can’t Improve Without A Trackable Sales Process
In the book “Sales Management. Simplified”, author Mike Weinberg emphasizes the importance of spending more time on the right activities, which are determined by monitoring your sales tracking metrics:
“Salespeople regularly fall short of delivering their numbers because Little Effort = Little Results. It’s not that they’re not working. They’re just working on the wrong things.”
You’re probably working hard. The fact that you’re taking the time to read and learn about improving your sales management skills is proof of that. Nevertheless, the question remains:
Are you working hard on the right things?
You might feel like this is a vague question. As it turns out, It’s quite easy to answer once you start tracking your sales process.
It’s pretty simple to answer once you identify one important piece of the puzzle.
Prioritize your sales activities with this crucial framework
Before you can work out if you and your team are spending your time on the most important sales tasks, you need one critical thing.
Sorry, but the answer is not a CRM tool.
Of course, we are passionate advocates of the importance of using a sales CRM to help you sell more. But optimizing your time and resources with sales software comes after completing this first crucial step to doing more of what matters.
There’s one thing you need to do before you choose a CRM…
The Absolute, Must-Do, Non-Negotiable Task of any Sales Manager
Develop a clear, repeatable sales process.
If you don’t have a process outlined, then you’ll find things very hard to measure, and therefore impossible to track.
You’ll also struggle when trying to implement meaningful improvements. If you’re not able to track results, you’re really just making educated guesses on how to allocate your sales time efficiently. If you can’t clearly compare your activities, output and results over a given period then you’re not able to pivot in the right direction.
What is a sales process (and why is it so critical)?
A sales process is the stepchange you need to move from the adhoc selling tactics you used to get your business off the ground and scale up to the next level.
This defined sales process will help you scale the growth of your business and allow you to bring more team members into your business. Without a singular, clear, and consistent approach, you’ll find it so much harder to hand over control and responsibility to new employees who lack your experience and product knowledge.
If you really want to start tracking and measuring sales performance, don’t just implement a sales CRM and expect to be given simple instructions on what to focus on more.
Develop a documented sales process first. If you haven’t already, put this at the top of your to-do list or get it done right now. The time it will save you in the future, considering how busy your days are, is invaluable.
How do you measure the right metrics and focus on the right activities?
Time to dive into details.
An article entirely dedicated to setting up a sales process would be handy at this point. Luckily for you, it’s already been done.
For practical help and guidance when documenting your sales process check out the following handy resources:
- The Fundamental Stages in Building a Sales Pipeline (This one will help you start from scratch)
- How to Use Your Sales Process as a Pipeline to Success (This one will help you refine and validate)
- How to Develop a Lead Qualification Machine (This one is for the more advanced managers with bigger teams)
Now that you have all the tools you need to define your sales process, let’s get back to answering the original question:
How do you set up your sales process to help you prioritize your sales time?
Sally Duby, general manager of The Bridge Group, eloquently lists out the main questions you need to ask yourself when tackling this problem.
“Do you have the sales stages outlined? With the associated activities and outcomes? Documented, detailed sales stages set the framework for accurate metrics.”
In even simpler terms: do you have a defined sales pipeline?
- Does your plan set out a clear process with clearly defined stages?
- Are those stages clearly defined so salespeople know where a prospect or lead fits in your sales pipeline?
- And do you have defined activities for your salespeople at each stage so they know exactly what they need to do to move the lead closer to a sale?
You need a structured, repeatable sales process to help you draw valuable metrics and make meaningful improvements to your past performance.
Sally goes on to explain why these foundations of your sales process are required to help you pinpoint where you need to spend more, or less, time:
“I want to know: have we outlined our sales stages – are the reps doing what they need to do in those stages? Are they missing critical outcomes? Measuring how deals are moving through the stages – are they moving through the stages as we’ve modeled them? When was last comms? Are there gaps?”
This is where a sales CRM tool becomes an invaluable asset.
You can exponentially reduce the time you spend on admin by automating data gathering, tracking, performance measurement, and reporting. You’ll have all the relevant data you need to make improvements to your process with just one or two clicks.
Once the paper pushing is automated, all you need to to do is analyze the outputs to prioritize your sales time effectively, resulting in sustainable improvements to your sales process.
Track sales performance and optimize your sales process with CRM software
When your sales process is clearly defined, implemented and measured you need to start thinking about how to analyze your performance.
Looking at data from your entire sales cycle, you might want to analyze:
- Time spent prospecting
- Percentage of leads followed up with
- Time between first conversation and follow-up
- Average time between lead qualification and closed deal
When handled incorrectly, any of these factors can lead to a low win rate. Why? Because they indicate time wasted on the wrong things. The reasons can range from focusing on the wrong prospects to contacting the wrong stakeholders.
Some things to ask yourself when reading the numbers:
Are your sales reps prospecting the right vertical if it’s a seasonal business?
Are they in contact with the right people but struggling to close the deal?
Should you step in to help?
And if your modeled sales funnel has many stages, do the reps know what parts of that stage exist and when they move onto the next stage?
It’s perfectly natural to find this overwhelming, which is why you need to define and set expectations for each stage in advance.
Clearly defined pipeline stages are a sales manager’s best friends
You need clearly defined definitions and activities to make your sales process effective.
You might find a rep is not moving a contact into the next stage because they aren’t sure of the parameters or what needs to be done in order to compete that stage of the funnel.
The solution: setting a time-to-close ratio.
You can easily track this metric using sales CRM tools like Pipedrive. The visual interface gives you total visibility of a lead’s journey throughout your pipeline, from initial contact to close, as well as the time the lead spends in each stage of your process.
This is just one of many ways sales pipeline management tools help you set goals and parameters, and make it easier to flag problem areas for your sales team.
Figuring out how many stages you need (or don’t need)
Even if your pipeline stages are defined and tracked to a tee, you may not be making the most of this framework. Sally goes on to explain why a one-size-fits-all pipeline doesn’t often work:
“If you’re short on open opportunities you might need to increase time spent lead prospecting. Are those leads qualified? Measuring the time in each stage vs. the typical pattern of stage progression can help to uncover the problem”
In short, you should structure your sales pipeline into a few important, clear, and unique stages based on your sales process.
Too few stages and you’ll find it hard to pinpoint exactly where you are spending too much time. Conversely, too many stages will lead to confusion around when to move a lead to the next stage. Plus it will add to the difficulty of measuring where you need to spend more or less time in your sales process.
You want to find the Goldilocks solution to suit your team and your sales cycle.
Practical examples: reading pipeline metrics like a pro
Here’s a couple of specific situations you might find yourself in based on the data you analyze with CRM software.
Situation A: Plenty of leads in early stages but low win rates
When measuring win rate, take into account whether the prospect came in as a result of inbound marketing, an outbound call, cold email, etc.
Identifying the source of the lead can help pinpoint if the prospecting method may be designed to attract the wrong leads.
If your rep’s win rate is too low, another potential problem could have little to do with prospecting and more to do with activities completed. By pinpointing the stages where deals are lost most, you can boost you rep’s activities to get those numbers to climb.
Situation B: Lots of leads in the final stage that don’t close
If leads keep getting hung up in the ‘post demo’ stage, you need to find out why.
Are your reps not following up properly?
Are they out of cadence with your plan?
What activities are being checked and what activities aren’t being implemented?
Has your team qualified the lead correctly based on your criteria up to this point? Or has the lead been moved to the final stage too quickly?
Your defined sales process combined with the power of your sales CRM will allow you to dig deeper into the numbers to figure out what’s wrong, and address the bottlenecks with targeted activities.
One last bonus to help you allocate your sales time effectively
There is one more general piece of advice we can give you that is sure to help you improve results. Regardless of the nature of your business, your industry, or your target audience:
You want to be first to the sales conversation.
According to Craig Elias, founder and CEO of Shift Selling, Inc.,
“The number one metric I think more sales leaders should measure is how often they are the first vendor into an opportunity – aka first in.”
That activity-based metric dictates the results all of the others. The more often you are ‘first in’, the higher your probability to close.
Don’t forget: always document your sales process
Salespeople sell. They aren’t email marketers, data entry clerks, graphic designers, or customer service reps.
Our CRM solution is designed to measure activity and metrics, and was built for the modern salesperson in mind. Sign up for a 14 day free trial to see why more and more salespeople trust Pipedrive to help them win more deals.