Speeding up Sales

If you create a process that works, you can repeat that process for quicker sales.

By Tony Parinello • Oct 10, 2006 Originally published Jun 6, 2002

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: How can Iimprove my sales process?

A: Each and everyorganization dedicated to making a profit produces something.Whether that "something" being produced is as rigid as apotato chip or as fluid as water, there are clear recipes,procedures and processes that, when followed, will create thedesired result for customers and end users.

Countless studies have evaluated how to increase the speed ofvarious manufacturing steps so that a given outcome (that is, aproduct or service) can be produced with less expense and madeavailable to consumers with greater respect for that ultimateresource-time. The goal here is to discover how to apply a similarlevel of analysis so you can do the following:

1. Identify the human elements of your organization'ssales process.
Your time, your organization's resources and your revenueforecasts must reflect your interactions with various people invery different business relationship categories. In order to fullyidentify your organization's sales process, you must understandthese five groups.

  • Suspects: Generally speaking, suspects are individualsor organizations who fit some pre-qualification filter or list ofcriteria.
  • Prospects: These are the individuals or companies whoyou've already contacted by some method and who comply with thecriteria necessary to become suspects.
  • Customers: They currently buy from you. The key wordhere is "currently." Effective CEOs know that a customeris someone who is providing contributions to the top line rightnow.
  • Business partners: They not only buy from you currently,but also prosper from their relationship with you in a way thatclearly surpasses what your product, service or solution does forthem. That means, for instance, that you might share criticalknowledge, strategic resources, leads, prospects or even customersfor mutually beneficial reasons.
  • Distributors: These are individuals or organizationsthat take your products, services and/or solutions, add some kindof direct or indirect value, and then resell them.

It might be a good idea to stop reading and take a moment tolist the who's who of your own selling process. What are yourdifferent categories of potential business relationships? Who arethe most important members of each category?

2. Measure sales process time.
How long it takes to sell whatever it is you're selling iscritical. If you want to understand how to make your sales processdeliver larger sales in a shorter amount of time, you'll haveto concern yourself with a performance characteristic known assales process time.

Sales process time is the total elapsed time it takes to move anindividual or organization from the category of "suspect"to the category of "customer" (or business partner). Onceyou've determined this elapsed time, you'll have tosub-divide it into a number of steps so you can determine how thesale was made.

Take a moment to quantify your own sales process time and theindividual steps that are needed to move a suspect to customer.Hint: It's better to have too many steps rather than too few.(Your sales process will never suffer from paying too muchattention to details.)

3. Analyze the process.
CEOs who sell have a keen sense of what's needed and what'sexcess baggage. After reviewing hundreds of sales processes, I cantell you that the quickest way to find out if they are effectiveand efficient is to see what steps salespeople (or you)consistently ignore! If the same three steps are being skipped overand over again, you can rest assured that they're notneeded.

Take a moment now and look in-depth at each and every stepyou're currently being asked to take in the process of moving asuspect to a customer/business partner. Are there any unnecessaryelements of the process? Are there any elements that duplicate worksomeone else does (or should be doing)?

Here are two examples of what you might come up with:

  • Remove: "Get a copy of each suspect's mostrecent annual report." When you come right down to it, themost important numbers and words in an annual report can beobtained directly while you're building effective businessrapport.
  • Reposition: "Understand the needs of each level ofbuying influence." This somewhat generic request appeared inevery single sales process that I obtained during the research formy new book, Think and Sell like a CEO. In reality, thatall-encompassing request for information should be distilled downto a few intelligent questions sprinkled throughout the entiresales process.

For the next month, use your modified plan (with the appropriatesteps eliminated or repositioned) to see if the new approachimproves the following: the elapsed time to obtain the first sale,the ease of obtaining the first sale, the number of steps you hadto take to get the first sale, the number of steps the suspect hadto take to get the first sale, the size of the first sale, and anyemotional "weather" you and the suspect encounteredduring the process of making the sale.

Tony Parinello is the author of the bestselling book Selling to VITO, the Very Important TopOfficer. For additional information on his speeches and hisnewest book, Secrets of VITO, call (800) 777-VITO orvisit www.sellingtovito.com.

The opinions expressed in this column arethose of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers areintended to be general in nature, without regard to specificgeographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied uponafter consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney oraccountant.

Tony Parinello

Tony Parinello has become the nation's foremost expert on executive-level selling. He's also the author of the bestselling book bearing the name of his sales training program,Getting to VITO, the Very Important Top Officer, 10 Steps to VITO's Office,as well as the host of Club VITO, a weekly live internet broadcast.

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