How Can Workflow Improve Sales Processes?

Our Workflow Masterclass series tackles the complexities of Business Process Improvement (BPI) for different verticals. In this post, we speak to Mike McRitchie about how to improve sales processes. Mike is a small business strategist who contributes to a variety of respected business and management publications.

Research suggests that 91% of emerging technology and services companies have no fixed sales process to manage their personnel or leads. As a result, most salespeople depend on their memory and unique sales style and approach to turn those leads into sales.

If you’ve worked in sales, you know that underlying any sale is some form of workflow. At its most basic, you need to nurture each lead and take it through the sales funnel before closing a deal. Without a process in place, you can potentially lose a lot of business through simple mistakes:

  • New salespeople struggle to understand the company’s approach and take a long time to get up to speed
  • Salespeople miss key steps along the sales process because they find admin onerous or simply forget to do it
  • Salespeople have to do all their own admin for each sale, meaning even the top performers spend a lot of time doing unprofitable tasks
  • Once a salesperson has many leads in motion, it depends wholly on them to remember every contact, the context of the discussion, and the next steps

We sat down with Mike to learn the major reasons he believes companies should improve their sales processes.

Getting Sales Processes Out in the Open

Even when other departments in the business have well-established workflows, often the sales team won’t have more than the most basic of sales processes in place and the sales manager may be the only one with visibility into those processes.

The challenge is that sales managers must translate their own experience at the company into training for others. If you’ve ever tried to describe how to do something that’s ”second nature,”  you know this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Imagine explaining your commute to work to an extraterrestrial. It might seem easy to say, “Well, I just jump in my car and drive over,” but breaking that into all the individual steps involved is a lot harder.

Mike described one particularly effective method that managers can use to help transfer the knowledge of individual processes to their salespeople.

This involves an interview process with top performers:

  • Videotape them while they describe their sales processes (other salespeople can also submit or ask questions)
  • Transcribe the resulting video to audio and pdf documents
  • Review the information and create new training modules based on best practices from the interviews
  • Provide a tested model – the new process plus the multi-media interview recordings – to bring under-performers up and provide new focus areas or techniques that performers can use to increase their results

Relationships are Fine, But…

Very often, people consider sales to be centered on relationship-building. Understandable because building rapport and trust will, of course, keep you at the top of a lead’s mind. But this isn’t everything. Many common metrics and processes can reliably tell you how well a salesperson is going to do.

“A salesperson without a system behind him or her will only achieve a small percentage of their potential,” Mike says. “And a salesperson working a solid system will often outperform a salesperson who is technically better at the individual sales components.”
Expert Mike McRitchie offers an expert tip for improving sales processes with workflow.

For anything beyond a handful of clients, manually keeping track of the number of leads you hold and where they are in the sales funnel is just overwhelming. A solution is essential to automate that process, he says.

“Automating sales is critical to free up sales professionals to allow them to focus the majority of their time on the most critical elements,” Mike says. “They should not be buried in activities that could be achieved by others with less sales skill or could be performed more efficiently and cost-effectively by a technology solution.”

If your top salespeople spend half their time doing admin – sending emails that could be automated, sending calendar requests that less senior staff could manage – they will be held back from being fully productive.  

While Mike recommends some flexibility in sales automation, deploying a more fixed process will pay major dividends by ensuring that the little details that add up to sales success don’t get missed, and by better utilizing team members’ strengths. For instance, you may have new client acquisition experts who excel at acquiring new clients but get bored with ongoing account management.

Pair a new account “closer” with someone who can handle all the paperwork and technical details after the salesperson closes the deal. Offloading sales functions that don’t require high-level sales skills can increase your advantage and could possibly double or redouble your sales revenues and margins.

 

Quick Wins and the Long Game

So, how can you get your sales team to this level?

Mike recommends improving a few simple sales processes, which will give you those quick wins that will convince any skeptical colleagues. Simple process changes, such as keeping a single central list of sales leads, will save salespeople unnecessarily re-entering information. Similarly, incorporating a salesperson’s calendar into the system for automated scheduling can also quickly reap rewards.

Simple document generation, like automating the creation of contracts, proposals or purchase orders, enables your colleagues to see how workflows will save them time and effort. It’ll also ensure that everyone on the team is sending documents of the same quality and save team members from writing a new document every time, especially if populated with commonly used and centrally stored clauses.

Drawloop Document Generation from Nintex, is a great way to bring enterprise document generation into workflow processes,” Mike says. “It helps quickly and easily create richly formatted documents that salespeople can use at various points in the sales funnel.”

 

Learn more about how Nintex can help you automate your sales processes with our powerful yet easy-to-use workflow automation tools.