After working in sales, managing sales and supporting sales for over 20 years, I’m always surprised at how few sales teams have adopted a sales process yet; and I’m even more surprised at the number of myths that still exist about sales processes. So, in the interest of helping everyone to take a few steps forward with their sales process, let’s dispel a few of the more common myths now.

Myth 1: Sales is Not a Process

Deming said, “if you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, then you don’t know what you’re doing.” That’s as true for sales at it is for manufacturing or accounting.

In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, however, there are still those from senior leaders to entry-level sales reps that believe that “good people skills” or “closing techniques” are the only important elements of the sales role.

Yes, personality still plays an important role in winning new business. But the most effective sales personality is the individual who recognizes the strength of a solid sales process. This phenomenon is discussed in detail in The Challenger Sale. Challenger sales people have their own processes for building relationships, and they mash these up against the processes and coaching that they receive from the organizations they choose to work with.

One of the most effective processes a challenger seller uses is what we have come to call a “challenger presentation” – it uses a specific presentation approach to deliver valuable and insightful information to prospects. Click here to download the Challenger Sale Commercial Learning and Teaching Presentation e-Book.

Myth 2: Sales Processes are Like Other Business Processes

At the other end of the scale are individuals who assume that sales processes are like any other business process. This approach generally results in over-engineered and overly-rigid sales processes. These processes don’t allow for the individuality of the sales rep, the customer, or the flexibility to bend within the context of the situation.

Worse still, this approach sends reps the message that leaders believe that anyone can do the job of the rep just by following the process. The result is disengaged and unhappy reps that are even less effective at closing new business than they would be with no process at all.

Successful sales processes are like a wheel. They’re both rigid and flexible. Rigid enough to have RIMS (be repeatable, measurable, improvable and scalable) and flexible – like a tire – so they have the ability to account for the human factor. In other words, they are a combination of personality and process.

Myth 3: A CRM Solution is Required for Sales Process

Successful sales managers were using sales processes many years before modern CRM solutions became available. Microsoft Excel remains one of the most popular sales process applications, and intranet tools like SharePoint enable Excel-based sales processes to be tracked across a team.

In fact, our research has found that when sales leaders develop, test, and refine a sales process before rolling out a CRM solution, their CRM solution rollout tends to be much more successful.

Myth 4: Sales Processes are Built Into CRM Solutions

This myth is propagated by the sales and marketing hype surrounding CRM solutions. After getting a beautiful and well-scripted demo, it is easy for leaders to walk away with a sense that an investment in a CRM solution will deliver a pipeline-management approach that will solve their sales management gaps.

The reality, however, is that sales processes differ widely from company-to-company – even within the same industry. About 59% of the CRM projects we are asked to bid on are for “rescues” when leadership realizes that CRM is not delivering the promised results. Many of those fail because they tried to leverage the out of box CRM sales process. Every company needs to develop, and refine, a sales process that is unique to their products, culture and customers.

Myth 5: The First Step for a CRM Project Should be to Design a Sales Process

Again, it is easy to understand how organizations come to this mistaken conclusion about their CRM project. Looking at built-in functionality for lead and opportunity management, and pipeline reporting, can be a siren song luring the sales leader or system administrator to believe this should be leveraged right away.

But successful CRM projects focus first on bringing efficiency and visibility to existing processes. Forcing the team to not only learn new software, but also a new process, almost inevitably results in a failure to fully launch the CRM solution. For many organizations CRM success might mean starting with better contact management or call reporting, and only adding sales process once the other functionality has been fully adopted.

What has your experience been with sales processes? Share your successes and frustrations below.

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