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Dichotomising the Sales Process for Radical Performance

By Percy Chong, 19th November 2014

The conventional sales structure in most organisations requires the sales person to deliver A to Z in the entire selling process…and hopefully it ends with a sale. That translates to the sales person being proficient in every stage of the sales process, from Prospecting, Approaching, Connecting, Fact-finding, Closing and Repeating/Referring. The sales person would need to master all 6-7 core competencies (ie. Prospecting, Approach, Connecting/Impressing, Fact-finding, Closing Competencies etc) and even more specific skill set within each core competencies (eg. Prospecting Competency requires skill set in Prospecting/Lead Generations, Approach/Values Proposition Scripts design, Telephone & Appointment Setting and Objections Handling etc); in order to consistently and productively secure sales closes.

With the majority of sales person naturally built to only be proficient in 2-3 of the 6-7 core competencies; it will take tremendous amount of training/coaching resources to bridge their individual gaps and raise competency. Essentially, the reasons why top producers are able to perform much more productively is because they do not have many or any skill set limitations…they are usually proficient in all 6-7 core competencies. And it is a known fact that they are highly prized and very hard to come by.

A common example observed from many sales persons who are strong in their prospecting and approaching competencies (because of their exceptionally organized and discipline qualities); they are often challenge in the areas of closing the sale. Their methodological approach to situations usually hampers them from picking out the buying signals and “taboo” signs which are abstract. They often missed the sale! While some sales person may be developed to overcome this deficiency and go on to closing sales, many more will never be able overcome their natural deficiency/limitations to achieve personal breakthrough.

Hence, the proverbial debate, does one invest resource to develop on the strength of a candidate and amplify his talents (to become a subject matter expert in a specialize area)? Or does one invest valuable resources to improve or bridge of the candidate’s weakness (to achieve a balanced and all round candidate)?

There is no right answer…but ASG has observed that the solutions to dichotomising the sales process to capitalise on the strength of sales person are often ignored or not given enough prominence to showcase its viability. Most organisations have been too focused in developing a “perfect” or “complete” sales person skilled in all aspect of selling.

Is developing the “complete” sales person even possible? What about the often overlooked merits to sales process dichotomisation or skill set specialisation?

The fundamental principles behind sales process dichotomisation lies in “breaking” of the sales process into more manageable bite size and matching the divided job function with the right candidate.  So, instead of expecting the sales person to negotiate the entire 6-7 core steps to achieve a sale closed; each sales person will be assessed for their innate selling skills/potential and assigned to the right sales role that will yield the greatest and fastest results.

The sales process is divided into 3 key functions:  
  1. Prospecting
  2. Business Development
  3. Accounts Management

Each function carries its own duties and responsibilities, as well as its specific skill set. The Prospecting function requires the appointment setting team to generate leads/database through desk research; and secure appointments for the Business Development team to follow-up and present the business case. Specific skills required for the Prospecting Team includes, leads/database development, tele-approach and objections handling skills etc.

As there are a good number of sales persons who are paralysed or struggling with call reluctance; there are an equally good number of individuals who are adapted to perform very well over the telephone. Identifying and recruiting such individuals becomes the key to building an effective Prospecting Team. Also, candidates with good potential does not necessary mean they need to have actual selling experience over the telephone. With the smaller role, it is not too difficult to develop good candidates to pick up these specific skills. And with the relatively shorten development cycle, it will not take too long to assess the suitability of the candidates for the position.

Likewise, the Business Development function requires the team to focus solely on sales conversion, or sales closing. Specific skills includes, following up and relationship building ability, presentation, fact-finding, proposal scoping, negotiation and closing skills. Their duties will end with the sales closed. All accounts closed will be handed over to the Accounts Manager to follow-up and nurture for repeat and referral business.

Under this dedicated and more focused structure, it also allows for the Business Development Team’s training and skills requirement to be more precisely define.

As for the Accounts Management function, the Accounts Manager will be focus on keeping the existing clients happy and repeat business flowing in. The specific skills required include Relationship building ability, CRM knowledge, Up-selling and Cross-selling skills, Referral and Centre-of-Influence nurturing abilities.

Again, with the dichotomised approach, it will allow the sales person, regardless whether they are the Prospectors, Business Development or Accounts Management associates, to be developed quicker and their depth of skills and knowledge to be more entrenched. And there is also the likely chance of a reduction in the staff turnovers because of the relatively short cycle of development for each core function.

With so many merits, one would wonder why the dichotomisations of the sales process in not widely practice. On deeper investigation, ASG uncover the misconception that most organisations have regarding the cost of implementing dichotomisation. The general believe is that more resources (ie. headcounts and training cost) would be required for the cross-over to work.

But far from the truth, the conventional approach with its high training cost to develop the “complete” sales person, and coupled with its high staff turnover rates, the cost involved is equally high, if not more.

Perhaps, it’s time to consider turning your conventional sales process into a tighter and smaller unit to leverage on specialisation to achieve optimise sales performance.

Article contributed by Percy Chong (through Asian Sales Guru)
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