Why sales has to be a process

Originally published April 9th, 2019, on Petri Rinne website. Updated October 13th, 2020.

At the end of the day, sales means the exchange of services or goods against some kind of payment. You can do sales in thousands of different ways, but even if you sell online, somewhere down the line there’s a real person who has planned the customer journey, prices, platform, and tools to conduct the transaction. In this blog, I’m focusing more on traditional B2B sales where person-2-person interaction is what matters. The new world order brought by the Covid-19 pandemic affects field sales – but does not stop it!

Sales in different cultures and selling in your home territory

Sales in many cultures have still – yes believe it or not – a negative sound to it. Oh, you’re in sales, what happened! Or…I heard you got promoted, do you still have to do sales? Still in many countries sales is valued highly and people understand that a skilled salesperson actually helps her/his customers and not only the other way around. If a transaction is happily concluded, both parties are satisfied and, usually, that means that the buyer believes they got more value than he or she paid for. Without sales, companies would go bust rather rapidly and economies would go to a steep downward fall. 

Depending on where you come from, selling in your home market can differ a lot. In smaller markets, for example, the Nordics, you can do a pretty good job in sales without productizing your sales process too much. As the market is smaller, the network is as well, and decision-makers are easier to reach, and they even sometimes pick up the phone. However, stepping outside of your home turf is a totally different ball game!

If you productize your offering, you should also productize your market approach and sales

The day you either enter a new market or hire a third-party contractor to do sales for you, you need to get serious about your sales process. What is your sales process? Can you describe it and convince me that you have thought about it properly? A sales process contains for example:

  • sales plan with objectives and plan to execute
  • sales team roles and responsibilities
  • tools and reporting
  • description of the sales cycle from 1st contact to closing
  • resources (for example pre-sales or technical) to be used in various phases of the cycle
  • material bank, presentations, teaser material, video’s, proposal templates, etc.
  • changes in strategy and tactics caused by Covid-19

Further to the above, you need to have professional sales management. If you don’t have this profile in your company, hire one. If you don’t have money to do so, raise more funding. Without proper sales management, you will start an unrealistic project which will, eventually, fail and cause lots of frustration and loss of money. 

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From closing one or two deals to a scalable sales engine

Comparing international sales to a properly lubricated engine is a good analogy. If one engine part fails, this usually kills the whole machine. You need to plan the process carefully and the devil is always in the details. If you’re scarce in resources (most of the smaller companies are) without a proper sales process you end up using your resources wrongly and this could cause, for example, your pre-sales to become overloaded, which means longer sales cycles and fewer deals. If your lead generation function is well staffed and produces good qualified leads, but your field sales are unable to convert them to prospect due to lack of time, somethings wrong, right? There are multiple checkpoints where the process fails, and you should manage all of them. However, in real life, you regularly bump into unexpected issues – like the pandemic this year. The key here is that you learn from them and correct the process.

From a growing startup to a truly international company

I have seen hundreds of startups from a close distance and unfortunately, only a small percentage make it and grows into a truly international company. The world is full of great innovations and the focus for many is either competition, culture, or market readiness. I can honestly say that the outmost biggest reason why startups fail is the lack of execution. Of course, execution is not only sales, but sales do play a huge part of the puzzle.

When you are seriously considering starting to expand into the international market, make sure you have the right team, enough cash in the bank, and last but not least, a well thought of professional sales engine! As Covid-19 is still putting pressure on business travel and meetings, you need to adjust, be creative, and keep going!

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