How to future-proof your sales process & avoid failure


This is part 3 of a sales process series based on conversations with Insightly VP of Sales Mark Ripley.

Even after you’ve developed your ideal sales process and aligned it with the buyer journey, there are still challenges to overcome—both now and in the future. Unexpected changes in market conditions, new product launches, and rapid expansion or contraction of the sales team are just a few examples.

Is your sales process built to last?

Let’s explore tips for future-proofing your sales process.

Why some sales processes fail & tips to avoid failure

Here are five reasons why sales processes fall short—and some best practices for avoiding failure.

1. Sales process is too complex

Breaking down your sales process into clearly defined stages and steps is necessary and logical. After all, your sales team needs a general roadmap to ensure deals get done in a way that aligns with your business goals.

However, according to Mark Ripley, VP of Sales at Insightly, developing an overly complex sales process is a recipe for failure.

“One of the ways that a sales process falls down is when reps don’t follow it,” says Mark. “When sales leaders overcomplicate the sales process with too many stages, steps, scripts, assets, and questions, reps abandon it.”

How to avoid: Focus on two things: simplicity and buy-in. Go back and revisit your customer buying process and look for opportunities to reduce complexity in your sales process. Partner with leaders throughout the organization to ensure alignment and confirm their buy-in. Once management is fully on board with the finalized sales process, it’s time to roll it out to the entire team. If sales reps know that their managers believe in the sales process, they’ll be more likely to believe in it, too—and follow it.

2. Sales process is too vague

On the other end of the spectrum is a sales process that lacks meaningful details. Much like overcomplicating things, being too vague leads to a similar outcome: abandonment by reps.

“Your sales process has significantly diminished value if it’s haphazard,” says Mark. “You can’t measure anything, and there’s no consistency for the reps.”

How to avoid: If your sales process is overly complex, don’t overcompensate and go too far in the opposite direction. Instead, strive for a balanced approach that combines structure with the freedom for your reps to do what they do best.

“A high-impact sales process sits in the middle,” says Mark. “It gives people a framework for consistency, but it also lets each individual personality flourish based on their own strengths.”

3. “Set and forget” mentality

A sales process is not like an automated workflow that you build once, enable, and then rarely think about. Rather, a good sales process is a work in process that must be constantly measured, reevaluated, tweaked, and, in some cases, overhauled.

“The sales process is not something that you can set and forget,” says Mark. “It’s something that you establish, and then you keep looking for ways to improve in a never-ending evolution.”

How to avoid: Take a proactive approach in developing and maintaining an ideal sales process for your business. Launch a cross-functional team that meets regularly (at least twice a year) to discuss bottlenecks and opportunities for improvement. Use data from your CRM to go beyond gut feelings and set data-driven goals. For example, by the end of this year, you might aim to fully understand your MQL to SQL ratio for each of your industries. Understanding key ratios makes it easier to identify issues, support ongoing coaching sessions with reps, and continuously refine your sales process.

4. Inability to adapt

The COVID-19 pandemic upended most aspects of our personal and professional lives—and sales is no exception. Virtually overnight, sales teams that were accustomed to working in shared physical offices had no choice but to go remote. Companies that had future-proofed their sales processes found themselves at a competitive advantage to those who had not.

According to Mark, “The pandemic absolutely compounded the importance and impact of having a sales process.”

How to avoid: If your organization has never developed a sales process or your current sales process isn’t well documented, now is the time to take action.

“Documentation is more important than ever for organizations as they move to a remote work world,” says Mark. “You need that master sales process document so that each sales rep, even in a remote world, is creating the ideal customer buying experience and maximizing revenue.”

5. Right process, wrong technology

Simply having a master sales process document or diagram is not enough. Sales reps need the right tools and technology to perform their day-to-day jobs in alignment with your ideal sales process. However, when your process document and sales tools are misaligned, the net result is sales process abandonment.

How to avoid: Seek out systems that best align with your ideal sales process. If it means making a change, so be it. Do your homework and research the capabilities of other sales systems. In particular, look for a CRM that can be easily customized to fit your sales process—without requiring complex development or expensive CRM consultants.

Request a free CRM needs assessment and Insightly CRM product demo to learn how sales automation can help your reach your sales goals.

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Don’t get lost in the weeds

Over the course of this three-part series, we’ve talked a lot about the sales process—what it is, why it’s important, how to align it with your customer buying process, and how to overcome challenges. With so much to consider, it can be easy to get lost in the weeds at the expense of the big picture.

As you work on improving your sales process, remember that maximizing revenue is the whole point of a sales process.