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Sales is hustling!… So why do I need a sales process??

Without a solid sales process, a company will never reach it's full revenue potential. Here, Kim dispels some myths around sales as "hustling", and outlines the need for process.

As a Founder of a start-up you are supposed to “hustle” for new clients, and “hack systems” in your favour. You should be agile, test-driven, and “fail fast”. You should have bulletproof confidence in your product, yet be humble enough to accept advice and pivot when needed.

When everything you are taught about how to be a good start-up founder is focused on trends, rapid changes, and how to use uncertainty to your advantage, what role does process have to play? If you have a hustling, entrepreneurial mindset then, like me, you may feel that the word “process” inspires words like ‘shackles’, ‘overheads’, and ‘boredom’. But nothing could be further from the truth.

From Pixabay

A start-up without any processes may be successful for a time, but hustling can only get you so far. At some point, if you want to continue to grow, you need to create a scalable organisation and that includes putting processes in place. The corporate graveyard is littered with businesses whose owners did not manage this step. More recent high profile examples of companies that almost failed because of their hustling founders include Uber and WeWork where the initially successful founders (Kalanick and Neumann) were replaced with more seasoned operators (Khosrowshahi and Mathrani).

What will the right sales process do for you?

Processes can help across the business but focusing on sales for a moment, what should you expect from a successful sales process? In my view, there are four key areas that together will enable your business to grow and be more profitable:

Predictability: While hustling can be very successful and yield good sales numbers, they tend to be unpredictable. A good sales process can take you from, for example, doing all your quarterly sales in one month and none in the others, to consistently hitting your monthly (and thus quarterly) targets. Why is this good? Well, besides your peace of mind and better sleep at night, it also assures investors of your ability to keep it up, and helps your cash flow maintain a steady pace.

Scalability: When hustling sales, you are often dependent on the success of one or a few individuals. This is a risk if something should happen to them. With a solid and repeatable sales process, any sales rep with a decent set of skills will be able to pick it up and be successful. This leads to greater scalability; for example adding one more sales rep will increase your sales proportionally.

Learning & optimisation: Some learning will always happen when you are out there selling, but it is typically confined to yours and your sales reps’ minds. Human brains are great at learning new skills, but are not very good at explaining the learning, and are sometimes biased in their memory. Using a documented process, testing your assumptions regularly, and feeding back incremental learning is a much more trustworthy way to optimise your sales process.

On-boarding and retention of team: When you bring a new sales rep on, how do you quickly get them up to speed? In my experience it is often a couple of hours of information sharing, followed by sitting in on a few calls, and then ‘off you go’. This can be daunting, especially for a less experienced professional, and often leads to frustration, poor performance, and ultimately to resignation. By providing each new hire with a clearly documented process, you are equipping them with the best tool possible to close deals sooner, motivating both you and them.

From Pixabay

When is the right time to start thinking about sales processes?

Now! It can feel like a daunting task to put a sales process in place if you have never done it before, but it is not an “all or nothing” game. You can start anywhere, and add as much or as little as you want. You can write it on your own, or collaboratively with your team. You can use a fancy online tool, or use old-fashioned pen and paper. What matters is that you start as soon as possible, and build it into your daily/monthly/quarterly sales routine.

What does a good sales process look like?

In a future blog, I will cover this in more detail, but here are a few key topics to think about:

Company: What is unique about your company? What is your history? Your values, your mission? What are you proud about, and want your customers to know about you?

Products and pitch: What products do you sell, and what are they key features, pricing, USP’s? What customers and case studies do you have for each? What should be sold, to who?

Customers: Who are they? What segments do you sell to, and do you have customer personas in mind? How do you communicate with them; what forms of outreach and with what cadence?

Resources: What resources are available to your reps (e.g. case studies, email or proposal templates, demo links)? What are the most common questions or objections you get from prospective clients, and what is the standard answer to them?

Internal processes and admin: How do you define your pipeline stages, and what rules do you abide by in your CRM? Who is responsible and accountable for certain actions? What are your sales reps allowed to promise to clients, and what not?

Metrics and performance: What metrics do you track and which ones matter the most? What are monthly/quarterly/annual targets? Do you know the shape of your sales funnel, and target metrics for each stage? How are commissions calculated?

Hustle + Process = Growth

To conclude, don’t get me wrong, hustling is important. Hustling is great. Process on its own will also not necessarily lead to great success. But as so many things in life, finding a balance between chaos and structure, yin and yang, is often a winning formula. You will get the flywheel of your business spinning with hustling and hacking, but what will keep it spinning ever faster is the oil in the machine that the process brings. And if the only side effect of the cure is growth, profitability, and better sleep at night, I’d say it’s worth it, wouldn’t you?

Dr Kim Nilsson is a PhD Astrophysicist turned serial entrepreneur. Her first business is a data science marketplace and AI-as-a-Service provider. She is the CEO and co-founder of PeripherAi, a SaaS platform to turn sales into a scalable and predictable process in small businesses by integrating human knowledge with data insights. She has been named as one of the Top 100 Most Influential Women in IT in the UK 2018–2021.