Organizations continually invest time and money in programs to improve sales team effectiveness, but which program is the right one? There are hundreds of sales training companies offering thousands of programs in all aspects of selling: call planning, presenting, negotiating, managing key accounts, questioning, and more.
With so many available, I concluded they didn’t scratch the itch. There had to be a better, less confusing, and practical way to improve sales training.
What these organizations often neglect is something as fundamental as basic selling skills. They need a systematic method to continually improve their sales process. Clearly they lack a sales process – and identifying that as a problem was the first step toward fixing it.
Looking back at my personal Six Sigma program I realized that, if those principles work in manufacturing, the same systematic approach to continuously and intelligently improve manufacturing should also work in a sales process. It would increase sales, decrease costs, and improve productivity.
What Is Six Sigma?
Everyone understands the term “sales process.” Few however, can actually describe their sales process from a Six Sigma perspective. I want sales executives to get back to the basics.
Six Sigma is a structured, disciplined, and rigorous approach to process improvement, with a goal to increase profits by eliminating variability, defects, and waste. Although Six Sigma is typically thought of in a manufacturing environment, its principles apply to all processes – including sales processes.
Here’s how Six Sigma applies to selling:
Let’s start with this question: How well does your sales process meet your expectations relative to variability, defects, and waste? Variability, by definition, lacks a consistent, systematic approach to selling. I see this all the time, and it results in essentially every member of your sales team pursuing opportunities differently. How would that work in the shipping department?
Do you have variability in execution?
Here’s a simple test: Look at an active sales opportunity where the outcome is in doubt. This happens all the time. Then write it up as a case study and pass it out to your sales team. Ask, “What would you do next to move the sale toward a close?” How many answers would you expect to get? You know the answer.
Defects are lost sales, pure and simple. The Millau Group studies show the average closing rate across all industries is approximately 25 percent. What is your closing rate? A 25 percent closing rate is a 75 percent defect rate. Is that acceptable anywhere in your company? So why do we accept it in sales?
Resources are wasted when they’re not invested where they will produce the greatest return. What percent of your resources are currently being wasted? The math is painfully simple. You have a 75 percent losing rate. Do you see your company in the story so far? If you say yes, Six Sigma will have a significant positive impact on your sales results.
Applying Six Sigma to Your Sales Process
Six Sigma has five key elements – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC). You’ll produce immediate, measurable results if you incorporate these elements into your sales process.
I detail this in a new book, The Sales Checklist, to be released later this year. At first glance the book will seem almost ridiculous in its simplicity compared to all other conventional sales training available – and some might think it’s a little crazy to those who have spent years investing in, or selling, the latest sales training on the market. Rest assured, there is sophistication in simplicity. It has taken three years to simplify the checklist.