Thursday, March 3, 2011

Un-Template Your Sales Process

Any sales organization or professional worth their commission checks understands that the fundamental key to driving new revenue is having a repeatable sales process. Along with any scalable process comes standardized procedures in the name of efficiency. Procedures form habits. Habits are hard to break.

What this translates to in the world of sales execution is the verbal and written ‘templatization’ (yes, we made that up) of prospect interaction. Basically, your pitch becomes generic to serve the broad audience instead of customized for the particular situation and need. The widespread adoption of CRM tools, like, has made the trap of boiler-plate emails and robotic conversations all too easy to fall into by giving well-intentioned sales managers the ability to provide instant access to canned replies and scripts. It’s almost effortless to email the team and say “Use this template when asked about ___” and pat yourself on the back for arming the troops with hair-trigger copy-and-paste artillery. 

The outcome is that a sales process that should look like this:
  1. Uncover needs
  2. Confirm buying interest
  3. Negotiate
  4. Close
Ends up looking more like this:
  1. Introduce yourself by saying this…
  2. Send this email…
  3. Follow up at this time by saying this…
  4.  Reply to objections with this email…
  5.  Wait for reply to generic email blast…
  6.  Send in activity report…
  7. Use this closing technique…
  8. Harass prospect mercilessly
Intelligent buyers - the kind you presumably want – know the difference between personalized thoughtful responses and recycled content. They’re constantly bombarded by newsletters, webinar invites, sales collateral and other database email marketing SPAM, and they intuitively know the difference between consultative selling and having their purchasing decision left to the whim of automation and canned responses. Nobody wants to spend money with a company that doesn’t deliver a sincere personal pre-sale experience, especially if they are going to expect attentive customer service after they’ve committed to the deal.

Here are a few tricks to show personal attention without sacrificing too much time from a pipeline flush with prospects:
  1. Create an FAQ with all your template answers rolled into one document. This was you can write a personal email referencing where this answer is in the FAQ and providing a few key clarifications to show thoughtfulness. WARNING: Be careful not to lose a deal by noting weaknesses in these FAQs. These are for technical selling points only. 
  2. Make a few intentional spelling or grammar errors. Nothing that can be perceived as stupid or careless, but something that makes it appear like you typed the message just for them and fat-fingered in a few places. After all, who would a mistake in a boiler-plate response…it must be on the spot.
  3. Makes inoffensive jokes referencing your previous dialogue as early as possible, both on the phone and in the opening of an email. If the conversation starts out in a way that would only make sense for them, they’ll assume the rest is just for them too.
  4. Follow mass emails with a personalized note referencing the impersonal nature of batch communication and volunteering to answer any questions. Essentially, follow a boiler-plate with an anti-boiler-plate boiler-plate.
  5. Opt your best prospects out of all automated campaigns. This means you’ll have to be extra-diligent with your follow up, but it takes away the risk of losing your rapport to the Sales 2.0 automation machine.
As always, sales is about relationships, and relationships are personal. Don’t let yourself rely on the crutch of treating all prospects the same, or you’ll get the same reply from them all: “Please Unsubscribe”

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