If you’ve ever tried to implement a structured sales process, then I’m sure at some point you’ve heard your reps bash against it.
It doesn’t work. The client isn’t complying with it. It’s too complex.
And so on…
And it’s painful, because the guys complaining are usually the ones who would benefit the most from a more structured approach. They are the 60-80% of your team who need help qualifying harder, focusing on the right opportunities, and overall just working more effectively and productively.
If they could only just see the beauty of your process, they’d be making more money and you as a manager would have less hassle hitting your targets.
That’s why most companies do spend a lot of time and efforts to design and implement a best practice sales process.
So why is it so difficult for sales people to adapt to it and so easy for them to find reasons why “it doesn’t work”?
Here is a list of the 4 most common objections to your sales process and how to handle them, so you can do everything you can to boost your team’s overall performance.
Sales Process Objection #1: I don’t need a sales process, I already know how to sell
Most sales manager have at least one or two reps who seem to have the golden touch. These are the A-players, or as I like to call them, the high-fliers.
They constantly exceed quota, and bring in a healthy percentage of your overall revenue.
They’re great to have, but too often their success goes to their head, and they end up thinking they don’t need your sales process.
Many managers probably share this point of view and think it’s better to be hands off and let these guys deliver results on their own terms.
But these managers fail to recognize two key points:
- Everyone has flaws, and even these high-fliers could be achieving more with a structured sales process.
- By ignoring the process, these guys set a negative example for the ones who really do need the process.
How to handle it
Now this is not easy, because top performers tend to have big egos. However, if you could get them to see that they have the potential to achieve even more if they could polish some of their ‘little’ flaws by adapting to the sales process, you’ve won the battle.
For example, Allen was one of the best achievers I’d ever had. He was closing 120% of quota almost every quarter. For him, what good was a process?
But I knew he wasn’t consistent and could be even more effective.
So I pulled him aside one day and said, Allen, you’re already closing 70% of your deals, but what if I could help you close 90% and increase your deal sizes?
He didn’t think it was possible, but when I walked him through the stages of the process where I knew he was weak, he realized, yeah, those mistakes had cost him deals. And once he was able to be disciplined about that and followed the process, he really took off.
He started closing 200-250% quarter after quarter, and the next year he closed a $14 million deal and brought in $1.6 million in commission.
I then asked him to help coach his peers, which ended up elevating the whole team.
Sales Process Objection #2: The sales process is too complex
It’s one thing to learn about a sales process in classroom setting, where everything seems logical and easy in a friendly environment, but out on the field, things are different. Things don’t go as expected, and reps struggle to follow the process in the face of living, breathing customers who have their own agendas.
That’s why it’s up to you as a manager to understand what your reps are really saying when they start complaining about the process.
So when a rep gets started about how the process is too complex to follow, what he’s probably saying is that he’s having a hard time handling the client.
Most reps have little experience in actively driving opportunities, and are deathly afraid of upsetting the client. This prevents them from effectively selling the benefits and staying in control of the conversation.
So when they come up against client objections, two things usually happen:
- They do whatever the client says and abandon their sales process completely
- They stick so rigidly to the process that the customer feels like they are dealing with a robot (or worse, your typical, pushy sales rep).
Either way, you end up with reps that aren’t performing at the level that they could be, and that means less revenue for your company.
How to handle it
Taking the time to coach your reps in their real world opportunities is a critical step in helping them to understand the “why” behind your process’ stages. Reviewing the steps they’ve taken and where they can improve will allow them to digest even the most complex sales process in small chunks.
For this kind of coaching to work though, it’s critical that you live and breathe the process for yourself. They key is to inspire, not enforce. And that’s where many managers usually fall flat.
That’s why the most effective coaches are lead-from-the-front managers who accompany their reps on-site and help them see what success looks like. Then your reps can learn how to reposition each step of the process to the client as something that will save them both time and energy, and the client will be much more willing to cooperate.
Sales Process Objection #3: The client has a different approach, and our process doesn’t match
Nowadays, it’s pretty common to encounter clients that are already 50-70% of their way through their buying process before your rep even shows up.
The clients pretty much know what they want and invite a couple of vendors to what I call “beauty contests”, where they let vendors strut their stuff and the client picks the best fit for their needs.
Because they think they know what they want, they have no patience for spending time and efforts with your reps to complete their discovery questionnaire, and end up refusing to buy in to the proposed steps.
At this point, many reps get stuck and don’t know how to move forward. They end up thinking the process just doesn’t work, and end up dragging themselves back into the office, feeling like a failure.
How to handle it
Because so many clients are out looking for a remedy to the symptoms of their problems instead of tackling the root, a well-trained rep can take advantage of this and help the client recognize something they didn’t even realize was missing.
For example, I once had a meeting with a client who said he needed a new database and was evaluating different solutions. The client wanted to force us into a heavy and expensive trial before I collected the criteria. A clear “no” in our sales process.
No problem, I told him, we’ve got that. But just to make sure I understand, you need a new database because your current does not perform?
No, he said, as if I was asking the stupidest question in the universe, the problem is that our database can’t handle the volume of data that we are putting into it.
While everyone else was trying to sell him a brand-new, expensive database, I discovered the root of the problem and sold him a module that streamlined his data entry and saved his company tens of thousands of dollars.
In this way, not only did I end up obtaining the information I needed for my process, but my client started to see me as a trusted source of advice.
I was always challenging my guys with the fact that we as vendors have sold our solutions more often than the client has bought solutions like ours. So we have an information advantage that lets us challenge our client and sell them on the next step of our process.
Sales Process Objection #4: There is a formal process setup; we can’t stick to the process
If you’ve ever dealt with governmental or heavily regulated markets, you know how difficult (and competitive) answering a Request for Proposal can be.
And whether it’s with a big bank, a large telecom firm, or a company that’s either partially or wholly owned by a government entity, reps often find their process disintegrating in the face of so many unbending requirements.
Personally I faced RFPs where people from the client’s company couldn’t even talk to sales reps outside of the proposal, and were required to share each vendor’s proposal with the competitor’s. So good-bye to your unique proposition.
In these cases, your reps are at the mercy of the RFP, and they basically have no chance of living their process.
The smarter ones will avoid RFPs altogether, but the rest will stubbornly try to adjust their process to a web of formalities.
This actually speaks to a bigger problem, which is that your reps shouldn’t answer an RFP that they haven’t “influenced.” That is, an RFP where they weren’t already talking to the client and generating the demand that led to the RFP in the first place.
If instead they find themselves answering an RFP, the chance of winning falls to less than 20%.
How to handle it
Train your reps to stay away from RFPs they didn’t help initiate. Otherwise they’ll simply arrive too late in the buying process for a sales process to be applicable and will have a much narrower chance of closing the deal.
In they do decide to participate in non-initiated RFPs, it should be only when it doesn’t smell like one of your competitors has influenced it, your company has a strong footprint in the market, and you already have the access to the main evaluators and decision makers it’ll take to win the deal.
Otherwise, have fun watching your reps splash around in hopeless waters.
A sales process is only as good as the reps who live it, and they take will take their cues from their managers.
So if you want the kind of total engagement that will lift your entire sales team to a new level, you have to be the one living, breathing, and embodying your process.
If you are need any help understanding your process more deeply, don’t hesitate to ask your management or peers. Believe me, they struggle just like you! (Even if they don’t want to admit it).
And while it might sound obvious, your coaching sessions with your reps must be centered on their success, not yours. When you help them achieve their goals and they start to see you as a mentor who’s helping them grow personally as well as professionally, you start to develop a sales team that’s dedicated to winning instead of blindly following a hollow process.
So take your time for those reps who are most in need of your help. Accompany them on site and observe the way they are handling their clients.
Only then will you be able to help them reach the level of success they are truly capable.
And when that happens, you’ll never hear another complaint against your sales process again.
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