Stop Waiting for the Perfect Salesperson

This is Part One on how to build a sales system that works. Read Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four here.

It’s not hard to agree with the idea that your business needs systems. But, when it comes to sales, small business owners often have a lot of difficulty really getting behind creating a comprehensive sales system or sales process.

Naturally, nobody wants their salespeople to sound ‘canned.’

It’s much more thrilling to dream about finding salespeople who will just know how to bring in your best customers and create exponential growth for you because they have that magical gift of getting people to buy.

Let’s be real. Those kinds of salespeople are few and far between. It’s unlikely that they’ll show up at your door anytime soon.

But, we can learn a lot from them: the most gifted salespeople follow a process, whether it’s conscious or not. They’ve discovered what works and they’re successful because they do what works over and over again.

They don’t sound ‘canned.’

They don’t lose themselves in their scripts, like those insufferable telemarketers that we all want to hang up on, even though a sizeable chunk of what they say is ‘scripted.’

They’re not confined by their structure.

It actually sets them free to lead the sales conversation and to focus their attention on what’s happening in the moment, with the prospect and in their relationship with the prospect. The structure doesn’t constrain them. It liberates them because they don’t have to think much about where they are or what comes next.

It may sound counterintuitive, but a well-crafted sales system, once it’s internalized by your salespeople, will create one of the most important things that can happen in your business on a regular basis: having your salespeople be truly present with your prospective customers.

Don’t underestimate how essential this is.

A sales system is all of the predetermined elements of the process. It’s the email templates you use. It’s the free downloads on your website and the collateral you hand out upon request. It’s the magazines you have in your waiting room. It’s your appointment scheduling system. It’s what you wear if you meet your prospects in person or through video conferencing. It’s the agreement that confirms the sale.

It’s the steps of the sales process, the actual things you want your salespeople to do first, second, third, and so on, and the words that you want them to say every time. Because testing and quantification has shown you that they work.

Let’s say, for example, you’re a physician and you discover that patients you keep waiting for more than 10 minutes are three times less likely to come back for another visit. Wouldn’t you want to figure out how to organize your time and your calendar to minimize your patient waiting time? Or, if you’re the owner of a residential construction company with a unique building approach that sets you apart from your competition, wouldn’t you want to determine your prospects’ resonance with your approach early in the meeting so that you’re both looking at their project through the same lens?

Ask yourself: what keeps you from creating a sales system with this degree of nuance and granularity?

The heart of your sales system is the sales conversation, a predetermined series of benchmarks or steps—somewhere between four and six—that you’ve discovered will facilitate the sale. Each benchmark is defined by an agreement you’re asking prospects to make at the end of that step that they’re emotionally prepared to make at that point in the process.

If you’re the owner of a web design firm, for example, you wouldn’t expect prospects to purchase your services in the first few minutes of the sales conversation. But, you could expect them to agree to the agenda you’ve set for the meeting that you know covers just what they’re going to be interested in hearing.

The agreements that you’re asking prospects to make at the end of each benchmark build upon each other—they’re designed to have a cumulative effect—so that the emotional leap that prospects have to make at the end of the process to say ‘Yes’ to your product or service is a relatively small one.

The inviolable rule here is this: you don’t move on to the next benchmark until your prospects have made the agreement in the current benchmark. Or you will find yourself off track in a way that doesn’t serve you or your prospects. If the system works, then work the system.

If you’re looking for consistent, predictable sales results, then building a sales system will get you there… at least half way. ‘Structure’ is half of the equation. The other half is ‘substance’, what your salespeople bring to the process.

Together, ‘structure’ and ‘substance’ produce a result that’s greater than the sum of the parts. It’s where 1 + 1 = 3. And, what better way to grow your sales than to build a system that does that?

P.S. Over the next four weeks, I’ll be sharing with you what we mean by ‘substance’, why things like ‘rapport building’ are ‘old school’, and some qualities of effective salespeople that you probably never imagined. I'll also be writing about how the right sales system can leverage your salespeople or the ones who are likely to be attracted to your company to produce sales results beyond what they have ever been able to produce before.

Topics: Sales

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Ilene Gail Frahm

Written by Ilene Gail Frahm

Ilene is the co-owner of EMyth and its Board Chair. She's been innovating EMyth’s sales process for decades and writes about the essential elements of a successful sales ecosystem in any small business. She also writes about leadership.

See all of Ilene's posts.