How Skipping One Step Derailed an Entire Sales Team

Every step of the sales process is important, even if the sale cycle is short. Be wary of skipping steps. That can lead to unintended consequences for your sales team.

As a successful sales manager, Debby had always prided herself that her sales team grew a wide and diverse sales pipeline that generated consistent sales, quarter after quarter. Because of the technical nature of her company’s products, the sales process could take some time, so having a robust pipeline was vital.

Lately, however, her sales team closing ratio had been dropping and sales were suffering. The technical support department had been taking longer and longer to complete site audits that evaluated the validity of potential projects, established their size and scope, and considered other important technical factors.

The Problem

Debby’s reps were used to waiting a week for site audits, but now they took three weeks to a month to complete. Her sales team was growing more and more frustrated—and the long wait times were alienating potential customers. Debby is not alone. As organizations grow, processes that should change to accommodate that growth often remain unexamined.

Instead, people develop patches or “Band-Aids” to keep the processes working. They justify it as “the way we’ve always done it,” and they get used to the headaches, accepting them as just a cost of doing business or growing pains. In Debby’s case, in order to accommodate the growth of demand for her company’s product, her overworked salespeople had stopped qualifying prospective buyers.

Instead, they had pushed that work onto the tech support team, who would often come back from site audits wondering why they’d ever visited a company that was so obviously unsuited for their products. Because tech support spent so much time on useless site visits, the potentially profitable ones were delayed—alienating customers and giving the salesforce a reputation for not really knowing what it was doing. 

The Solution

Debby allowed the tech support people to continue with business as usual, but trained her salespeople to qualify prospects better. They could not schedule a site visit from tech support without first getting the answers to a series of preliminary questions, some of which would lead the salesperson to understand that the company would not be a good fit for the prospect. 

The salespeople, working in a silo, had been blind to the effect of their process change on tech support, but the pain had come back on them in the form or reduced sales. Everyone lost in that scenario. By correctly identifying the process change—the reduction in qualifying—that underlay the problem, Debby was able to take appropriate corrective action to turn the situation around. 

The Conclusion

The faster your sales grow, the more often you should examine your sales process, making sure your team understands how critical following it means to everyone’s productivity. Wholesale changes later on can be very disruptive. The longer you accommodate inefficiency, the more unintended consequences you will see both from the accommodation and from the fix that you eventually put in place. 

Avoid this with one simple rule: Evaluate your sales process regularly and calibrate as you go.