World class sales organizations know their Sales Process: They understand best practices, consistently review, fine tune, and leverage sales technology/CRM as part of the support infrastructure. A clearly defined, successful sales process, when consistently followed, can be THE key to success for your sales organization.
George Terry, Leader of Business Planning for the network technology giant Nortel, recently led a very successful sales process redesign and implementation process for the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA) region of his firm. George has been with Nortel for close to 14 years, and 9 of the 14 have been focused on leading sales/marketing operations for a US $500m+ Region. George recently spoke with the Sales Operations Blog to share his Sales Process success story.
George, why did Nortel decide to embark on this Sales Process initiative?
“This was borne from necessity and opportunity. The Firm had just recently added Microsoft Dynamics (CRM) as a Sales Force Effectiveness (SFE) Tool, and I saw the opportunity to leverage the customized CRM workflow process into a structured Sales Process in order to increase Collaboration between teams. This also allowed the Sales team to recapture much needed time to focus on the customer. This was done in the CALA Region, but is being looked at in whole, and pieces in the other 3 regions globally.”
In a few sentences, can you sum up the key components of this initiative? What exactly was changed and implemented?
“The underlying base of the initiative started with the defining the Operating Rhythm of the organization. Of course this is the series of events with inputs and outputs that occurs between different groups. I first started by analyzing the series of meetings, deliverables, and interactions between groups to line up the information flow, timing and responsible groups. Once the operating rhythm was established, I then partnered with my Master Black Belt in order to assign the key tasks to the responsible organizations. This included Sales, Proposals, Engineering, Sales Operations and of course Management. We drafted specific work instructions for the process for the different organizations involved, trained and implemented.”
As the initiative leader, who did you involve in the project? Who were the key stakeholders and influencers?
“The key stakeholder was the regional President of Sales. As I designed and implemented the project, he was supportive in driving the Regional Sales Leaders to further drive the responsibility down to their teams. This was accomplished by using the data from CRM in the sales management calls and decision making. CRM became the “bible” and the information from it was used for forecasting, benchmarking, and funnel management. Influencers included the Master Black Belt, and the leaders of Engineering, Proposals and Sales.”
When were the changes implemented and what are the results so far? How are you measuring success?
“The project was implemented in Q1-2008. The results so far have been very positive. The project resulted in 50% increased collaboration and >20% decreased down time for Sales individuals. Measuring success is always tough with a tangible, but the facts are clear. We folded 3 manual processes that took the sales team hours a week to complete into the tool. We decreased the amount of messages and phone calls they had to answer by providing current information in the tool. We automated the process, now the Sales person enters key information up front, and does not have to touch the opportunity again until the proposal is ready to go to the customer. All value added information is populated into the opportunity by the supporting groups. My executive had other executives asking “how did you get this information”, we maintained a clean data rate of > 93% through the year, and saved the Sales team an average of 10 hours a week on non-customer facing work.”
Following implementation, how have you kept the process steady and continuous?
“The key to delivering a steady process is to implement “hooks” that provide information in a timely manner. Given the rhythm is a series of inputs/tasks/outputs, I devised customized reports that are scheduled in Business Objects based on the CRM data that is available at that point in time. The output of the scheduled report becomes the input for the next stage and so on. This includes the supporting groups which are often starved for sales information. Order Management and Operations both get reports twice a week to show the status of items coming down the pipe so they can prepare for the order and delivery. My planning organization as well gets reports for order and revenue forecasting.”
If you were giving advice to a fellow Sales leader embarking on a similar initiative provide four tips- two things that they SHOULD do and two things to AVOID.
DO : Establish an operating rhythm, map your inputs/outputs and align your entire organization to follow that rhythm. Involve the management team and rule by consensus.
DO : Use the data to run the business. Have the executive support to action the data, benchmark and review your funnel from the tool.
AVOID: Not addressing diversions to the process right away. This de-values the process and erases accountability. I actually gave three strikes to the Sales person to keep their data clean before removing their access to the CRM tool. Without the tool , no proposals………
AVOID: Too many “touches”. Construct your process by grouping activities or inputs that a role must do together. This allows a person to knock out their required input in one session instead of having to go back and forth to the tool. It also speeds the process.
Anything else you would like to add?
“It is key that the end deliverable be something of value to the Sales individual. In many cases, salespeople are “Coin Operated” and if a process does not help them to attain quota, then it may be deemed “not valuable”. By removing internal barriers, giving them back time, and adding value to their opportunities, you create an alternative that helps them gain face time with the customer, thus adding value. It is key to note as well, although the Sales team is $ driven, the management team has to answer to other factors around how the business is run. Executive support is key, as the executive drives the mandate to the Sales leaders, and to the customer facing Sales individuals.”
What do you think of the Nortel initiative? Please add your comments here.