I often encourage my clients to think about their own experiences as a customer of other businesses to discover which values they hold in the highest regard. Being expressive of your values is a great way to connect with others who value the same things. Much like this exercise, I often think about my experience as a customer of other businesses to help my clients understand what they can do better and how they can win more business by making sometimes small changes to how work is approached, and other times large shifts in strategy.
I recently had a roof installed at my home and while I am pleased with the work that was done, the sales experience left me frustrated and doubting my own decision as to whether I could rely on the company I hired to do the job.
The biggest frustration that I experienced was having to constantly call the sales rep to advance the order process or get information about when the work was going to be scheduled. Oddly enough, when I called to actually place the order, I left a voicemail indicating my desire to proceed and two days went by and I didn’t receive a return phone call. I had to call again, only to learn that the sales rep was on vacation. He failed to mention that detail and there was no mechanism in place for my order to be processed had I not called back again.
The Bar is Already Fairly Low
It’s worth mentioning that the construction industry is notorious for providing rather subpar customer service. I called several contractors for quotes and some failed to even return my call. But I was pleasantly surprised when one contractor told me that he wasn’t comfortable doing the job and made a recommendation to another company. At least it gave me hope that the industry is capable of providing an excellent level of service.
In thinking about our experience with the sales rep, my wife and I agreed that he was very knowledgeable about the product and he was a likable guy. We liked him when we had the opportunity to sit with him and discuss our options. He wasn’t a bad salesperson from that perspective. In trying to understand what made us frustrated, it dawned on us that with every call we made, it seemed like a scramble. Though not in these exact words, it was like he was saying, “oh, yeah, thanks for the reminder, I’ll get right on that.” It isn’t a customer’s responsibility to remind a salesperson to take the next step in the sales process. When it becomes the customer’s responsibility, confidence breaks down.
The perception of disorganization on the part of the salesperson made me question whether the company had a habit of letting things slip through the cracks. And because of the expectation for how soon installation would start and when we were actually put on the schedule, at one point I wondered if my deposit money might have disappeared with a failing contractor. These are feelings that customers simply shouldn’t have. There is absolutely no excuse for a customer wondering if they made a bad decision by hiring the company.
Humans Are Imperfect, Everyone Needs a Guide
Fortunately for my roofing contractor, and for other contractors out there, all hope is not lost. There are solutions to problems with poor communication during the sales process. The biggest idea that owners and sales managers must consider is that people are not infallible. Things happen. Sometimes there is just too much going on to remember everything. Just because someone has 10,000 hours of experience does not mean that they won’t make a mistake.
I’ve launched hundreds of websites over the years, but I still follow a checklist when launching a new website because it’s too important that the process goes unimpaired. Because the detriment of getting it wrong could lead to a loss of revenue for the client, I cannot afford to make a mistake. No matter what your job is, because it’s your job, you cannot afford to get it wrong. Having a checklist is not a sign that you are unfamiliar with your job or bad at it, it just shows how dedicated you are to ensuring you get it right. You’re doing it for the sake of your customers and you’re doing it for the sake of your prosperity.
How to Create a Repeatable Sales Process in 10 Steps
Creating a repeatable sales process does not need to be a long, drawn-out exercise. You can start by identifying the steps you normally take in the process and simply write them down and keep them handy as you go about your work. It’s a good starting point and it’s better than nothing. If you grasp the value of doing this more formally, there are a few steps you can take to steer the culture of your sales organization and get your salespeople to love using systems to sell. Here are the key steps you should follow:
- List Your Current Sales Steps – What steps do you currently take to advance a sale from first contact to closed business? This might vary depending on the job or the customer, but likely, you can narrow this down to a fairly universal list of things that MUST happen in order to get your prospect to sign on the dotted line and hand over a deposit.
- Conduct an Honest Audit of Your Customers’ Experience – Have a discussion with everyone on your team who has a customer-facing role. Ask the sales team and the on-the-ground team about what things they hear customers express dissatisfaction about. Call on a sample of past customers and ask them to provide honest feedback about how they felt during the sales process. Ask them to tell you what you could have improved.
- Understand Your Internal Challenges – Go further and ask your entire team – not just customer-facing team members – to provide honest feedback about what part of the customer service process frustrates them. Very often there are internal frustrations that are borne out of a poor sales process, but team members and leaders may not identify a hole in the sales process and may not necessarily look there for solutions to these frustrations.
- Propose Sales Process Solutions for Customer & Team Frustrations – Brainstorm what questions you could ask, what statements you could make, what information or materials you could provide, what expectations you could set and what steps you could take after the sales call to improve the experience for the customer and your team.
- Identify Steps That Must be Repeated During the Process – The most common example of repeated steps in a sales process is the follow-up. You may choose to follow up by email and/or by phone, and you may need to do this several times to successfully close a sale. Ensuring you repeat this step as necessary will make a big difference in your close rate.
- Assemble Your New Repeatable Sales Process – Once you have completed the above steps, assemble your list of steps into the most logical order. If you have different products or solutions that don’t necessarily follow the same set of steps, create an alternative process for those customers or be willing to skip steps in the process when you know they don’t apply.
- Consider Time and Timing – How will the timing of the steps impact your business? Do you have the resources to move as fast as you would like or do you need to make adjustments elsewhere? Are your expectations for customer response rate in tune with how fast customers actually respond? Does the process need to move faster in order to provide a better experience for your prospect? Answer these questions and define the time needed between tasks in the process.
- Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes – Before putting your process into action, take a moment to think about your own experience as a customer to other businesses. If you were subject to the process you’ve built, would it build necessary trust, set clear-enough expectations, provide an experience of being cared for? Or does it feel overly aggressive, too pushy, onerous on your time or leaving something to be desired? Consider your findings and make final adjustments to the steps and timing.
- Put the Process In Motion & Analyze – Your current sales process is probably already ailing or you wouldn’t be reading this, so there is no reason to assume that your new sales process will be flawless. Let the process play out and see how it impacts sales. Determine how your close rate has changed after implementing the new process. Talk to staff and customers to learn how their experience was.
- Keep Improving – As you put your new sales process to the test, you’ll find moments where stakeholders are frustrated. Take pause. Think about those frustrations. Could they be solved by further adapting your sales process? Keep making the process better and you will close more business and generate more referrals.
Because different businesses operate very differently, I didn’t include technology in the above steps, but I highly encourage businesses to adopt technology that helps them follow these steps with each and every prospective customer. We use a workflow management software solution called Asana to run the operations for our entire business. It allows us to create project and process templates with checklists that we can follow as we go about our work. It also allows us to schedule recurring tasks like follow-up calls that must happen repeatedly until the client says “yes” or “no.” You may have industry-specific management software that will do this for you or you may consider adopting a CRM, or Customer Relationship Management system, to help with replicating these tasks when new prospects are identified.
Because humans can be expected to make errors in their work, creating repeatable steps to serve as a guide can help ensure customers have a positive experience while improving your team’s productivity. Utilizing technology can further secure the process so that steps are never missed. Having a repeatable sales process will help you close more business and it will help you save time in the service delivery stage. More business, happier customers, happier staff, lower operating costs – it’s a win-win-win-win for your business.
As for my roofing contractor, I was sure to share my experience with the owners of the company and they were appreciative of the feedback. Since then, I’ve asked for another quote to replace the roof on a rental property I manage. As of this writing, it’s been 10 days and they have yet to deliver a quote and I haven’t heard from them about it since. I can’t help but wonder how much revenue they are missing out on as a result.
If you’re interested in learning more about how small improvements can drive growth, check out my article on prioritizing general improvement over financial performance.
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