Sales Process Productivity: 5 Best Practices & 20 Key Questions

While many businesses make efforts to improve production, distribution, and various administrative work processes, it is less common to find organizations that focus on applying the fundamentals of Continuous Improvement to the sales process.

However, our research and experience indicate the selling process is more complex than many people realize. In addition, we have consistently found that the largest waste in most commercial and industrial organizations is lost gross margin that results from sales not made, sub-optimal pricing, and excessive costs in sales-related processes.

So, leaving aside the “selling skills” or “charisma” associated with those perceived as the most successful sellers, when you consider the day-to-day activities required of field-based or outside sales professionals, there are some proven best practices that can help boost field-day efficiency, which include the following five:

Pre-call planning: by planning each sales call in advance, in writing, sales people can position themselves to accomplish more in less time, thus increasing personal productivity as well as accelerating overall cycle-time. Not only will running more comprehensive sales calls increase efficiency, but the habit will also make a stronger, more positive impact on customers. Many who have embraced this best-practice report that their customers recognize the difference and, over time, become more willing to schedule meetings or sales calls, thus enabling them to more easily make more calls each day, an important part of the job as noted in the next bullet.
Set a daily call volume goal. This may sound like an unnecessary step, but a surprising number of sales people are unable to quantify the actual average number of sales calls they make each day. As author Jack Falvey has said, “Want more sales? Make more calls.” By setting a personal goal, which will vary depending on the nature of each territory, sellers are often able to self-motivate more effectively and make more calls per day.
Geo-plan: by creating a strategic geographic or travel plan for each day, outside sales people can minimize drive time and optimize “face” time. The best plans will begin by creating territory quadrants and then mapping the locations of customers and key prospects. The rule-of-thumb is to avoid traveling beyond two quadrants in any given day, so when an appointment is set in one area, try to schedule meetings or plan to visit others in the same general region to enable a maximum number of interactions in a minimum amount of time.
Bookend each day by scheduling an appointment early in the morning and another late in the afternoon. This will promote “staying the course” as opposed to deciding to drive back to the office early to do administrative work. This best-practice might also help to achieve item #2 above.
Try to schedule next steps (i.e., follow-up meetings, conference calls, etc.) “on the spot” before the conclusion of each sales call. This simple best practice can significantly boost efficiency for two reasons. First, it helps sales people more easily populate their calendars for future selling days in the field; and second, it can help shorten selling cycles by securing time with buyers sooner than could be done otherwise.

But the sales process extends well-beyond a day in the field, as it encompasses everything from identifying a lead to delivering a solution.

Considering this broad spectrum, it is really not surprising that the largest waste within most businesses can be found in the sales area.

The first step toward improvement – that is, moving from “where we are now to where we’d like to be if everything were right” – is to identify specific areas of sales process waste, and a good way to start might be to answer the following 20 questions:

What is our current market share?
What are our customers’ requirements?
How well are we meeting these requirements?
What would it take to truly delight our customers?
How long does the sales process take from lead to sale?
What is our lead conversion ratio?
What were the top 3 reasons for lost sales over the past quarter?
How many calls do our sales people make, on average, each day?
How much time do we spend talking with uninterested or unqualified leads?
How do we continually improve our sales team’s skills and habits?
What percentage of prospects contact us first?
How does this percentage (#11) compare with industry data?
Does the sales process take less time to complete for inbound leads? If so, how much less?
What is our response time to customer or prospect inquiries?
How many customer complaints do we receive?
How much time do our sales people spend interceding or responding to complaints?
What is done with the information associated with customer complaints?
How do customer complaints or how does customer dissatisfaction impact our ability to make sales?
How often are discounts extended, and what is the average discount?
Are discounts offered due to competition or in response to dissatisfaction?

International Business Etiquette Tips

When doing business internationally, you shouldn’t concentrate on simply selling your products and services. To be successful, you need to cultivate relationships with the people that you are working with. To help you out, here are some of the areas you should pay attention to when interacting with people internationally:

Gender roles

You will be interacting with people from different sectors that have different beliefs. To avoid uncomfortable situations, take your time to understand the appropriate gender etiquette. In most cases, the gender roles are about personal boundaries and physical contact with men and women.

If doing business in the Arab countries, you should note that Arab women aren’t allowed to shake hands with men. If you are a woman and traveling to these countries, be cautious of this as it can be uncomfortable when you hand out your hand and the men don’t shake your hand.

Time

While time is crucial globally, different countries have different tolerance levels. In china and japan, punctuality is crucial, and if you are late for even a minute, the people you are having the meeting with will walk out. In India, your companions won’t be overly offended if you are a little late, but you shouldn’t push it.

If doing business in England, the business professionals will require you to show up on time or even slightly earlier. In France, punctuality is of little importance, and the professionals will consider you “on time” even if you are ten minutes late.

Dress code

This is crucial as it determines how people see you. Just like time, the business attire preference varies from one place to another. In china and japan, business attire is formal. You should wear a suit and tie to all professional meetings. In the US, the business environment is less formal; therefore, you can wear smart casual and be considered okay. In France, you need to be formal, well-tailored, and fashionable. It’s France you are in.

Personal space

Personal space varies from one gender to another and also on how well you know each other. In china, the formal way of going about it is shaking hands. You shouldn’t great someone with a kiss or hug. In France, men will sometimes greet women with a kiss, but many women will stick out their hands if they prefer a handshake. In England, personal touches such as kissing and hugging are reserved for close friends and family; therefore, allow a certain amount of personal space.

Business gifts

Handing out gifts varies from one culture to another. In most Asian countries, gifts are tolerated and highly encouraged. In fact, the business associates will expect you to bring a gift. When you are presenting the gift, always wrap it. Remember that the value of the gift is less important than the thoughts you put into it.

While gifts are encouraged in Asian countries, the culture is highly flowed upon in western countries. Most of these countries consider a gift as a bribe.

Conclusion

These are the international business etiquette tips you should consider when doing business internationally. Always go through them before visiting a country you aren’t familiar with.