Why 90% of Companies That Use a Guided Sales Process Are Top Performers

There’s a lot that goes into successful sales. And even the best, brightest, most talented reps can benefit from some type of standardized system. One that simplifies and streamlines sales to convert the maximum number of leads into customers. And that’s where a guided sales process comes in.

For this post, I’m going to provide some recent data that illustrates just how big of an impact a guided sales process can have and unpack the essentials that go into creating one.

A Jaw-Dropping Stat

Let’s cut to the chase. The Sales Management Association, a “global, cross-industry professional association for managers in sales force effectiveness,” conducted extensive research on the importance of a guided sales process. According to their findings, “90% of all companies that use a formal, guided sales process were ranked as the highest performing.”

That’s about as cut and dry as it gets. Sales teams that establish a formal system create a replicable framework that enables reps to take someone from being a prospective buyer in the early awareness stage to a converted customer efficiently with the least amount of friction. And like most areas of business, a guided sales process will evolve over time. As more and more data is accumulated, you gain more customer insights and a better understanding of their psychology, motives, pain points, and overall profile.

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You also can spot flaws in your process and make the necessary adjustments to fine-tune them. So over time and with continual iterations, your guided sales process becomes hyper-efficient and allows your salespeople to operate at their absolute best. Besides that, having a winning formula helps accelerate ramp time so you can get new hires up to speed more quickly and hasten their development. That’s important considering it takes an average of 11 months for most reps to reach their full potential.

Other Insightful Stats

But it doesn’t stop there. For a deeper perspective, here are some other interesting stats curated by Super Human Prospecting that further illustrate the potency of having a guided sales process.

  • “Businesses with a standardized sales process see up to a 28% increase in revenue as compared to those that do not.”
  • “50% of high-performing sales organizations admit having ‘closely monitored, strictly enforced, or automated’ sales processes.”
  • Conversely, “48% of under-performing organizations have non-existent or informal sales processes.”

Now let’s unpack these stats a bit more. For starters, a 28% revenue increase instantly caught my attention. To think that a guided sales process can have this much of a direct correlation to significantly higher earnings is extremely compelling. The data, which comes from a Harvard Business Review study, found that this type of effective pipeline management can be massively beneficial for boosting revenue. And it makes sense. By providing salespeople with a standardized system to follow and reducing friction points for leads, increased sales should naturally follow.

The second stat about half of high-performing organizations closely monitoring, enforcing, or automating sales processes shows that another key part of winning in this area is ensuring salespeople follow the prescribed methodology. This doesn’t mean micromanaging or making the process overly forced, as elite reps will usually need some level of flexibility to “do their thing.” But it does suggest there needs to be a baseline for salespeople to stick to and that sales leaders should keep an eye on things, especially during initial implementation.

Lastly, the fact that 48% of underperforming organizations have either informal sales processes or none whatsoever shows that the opposite is true. Companies without a proper guided sales process lack structure, which, in turn, puts them at a disadvantage when compared to competitors with a formal system in place.

The Essentials of a Guided Sales Process

At this point, I think we can all agree that, when done right, a guided sales process can be a game-changer. But what exactly should it include?

While the sequence will vary somewhat from company to company, I like the outline Super Office provides, which consists of six key steps. This includes:

  • Prospecting
  • Preparation
  • Approach
  • Presentation
  • Handling objections
  • Closing and follow-up

Here’s a nice illustration of how that looks.

sales process cycle

Notice how it’s cyclical, and after the final stage of closing and follow-up, the process starts all over again through either repeat sales or referrals. Obviously, not all customers will result in repeat business or a referral. But this bears mentioning, as research from Small Business Trends found that “65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers.”

So besides simply streamlining the process of acquiring new customers, this system also makes it easier for salespeople to capitalize on opportunities with existing customers as well. For more info on the nuts and bolts of the actual guided sales process itself and how to construct one for your company, I recommend reading this post from Super Office.

Closing Thoughts

Most sales leaders won’t be surprised that having a guided sales process is advantageous. But I doubt many knew just how big of an impact it can have. And we’re not talking about hypotheticals here. Results will vary, but with concrete data finding that 90% of top-performing companies use guided selling, it’s clearly a strategy worth implementing.

And as I mentioned earlier, the benefits can be far-reaching. Besides just helping reps do their jobs better, it can improve onboarding for new hires and create more opportunities for repeat business and referrals. So if this is something you haven’t gotten around to yet, now is the perfect time to get started.

When it comes to filling your talent pipeline with high-level salespeople, HireDNA can help. This platform uses cutting-edge technology like intelligent matching and science-based assessments to find rockstar candidates that perfectly match your criteria. Learn more about how HireDNA works and its features here.

The New England Patriots and How to Build a Successful Sales Team

The New England Patriots is an excellent model for what a well-oiled machine is supposed to look like. Since Bill Belichick has been at the reigns, The Pats has perennially been a 12-win team. That includes one year with Matt Cassel at Quarterback, and this past season with Tom Brady serving a 4-game suspension). Over the course of 17 seasons, Belichick has won 14 division titles, racked up 26 postseason wins (the most postseason wins by an NFL head coach), 7 AFC championship games, and 5 Super Bowls.

There are many things people can say about the “hoodie”, but one thing no one can discount is his level of consistency.

Outside of his short and dry responses to questions from the media, Belichick’s process-oriented approach to the game has contributed a lot to New England’s dominance.

Let’s take a look at a few principles that organizations can learn from the New England Patriots when building a high performing sales system. 

Know your Strengths

The Patriots have never been perfect. The Patriots won Super Bowl 51 with a flawed defense against a high octane offense in the Atlanta Falcons. Identifying and leveraging their strengths over their weakness is what Belichick and his staff do well.

On the offensive side of the ball, they were missing their superstar Tight-End, Rob Gronkowski for the last half of the season. They didn’t have a dynamic receiver like Antonio Brown or Odell Beckham Jr. to cover the slack. They didn’t have a dominating defense like the Giants or the Seahawks’ “Legion of Boom”, yet they still found ways to win.

What’s their secret?

Belichick and his staff have a great track record of identifying and leveraging their strengths over their weakness.

Taking an honest assessment of what your sales force does well gives you clarity of what to do in the long run. It allows you to have a bird’s eye view of your sales operations, and take inventory on what actions should be taken to improve efficiently.

The Patriot coaching staff understands there is no way they can be great at everything.

Understanding the DNA of your sales team will help you determine how to build around your weaknesses, what skills your salespeople need to be trained on, and the adjustments to the sales process to overcome your deficiencies.

Create A Sales Plan That Aligns With Your Goals

“In their eyes, Belichick was playing a very strategic, intricate game of chess while everybody else was playing checkers.” – Curtis Martin on how much his former teammates loved Belichick.

In sales, your version of winning the Super Bowl is to meet your sales quota for the year.

No other team in NFL history has attained the level of success as New England. At the core of what influences their operation is the effectiveness of their system.

They approach each season by starting with the end goal in mind. Being clear on what your goals are and the benchmarks you need to achieve are crucial. Belichick and his staff stay on top of what the trends in the league are and adjust their tactics accordingly.

One of the biggest perks to having a clear and concise system, is everyone understands their role and responsibilities.

The Patriots attention to detail and preparation stands out from a lot of other NFL organizations. They lean heavily on data and analytics and utilize their insights to develop their strategy. In contrast, the San Diego Chargers, who have experienced some success over the years have struggled to sustain it.

When asked about his thoughts about analytics and how it effects his game plan, Chargers coach Mike McCoy said that it didn’t. McCoy said, “I’m going to go with my gut decision on those things. No one can tell me on a piece of paper this is the right thing or the wrong thing to do.” Well, we all saw how that turned out. The Chargers ended up with a 5-11 record, they requested to relocate cities, and McCoy lost his job.

Relying on your gut instincts and not having a clear sales plan or playbook is a recipe for disaster.

Having a documented sales process and system is at the core of growing your business. It allows you to be clear about who the right people are for your team’s unique needs and creates transparency for your team.

Have The Right Players and Personnel

“You go to the draft board and think, ‘Here’s a nose tackle. Who needs a nose tackle?’ Well, eight teams in front of you need a nose tackle, and there’s [only] two nose tackles. It’s something you have to figure out where you can get the players to play in your system.” – Coach Belichick

Although it’s Belichick that gets all the accolades as being one of the greatest coaches ever, he didn’t do it alone. New England has some of the best analytics and coaches in the game.

Ernie Adams has served as the Director of Football Research for 16 seasons. Belichick and Adams regularly conduct a deep analysis of game film, stats and trends. These insights are used to develop plays and schemes, prioritize draft picks and determine who they should go after in free agency.   

In your sales organization, you need someone you can lean on to advise on the types of sales professionals you need for your system. 

Now, you may be saying to yourself, it’s easy to be successful when you have an elite Quarterback to execute the game plan. It’s easy to forget that the 5-time Super Bowl MVP wasn’t supposed to be here. Tom Brady was a backup QB, who was drafted in the 6th round of the 2001 draft.

What Belichick and his team understand more than anything, is strength is NOT the same as talent. When Brady was coming out of college, scouts said that Tom lacked the tools to be a starting Quarterback in the NFL. It turned out that what he lacked in talent he was able to overcompensate for with his football IQ.

The difference between the New England approach to free agency and others is that The Patriots focus on selecting the RIGHT player for their system, not necessarily the best.

When the Pats decided to upgrade their wide receiver core this past offseason, Belichick could’ve easily splurged. Mohamed Sanu, was a big name in free agency last season, but Belichick ended up signing Chris Hogan. Sanu ended up signing with Atlanta for $32 million with $14 million guaranteed (653 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns), while Hogan signed a 3-year $12 million dollar deal (680 yards receiving and 4 touchdowns). Who got the better deal?

No matter what your feelings are about the Patriots, their close to 20-years of dominance is unparalleled, especially in the salary cap era. New England’s ability to assess their strengths, recruit and train players that fit their system, and the uncanny ability to abstain from investing too much in low return free agents is the crux of their longevity.   

Everybody wants to have a team full of “Rock Star salespeople”. The truth is, the sum is always greater than the parts, and nobody does that better than the New England Patriots.

By creating and defining a sales system, identifying and building around your strengths, creating a recruiting strategy to attract and retain the right salespeople for YOURorganization, and having the right tools and technology in place, you’re in a great position to exceed your sales targets.