One of the first areas that many small business owners look to delegate is sales. Maybe they started their own firm because they liked the providing the service and, but they don’t enjoy the business side. Maybe they enjoy selling but it just takes up too much of their time. Or maybe they just aren’t very good at it. But a little time spent on creating a sales playbook can go a long way.
It’s common to want to pass on the sales activities (and headaches) to someone else. They figure that they will just hire a salesperson or two and then be able to wash their hands of any sales activities.
It’s true that having a robust sales team, whether it’s one person or twenty, can be a key ingredient for growing businesses. But there are two things you have to keep in mind:
1) As the head of your organization, you will always have some sales responsibilities. And that’s the way it should be. You care more than anyone else, and you have the conviction and authority that no one else in your organization does.
2) If you just hire a sales person, point them at a list of potential clients, and say, “Go get ’em!”… they will fail, and your organization will struggle.
So it’s critical to put in place a system. You have to develop a process that your salespeople can work within to find success. And that should happen before you ever hire a salesperson.
Why Small Businesses Struggle to Develop Sales Systems
When expanding to bring on salespeople, most owners think that they will ride in like a knight on a white horse and save the day. They want to “delegate by disappearing” so they can work on the other parts of the business.
In reality, there’s a lot of work that goes into preparing your salespeople for success before and after you hire them. Unfortunately, most leaders don’t put that work in for one of the following reasons:
They Don’t Like Sales:
Sales is still a 4-letter word to many professionals. Many business owners didn’t start their firms because they like to sell, they did it because they find the work interesting. They put in the minimum effort until they can get someone else to do it. In this situation, when the selling gets outsourced it’s rarely successful because they don’t want to give it any attention.
They Sell Through Internalized Enthusiasm:
Many successful agency owners are good salespeople…and they have no idea why. A combination of enthusiasm, charm, and internalized social skills allows them get business and keep customers happy. In the short run that’s perfectly fine. But when someone doesn’t know what is driving their success it’s hard to replicate it intentionally.
They Don’t Have a Process:
What happens when they approach every customer engagement differently? What if contact info, marketing materials, and sales documents are spread over random spreadsheets, CRMs, and Slack channels? It’s exhausting to reinvent value statements and prices every time that a new prospect enters the picture. In these situations, there’s no foundation to build upon which leads to a lot of wasted effort.
Create a Sales Playbook
Just like your business has systems for creating client deliverables, for paying your employees, and for hiring your team, you want to have a system for how your business sells. When you are ready to hire a sales team (or even if you just want to make your efforts more efficient), the first thing you have to do it create a documented, repeatable, scalable sales process.
The sales process can’t live in the head of the founder, VP of sales, or sole salesperson. It has to be written out. This can be in a physical binder or digital folder. It doesn’t matter if it’s beautifully designed or a collection of rough Word documents. You want a single reference point that can be used for training and guidance over a long period of time. Pull together all of your talking points and sales scripts. That’s how you prevent everyone from constantly reinventing the wheel.
If the current sales process is incredibly idiosyncratic and changes based on who is doing the selling or who is doing the buying, it’s not actually a process. The important question is: Could a new person pick up the playbook and follow along? That doesn’t mean that every situation is going to be the same. Every client will have their own particular needs and every salesperson will have their own style, but the foundation should remain constant.
If you have to heavily customize your approach to each and every prospect, you aren’t going to be able to grow. Likewise, if it requires a lot of specialized knowledge to complete, it will be hard to find salespeople. You want the process to be accessible to a wide range of salespeople. Even if you only want a few salespeople, you want to give yourself the option of attracting a large pool of candidates.
The most important step in creating a systematized sales process is pausing for a second to get started. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily minutiae of selling to the prospects that you have in front of you and serving existing customers. But if you don’t pop up from the tactical in the short-term, you’re never going to get to the strategic in the long-term.
You don’t have to do it all at once, even documenting parts of your sales engagement here and there can help move you forward. Consistently adding and expanding your sales playbook will create a useful program in your agency faster than you think.
And giving your sales process the strategic attention it deserves will pay dividends now and down the road.