Do You Have a Selling System?

Having your own way of approaching sales might make you think you’re being authentic with your customers, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient or effective way to do business. Here’s why successful companies develop and follow a selling system.

“I have my own style of selling.”

I have heard this countless times, usually from relatively inexperienced salespeople. What they really mean is, “I don’t have any real system to what I do, I don’t want any scrutiny, and I probably am not going to learn anything from you.”

Does every salesperson have a unique style of selling? Or, are they just trying to hide from accountability under the cover of individual “style”? Or is there some other explanation?

More importantly, should your company allow every salesperson to have their own style, or should you have system for selling to which everyone adheres?

Almost any work can be systematic. “Systems” are how good work gets done. McDonald’s did not grow its business by hiring people and letting them figure out how to best greet a customer, take an order, fry potatoes, and assemble a cheeseburger. Instead, they figured out the best way, secured the tools, documented the process, and trained everyone to do it that way. Because of the system, McDonald’s can make almost anyone, regardless of capability, into a productive, effective employee.

This truth – that good systems make people effective — operates in every area of work. Talk to effective professionals in any field, and they will verify that they use effective principles, processes, and tools to complete complex tasks. They use a system.

In fact, the more important and complex the task, the more likely that the principles and processes have been defined and codified. How would you feel if you buckled the seat belt on an airliner and listened as the captain announced that he has his own way of flying the plane?

This is not to say that there is not room for individual differences, for continuous improvement, and for variations based on the specifics of the situation. But those are more embellishments than structure – like the icing on a cake.

You probably apply this principle in every other aspect of your business. Don’t you have a system for almost every important process in your business? Aren’t your customer service reps expected to input an order in a certain way, and respond to a customer in a certain fashion? Don’t your purchasing people follow certain procedures, and aren’t they guided by certain principles and criteria to ensure that they make the best decisions? Don’t your warehouse employees ship, receive, stock and pick orders in a certain well-organized, duplicable fashion?

Why should sales be different?

It isn’t. There are principles, processes and tools that have been proven to be more effective than others in sales. A selling system addresses the interaction between the salesperson and the customer, providing a “game plan” for success. Think of it as a template for the salesperson’s face-to-face tactical encounters.

Study any successful company that fields a large number of salespeople, and you’ll discover that almost every one has a well-defined, duplicable selling system. And they teach that system to their salespeople – “This is the way we keep track of our files, this is the way we collect information about our customers, this is the way we present this product or that one, this is the way we think about strategy, this is the way we develop a weekly plan,” etc. The larger, older, and more successful a company is, the more likely it is to have a highly sophisticated and refined selling system.

To be effective and productive in your sales efforts, sooner or later you need to develop a selling system.

Your system should have variations for each major market segment. For example, the “best way” to sell to a truck line may not be the best way to sell to a tool and die shop. Typically, a selling system defines a sales process for each segment, and then addresses the best ways to accomplish each step in that process.

Take truck lines for example. The most effective process may be to make an appointment with a purchasing person, to collect information at the first face-to-face meeting, to prepare a written proposal, to personally deliver that proposal, and then to make a personal face-to-face follow up call. That may be the process piece of the system. The tools might consist of a script for making the appointment, a profile form to collect the information, a capability brochure to use to describe and introduce the company, a standard “proposal” form, and a set of carefully crafted questions to use throughout the process. The tactics may be a series of techniques to facilitate each step of the process.

When all those pieces are put in place – the appropriate processes, tools and tactics – you would have a selling system. And when you have a selling system, and when you have trained all your salespeople in that system, you will have taken a major step forward. You’re ready for the big leagues.

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