By: John Cabri
 
When designing for sales process excellence, it is important to think about every step your prospects/customers must go through to do business with you. Response latency, as well as every additional document, meeting, phone call, click, or decision in the sales process creates friction. And for every single point of friction, the result is deceleration and the chances of winning a deal decreases. History has shown that even when your competitor’s product is inferior (or priced higher), if they are able to makes the buying process drop-dead simple, you are likely losing customers that should be yours.
 
There is almost universal agreement that organizational complexity creates tremendous amounts of friction for the sales organization – making it harder to get things done than necessary. However, studies indicate that few executives have a realistic understanding of how complexity actually creates sales deceleration in their own companies due to poor processes, confusing role definitions, or unclear accountabilities.
 
This is not a trivial difference in perception. Research suggests that such a disconnect highlights a blind spot many executives have when it comes to managing complexity effectively. 
 
 
         “A focus on institutional complexity at the expense of the
          individual kind can lead to wasted effort or even organizational
          damage. What’s more, failing to tackle complexity as most people
          experience it can, as we’ve shown before, be financially costly.”
 
          mckinsey.com
          Cracking the Complexity Code
 
 
In the case of sales reps, their struggle is with the various manifestations of individual complexity. Examples include; processes which at one time had been effective, but over time have become increasingly bureaucratic, or fail to work at all. Frustration tends to come with how long it takes to complete a task, find relevant information, and make decisions when reasonable, less time consuming alternatives seem to be at hand. Role duplication, combined with unclear role definitions, exacerbates the problems. The result is too much time spent on managing internal processes and not enough on understanding customers’ needs.
 
Common Areas of Sales Friction 

 

Organizational Processes: Friction points within the organization, but outside the control of sales management. This can include topical issues such as contracts/contract language, exception handling and sign-off, and mis- or non-aligned departments (ie, training, service, delivery) when it comes to ideal sales processes and handoffs.

Buyer Processes: Friction points in the buyer’s processes that are outside the selling organization’s control (however, it may not be outside of the selling organization’s influence). This could be buying process delays, changes in Budget, Authority, Need, Timeframe (BANT), mis-mapping or gaps in guided sales, as well as appropriate stage information and tasks relative to the buying and selling processes. 

Sales Processes: Friction points within the complete control of the sales organization. This can include both organizational issues such as finding content, guided sales processes, enablement, and information gaps, as well as individual issues; timely responses, lack of trust, perceived lack of competence of the sales rep by the prospect/customer. 

 
In the end, taking the necessary steps to remove friction is first and foremost about attitude. It’s a team approach that will involve many and gives everyone in the organization a support role in ensuring that the friction that impedes the sale’s organizations forward movement remains at bay.
 
How is your organization removing friction from the sales process?