You can’t finish if you don’t start: How to manage the stress of sales through process.

I’m an intuitive seller – in other words, I didn’t intentionally set out to sell.  Much of my career has been in technology and product development but for the past two years I have been in a full-time sales role, a role I find more challenging, frustrating, rewarding, stressful, satisfying and fun than any role I’ve held over my now 30 year career.  I’ve always been in sales – we all are – but I’ve never sold exclusively.  Over the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best sales people I’ve ever known and I’ve taken my intuitive skills and added formal sales skills and of course process.

Now I’m a BIG process guy but I also know that one man’s process is just that, one man’s process – particularly in the sales world.  That said, I recently went through an exercise again that I thought was super valuable so I felt compelled to share it here.

Imagine if you will a white board on the wall in your office.  The board is blank save two phrases.  On the far left hand side are the words “unqualified lead” and on the far right hand side is “new client generating revenue”.  Now, what’s in between?

Seems like a simple question and for some of the more technical sellers I know they would fill that board quickly and easily but for the rest of us, a majority of the folks I’ve talked to and in particular the non-sales sellers like product developers and the like, the task isn’t as straight forward.  When I did this most recently it was humbling.  I was asked to fill in the blank so I drew a simple flow chart with about 7 or 8 steps.  Our CRO said, “Go deeper.”  So I did.  I blew out each box into 2 or 3 more and again he said, “Go Deeper.”  Seeing where this was going I told him yup, I get it and I left and erased my whiteboard and started over.  I worked on this process for a couple weeks, taking note of what I was actually doing and combining that with what I knew I should probably be doing and I finally had a pretty decent representation of my sales process.  Then it all came together.

If you’re stressed about your pipeline and you’re feeling overwhelmed there’s only one thing to do – roll through your leads and opportunities and take “the next step”.  That too seems simple but if you’re not mentally confident in your sales process knowing where each lead or opportunity is and what the next step is can be overwhelming.  So what did I do?  I simply printed out my pipeline on a piece of paper with each item preceded by a number.  I then wrote the corresponding number next to the now very detailed sales process on my whiteboard, and the result?  Nirvana.

I no longer thought about how do I get this opportunity from one GIANT step to the next but rather I focused on the myriad of tiny steps that you need to do to progress along the grander scale and almost immediately the stress subsided and I started to not only get traction on my current opportunities but I also had less call reluctance and I was able to develop new leads.

I hope this helps – if it does, let me know!