Timur Hicyilmaz

Last week we touched on the importance of pressuring the customer to make decisions, even if this can feel awkward while trying to maintain a enduring relationship.

This week, we’re taking a closer look at whether individuals are more likely to succeed by following a formal sales process or by delivering a unique perspective (or commercial insight). It’s an important question and we find that many leaders have strong opinions on the topic. Non-sales leaders, in particular, often struggle with the fact that sales can seem less predictable, or more art than science.

Process vs Insight

This finding, based on our analysis of data from almost 26,000 sellers, is striking and argues against viewing sales process adherence in isolation of everything else happening in the sales experience.

In terms of the analysis; we see a benefit from following a formal sales process. As expected, sales process adherence has a 2 percentage point positive effect on the likelihood of being a high performer, (from a 12% likelihood at point A to a 14% likelihood at point B). But this is a very small return on effort, especially if you consider the time and resources organizations spend on sales process compliance.

But take a look at the impact of delivering customers a unique perspective, or delivering commercial insight. Having this ability, even in the absence of sales process adherence, roughly doubles a seller’s likelihood of being a high performer, to 25% percent.

Now comes the real benefit. A seller who can both follow a formal sales process and deliver unique insight is 30% likely to be a high performer. Delivering unique insight, in other words, is the real super power. An ability to intuitively knit together gaps in the customer’s perception of their world makes customers more receptive to new ideas. This is what starts sellers on a path toward mobilizing prospects and building consensus to get deals done. It makes the sales process work in the first place.

Process cannot survive alone

There is a hard lesson here: a sales process doesn’t deliver growth on its own. It provides certain control over the business, and is needed to manage large numbers of sellers, but it can’t be depended on to deliver noticeable performance improvement.

Instead, meaningful performance improvement comes from pairing process with sellers skilled in bringing customers big, unique and disruptive ideas. Generating and delivering unique/powerful insight is harder than a simple process, no doubt.

Sellers need creativity, research and an ability to manage uncertainty; along with a true understanding of their customers’ businesses. But when done well, as this data has shown, the performance reward is much, much greater.

Timur Hicyilmaz

Timur has been conducting research for most of his career. He was part of the team that researched many of the original concepts behind Challenger. Mostly focused on trying to better understand how commercial organizations succeed, Timur has spent time working on everything from trying to understand consumer attitudes toward energy consumption to identifying best practices for hospital operations leaders. His passion is for trying to identify strategies that are more likely to deliver a desired outcome than any others.