I have never seen a poll evenly split.
I posted the question on LinkedIn: What do you teach a new salesperson first, product or process?
In less than one day the poll received more than 200 responses with a PERFECT 50/50 split. It turns out people couldn’t decide on the “one true answer”. But there is one. Why are so many people choosing the wrong answer?
There are fair arguments to choosing both, but each one has conditions.
- What happens if you assume the process is already established?
- What happens if the product changes?
- Does the process ever change?
Assuming that a successful salesperson has a sales process established does that mean that same process will work for your company, with your products, with your unique buyers?
Assuming you have a product that has incredible competitive advantages, does it matter if the product evolves, a new market opens up, or the way in which we sell changes (or does it)?
Why Product First
People who believe product should come first have some solid arguments:
- Salespeople should have an established process
- Clients want to know why they should choose our product over our competitors
- There are few things that set products apart, and being clear on those differentiators will set you apart
- If a client asks about product, and the salesperson doesn’t know, you lose credibility with the client
All these arguments leave out what happens if the product changes?
Should salespeople become experts at features?
Especially when we’re referring to a new salesperson deciding on what comes first should take into consideration how do you determine the person isn’t working out within the critical 89 days before their probationary period is over? How do you decide if they aren’t a fit? Do you want them to be experts in the product, and if they can’t quickly bring out the “speeds and feeds” or features, is that enough to decide to fire them?
Why Process First
Choosing to have the process first is definitely the harder option. This requires the company to not only have and know their product, but to also know the way their clients want to buy and how they want to be approached.
The process should include everything from how we generate leads, to how we create value in the meeting, and ultimately how we negotiate to close the deal.
The arguments for process first:
- The product will change, but the process should stay the same
- The process includes the steps before we talk about the product, which should never be in the initial conversation
- It’s easier to determine if a salesperson is following the steps of a process, but it could take months to master the product
- There are subject matter experts who can be brought in to discuss the product, but the process should be the same
If you look at the steps that are in your sales process, when does the product conversation come up? Is it in the initial outreach, is it after?
The Definitive Answer
You could easily argue for or against either one, but the ultimate answer is the process MUST come before the product. Under no circumstances should a salesperson selling high-value, premium solutions ever be pitching the product in the initial “getting the meeting” stage. If they are, then is your solution being sold as “we’re better than our competitors”?
Take the time to go in with a magnifying glass to articulate each stage in the sales process. You can also download the KO Sales U stages as a starting point.
We’ll be happy to connect with you to discuss how your sales process should be adapted. Follow the process, or the steps in your own recipe, and receive repeatable results, no matter who you hire.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? Is Process the "right" answer?