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I am a process person. Almost any challenge or task I choose to tackle starts with my attempt to figure out the best process to follow to get the results I want. I believe all true professionals at any trade have a solidly defined process.

As much as that may seem obvious, I constantly have conversations with sales organizations that have not put in place a sales process for their team. Sometimes they think they have a process and just have some basic elements in place, and sometimes they do not really have good understanding of what a solid sales process is. On occasion, I even talk to sales leaders who tell me that they have tried to put in a process, only to encounter serious resistance and accusations of micro management from their sales team.

A process is essentially a plan. It is not meant to prevent your sales producers from using their personality on a sales call or to manage each and every action they take. It is a planned path, intelligently designed with human psychology in mind, to maximize the chances of an efficient conversation path to determine a fit or no fit scenario with your prospect. Not everyone is a fit or in a place to make changes to the status quo and start buying from you, instead of buying from someone else of just not buying at all.

To really embrace the idea of using a process consistently, you have to accept one top line thought to be true.  Ready? Here it is:

There is no such thing as a business meeting with no process.

What you are saying and doing in a business meeting is either part of your plan, or part of someone else’s plan. Believe it or not, prospects have a process for handling sales people, and generally is not a very nice plan for you. It usually involves putting in gatekeepers in your way, not revealing their true pain around business issues (out of fear you will leverage it against them), lying about how decisions are made, and then everyone’s favorite, going into the witness protection program and avoiding you at all costs instead of just telling you no.

Sound familiar? Are you finding yourself experiencing one or more of these things on a regular basis? That’s because you are firmly planted in the process and plan of your prospect, instead of providing a better one. Prospects are not going to be naturally inclined to share their failings and past bad decisions with a sales person, no matter how much you believe you can be a trusted advisor to fix it for them. You start from a trust deficit simply because you are in sales! Accept that, and use a scientifically based process to establish trust, determine any possible fit and steer the business conversation to a speedy and logical conclusion.

A friend of mine recently retired from 20 years of flying for the US Air Force. He is now a pilot for one of the airlines. Personally, I am pretty happy that he has a well defined process for getting on a plane, making sure it is flight ready and then piloting it to its destination. The alternative seems highly dangerous and stressful. Do your clients deserve anything less from you, the one who wants to be their trusted advisor?