What Does Scalable Sales Look Like? 
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Tom Stimson
September 8, 2023
A sales funnel drawn on a chalkboard shows customers on top and dollar signs below, representing scaling the sales process.

When it comes to sales, I wish I could say such-and-such is the industry norm, but there isn’t a norm at all.

Most people say that when you hire a salesperson, you expect them to find new business. You expect them to write the order. You expect them to close the deal. You expect them to maintain the relationship with the client and make sure the job gets done properly.

In other words, you expect the salesperson to know enough to carry the process through to the end.

This is a bit irrational; the kind of person who can do all that is rare. It’s like trying to find a unicorn. If you’re building a business model around finding unicorns, you’re not going to be successful.

The sales process I just described is actually multiple processes, not a single process. It involves multiple people with different skill sets.

So, what can you do to make the normal idea of a salesperson (described above) an effective idea? Where do you need to inject more energy into the process? Where do you need to deviate from the existing process and replace it with a better one?

The Scalable Sales Process

To understand scalable sales, you first need to ask, “What happens in a scalable sales process?” Once you do that, you’ll realize that to sell a piece of business, a lot of things have to happen.

There’s a comprehensive process of marketing, business development, and sales you must provide for your businesses. What actually happens in all that?

In sales, where do your customers really come from? The right prospect had to find you, the right prospect had to determine you might be the right company to work with, and there had to be some sort of engagement between your company and the prospect.

In short, you had to take the prospect through a process that convinced them they were in the right place.

All this had to happen before you could even start talking about an actual project. This is what the marketing, business development, and sales processes actually are.

Qualities of the Ideal Sales Sphere

Notice I’m calling it a sales sphere and not a sales silo. I’m doing that because silos don’t interact.

Make sure the sales sphere is able to work with the other spheres in your organization, like soap bubbles merging. You don’t want it to be isolated, like a silo.

Infographic: ISL - 9/11/23

What are some of the qualities of the sales sphere? First, look at the outputs. Sales sphere outputs are highly qualified, well-designed, and accurately quoted projects.

This doesn’t mean a sales sphere’s output is the final version of a project, but it does mean there’s an agreement with the customer to proceed from a clear starting point with a roadmap.

It’s not, “I got an RFP, wrote a quote, and nothing’s going to change.” That’s the old model and it doesn’t work anymore. (Heck, it didn’t work before.)

To consistently achieve this very specific output, you need marketing to filter out non-ideal buyers so that you’re only spending time with ideal buyers. You need a good website, lead generation, and lead nurturing. The output of marketing is qualified leads.

You also need good business development, which is the human manifestation of marketing (whether digital or print). You need the human business development feature that goes out and extends the marketing message through networking, contacts, and nurturing. The output of business development is to bring in qualified opportunities.

The sales process — which is sometimes called the account management or project quoting process — then develops the qualified opportunity into a highly qualified, well-designed, and accurately quoted project.

Marketing, business development, and sales need to work together like a well-oiled machine.

Tools for Scalable Sales

You can’t just say, “Hey, we built a website, so we’re doing marketing!”

“To market” is a verb. What things on your website pull leads into your sales funnel and move them through until they reach the prospect stage?

Business development isn’t a salesperson with a fancy title. It’s a person who actually dips into your leads and opportunities and helps move them through the sales funnel. If marketing focuses on the top of the sales funnel, business development focuses on the next step, and sales comes next.

That’s an oversimplification, because marketing, business development, and sales work the entire funnel all the time — but that’s another article.

Sales needs the tools to develop the opportunity. They need technical resources, subject-matter experts, and design capabilities within sales. These are things we traditionally think sales pulls from other parts of the company.

This is where a major mindset shift comes in. You need dedicated resources within sales to do the things they do daily and weekly.

If it’s impossible to develop a major project without a production manager’s knowledge, there needs to be a production manager who’s part of the selling process (or a technical adviser or technical designer), because what you’re doing is taking a project management skill and converting it to a sales resource.

The project manager in sales will no longer manage projects or productions. They’ll use their expertise to support the sales process. This very simple move is the first step to building your sales organization for scalability.

Quote: ISL - 9/11/23

What NOT to Do

Balance is key. You have to balance inputs and outputs.

The strength of your sales funnel will tell you where to direct more energy into your scalable process.

For instance, if you’re short on leads, you put more energy into marketing. If you have lots of leads but they’re not well qualified, you put more energy into business development. If you have tons of well-qualified leads but a poor closing rate, you put more energy into sales.

None of that requires a process change. You’re simply rebalancing by directing energy and resources where they can be most effective.

Balance is all about where you direct your energy toward your scalable processes. Once you have scalable processes, you’re simply balancing the energies.

I’m beginning to feel like a yoga instructor here, but you get the picture.

About Tom Stimson
Tom Stimson MBA, CTS is an authority on business and strategy for small- to medium-sized companies. He is an expert on project-based selling and a thought leader for innovative business processes.
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