Sales process engineering
Sales process engineering is the engineering of better sales processes. It is thus the quest to design better ways of selling, making salespeople's efforts more productive. It has been described as "the systematic application of scientific and mathematical principles to achieve the practical goals of a particular sales process". Selden pointed out that in this context, sales referred to the output of a process involving a variety of functions across an organization, and not that of a "sales department" alone. Primary areas of application span functions including sales, marketing, and customer service.
As early as 1900–1915, advocates of scientific management, such as Frederick Winslow Taylor and Harlow Stafford Person, recognized that their ideas could be applied not only to manual labour and skilled trades but also to management, professions, and sales. Person promoted an early form of sales process engineering. At the time, our postwar senses of the terms sales process engineering and sales engineering did not yet exist; Person called his efforts "sales engineering".
The evolution of modern corporate life in the 1920s through 1960s, exemplified by professional management monographs of the time, further sought to apply analysis and synthesis to improve the methods of salespeople as well as the rest of the office workforce.
Management trends of the 1980s and 1990s, such as business process reengineering, influenced sales process engineering as much as many other business processes. The upturn in interest in applying a more systematic approach to these areas was spurred by a number of factors. Todd Youngblood (2004) emphasized "three core principles" that typify such efforts. His principles were continuous improvement of the sales process; metrics to quantitatively judge the rate and degree of improvement; and a well-defined sales process.
In the 2000s and 2010s, the evolution of customer relationship management (CRM) and salesforce automation, especially the development of powerful new web-based software to automate and augment them (CRM systems, sales force management systems, marketing information systems), has been the forefront of increasing the productivity of sales and marketing people.
As in other areas of applied science, future directions for sales process engineering include broadening the available pool of underlying observational data (the standard refrain of "more research is needed"); publishing further application of the principles; and advancing educational efforts to teach and disseminate the relevant body of knowledge.
Reasons for having a well-thought-out sales process include seller and buyer risk management, standardized customer interaction during sales, and scalable revenue generation. Approaching the subject from a "process" point of view offers an opportunity to use design and improvement tools from other disciplines and process-oriented industries. Joseph Juran observed that "there should be no reason our familiar principles of quality and process engineering would not work in the sales process".
In Management of a Sales Force (12th Ed. p. 66) by Rich, Spiro and Stanton a "sales process" is presented as consisting of eight steps. These are:
- Prospecting / initial contact
- Preapproach - planning the sale
- Identifying and cross questioning
- Need assessment
- Meeting objections
- Gaining commitment
From a seller's point of view, analysis of a sales process can reveal steps in a sale that are problematic, and may allow the prediction of numbers of sales based on initial interest. The interface between the selling and buying process has also been diagrammed.
- Selden 1997, p. 23.
- Dawson 2005.
- Youngblood 2004.
- Paul H. Selden (1997). Sales Process Engineering: A Personal Workshop. Milwaukee, WI: ASQ Quality Press. p. 23. ISBN 0-87389-418-9.
- William H. McNeese and Robert A. Klein (1991). Statistical Methods For The Process Industries. Milwaukee, WI: ASQC Quality Press. ISBN 0-8247-8524-X.
- Selden (1997). p. xxii. Missing or empty
- "The Sales Funnel", www.mindtools.com
- Paul H. Selden (November 2000). "The Power of Quality Thinking In Sales and Management". Quality Progress: 58–64.
- Dawson, Michael (2005), The Consumer Trap: Big Business Marketing in American Life, Urbana, Illinois, USA: University of Illinois Press, ISBN 0-252-07264-2.
- Selden, Paul H. (1997), Sales Process Engineering: A Personal Workshop, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA: ASQ Quality Press, p. 23.
- Youngblood, Todd (2004), The Dolphin And The Cow: How To Sell More Faster With Sales Process Engineering, YPS Group.