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McKinsey On Sales Process Failures -- Also, John's Comment -- "Ironic Lack Of Theory"

Unused PhoneThe boffins at McKinsey have just issued a stirring call to "free the reps"!

According to the consulting company, at one representative global firm, 75% of inside sales reps' time was spent not selling!

This frustrating sales situation is not uncommon, despite what McKinsey says is "the guiding principle of all sales operations", which is "to maximize time for selling and relationship building".  Of course sales people and sales executives, and probably even general management, all know that sales people should be selling.  But given that sales people everywhere are facing similar issues, it's helpful to have a spotlight on the situation.

As a professional B2B sales person focused on BPM, your host is naturally interested in the subject of the McKinsey article -- and how BPM is one point of leverage for improving sales operations.  The McKinsey article also raises larger questions about sales management; your host has now commented on these issues in the letter below. 

You can read the whole McKinsey Quarterly article and follow up reader comments including your hosts' comment, at the following URL. (Please note you will need to register, although there is no charge.)

http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Freeing_up_the_sales_force_for_selling_2838

Comment By John Morris, July 20th, 2011

Concerning "Freeing up the sales force for selling", McKinsey Quarterly, July 2011

Excellent article on an endemic sales phenomenon: that sales operations are generally mismanaged, which is a bit of a scandal, so such an article from a credible source is very welcome. The act of surfacing such sales insights into popular management discourse can be a leverage point for improvements in sales-management culture.

It is also likely true that the views expressed in this article are only the beginning. As a field of both study and practice, sales is little informed by genuine theory; there are few chairs or faculties of “sales theory” in any educational institutions. Even in the small number of cases where sales is studied as part of management theory, the topics of such study are mostly rather banal. For example, no one of whom I am aware has applied the insights of narrative or discourse theory to the “boundary-crossing salesperson as agent,” although I think the results might be quite interesting and even actionable.

This lack of sales theory in advanced capitalist societies is ironic, given that “free contracts mediated by sales agents” is one of the defining, first-order characteristics of such high-trust societies, as distinct from low-trust societies where relationships are instead determined by force.

The salesperson is an avatar of progress, yet our current state of both management and understanding of the sales function is strangely and disappointingly sparse. But this state of affairs should be seen positively, as the basis of real opportunity for learning and improvement. This article is a good step forward.

Using BPM technology to drive business success is never just about the technology.  Successful BPM is always used to accomplish to function-specific goals.  And the provision of tools for sales people to do their job of selling is a terrific example -- and opportunity -- of where BPM can be useful.

Good sales people love selling!  Help them do their job and cost of that help will likely be insignificant compared to the return.  BPM can be part of that project.

This item cross posted to www.standupsales.com, home of actionable commentary on selling technology.