If you can’t explain what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing. -- Edwards Deming
I really appreciate this concise explanation from Deming about the importance of processes. The intent of his idea may not be immediately apparent and it may take a few minutes of thinking through your own organization to fully appreciate the importance of the message. And that’s one of the reasons I find it so powerful – it forces reflection and contemplation.
At first you may disagree and say “Of course I know what I’m doing!” But when you try to explain it to someone else, without a process, you likely find yourself talking, explaining, re-explaining, answering many clarification questions, and ultimately feeling a little frustrated that people don’t understand or don’t understand as easily as you’d like them to.
Perhaps you’re having this conversation with someone inside the company. Or someone applying for a job. Or a prospect considering you as a potential new advisor. If you can’t share with them clearly and concisely what you do and how you do it, it’s time to get a little more organized.
Without a process to follow, every experience is random, off-the-cuff, winging it – choose your preferred description. While this approach may feel good and give you an adrenaline rush as a sales person, it’s not necessarily going to generate the results you want when you think of happy, long-term clients.
We all want clients to have an experience so satisfying that they want to tell other people about it. When this happens, we’re able to create more predictable sales results because people know what to expect and they like to talk about it, or maybe even brag about it, to their peers. Talk about setting your sales people up for a successful conversation!
The Client Experience
Okay, great, now how do we do that, you ask? We envision what we want that prospective client to experience when interacting with our organization (vision), we create a way of working as a team that allows us to deliver on that vision (processes), and then we ensure everyone on the team follows it consistently (accountability).
We call this the Client Experience.
1) Start with Vision
What do you want that experience to look like for your prospects and clients? And I mean literally. Close your eyes and visualize:
- Your prospective clients being approached by your sales team;
- engaging with your marketing;
- having face-to-face sales/buying conversations with the sales team;
- and then picture them becoming clients and having your services team come in as the leaders on the account.
What does all that look like? Describe it. Write a paragraph for each one of those four areas – Prospecting, Marketing, Sales Conversations, Client Management.
2) Rough it out
The next step is to begin outlining what it looks like. Think about it as roughing in the ideas. Big fat markers, white boards, broad strokes. Talk through it as a leadership team and bullet point what you want that general experience to be like – both internal behaviors and client interactions.
Since you’re working on four separate areas, you’ll need four separate roughed-out processes to follow your four descriptions from above.
3) Sell it
Get your team together and share your ideas with them. Tell them why you’re doing this:
- It’s easier to follow a process than to make it up each time. Their jobs should become easier because they know exactly what to do and others know what is going to be done.
- Less “check-ins” required. Less emails and less conversations to get updates on what’s happening because everyone knows. Again – should make jobs more pleasant.
- More predictable way to bring in new business. When the sales people have processes to follow, it’s less anxiety for preparation and it provides a track for a consistent conversation with the buyers. This combination should result in a clearer message for the buyers and less confusion about the promised outcomes, making it more enticing to say yes.
- When the service team knows what the sales team is selling, and the sales team knows the service team can deliver on the promised results, everyone is happier and more confident going into prospect presentations.
- Clients having a positive, proactive experience love to share this with others, again, making sales and incoming revenue more predictable.
4) Detail it
After the team starts getting on board with this vision, bring them in to help make it a reality. Have someone who works in each discipline take the lead on each of the four areas. Then we begin documenting.
You have people on your team who are perfectly capable of doing this. Take advantage of the collective skills and get things documented. Create process descriptions with enough detail that current team members can follow and new team members have a training guide when they come on board.
Here’s a tip on this Detail It phase: Don’t make it more difficult than it needs to be. “Creating processes” is often talked about as some unmanageable beast that needs to be tamed. That’s a completely overblown fear and really just an excuse for not doing the work it takes to create the processes, document them, and then hold people accountable to them.
I’m going to let you in on the secret sauce on how to get it done:
Write down what you do today, work to make it better over time, and document your updates.
As an industry, I can tell you with great confidence that we make this WAY TOO DIFFICULT. Start by making a list of bullet points to use as a check-off list for one thing the team does repeatedly. Maybe it’s adds/terms. Here’s how to do it:
- Write out a list of steps.
- Have other team members review it.
- Talk about differences in how each person does it.
- Agree on a standard way that everyone will do it.
- Modify the list.
- Share it with the team.
Look at another repetitive activity. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and repeat.
Set a goal of creating and finalizing one process a week or every other week. Don’t overwhelm people. Make it manageable. And do it slowly like this so there is time to set up the process and begin using it. Some areas will require more processes than others. That’s okay. Celebrate the success along the way.
Put the accountability in the hands of someone who feels an innate sense of ownership for the Client Experience.
Good employees follow processes. Great employees tweak processes. Exceptional employees find ways to reinvent processes, not just because they are expected to...but because they just can't help themselves. – Jeff Haden
If you don’t already have a person on your team who "just can't help themselves," you need to hire one. This person will save your team untold hours of wasted time, freeing everyone in the organization up to handle more clients, do more strategic/consulting client work, and/or to do more “on the business” work.
Selling is simply a transfer confidence. When your sales team genuinely feels your team can deliver on the promises you making, they share that confidence with the clients. When prospective clients feel confident that your team can help improve their business, they hire you.
Photo by KREUS.