Don't Let Your Process Shackle You
For so many aspects of our lives that we grapple with, someone, somewhere has defined a process, and it's usually one that works. Especially when it comes to routine, straightforward activities.
But for many decision areas, from making the sale to conducting an analysis to hiring an employee, processes exist, and they help, but only to a certain extent.
Those processes tell you what you should do now and what you should do next, but they don't account for the quality of your output. There's no way to "process-ize" that element (unless again it's a routine activity).
What's needed in those instances is judgement. An understanding that the process is a guide, a pathway that tells you the big bucket activities, but also that within each step, there's a need to assess the situation, understand the variables, and then determine how to make the subsequent step happen.
In other words, a need to think.
This is as true in sales as it is in any other situation. We all know the process to follow, what documents to produce, how many calls to make, how many emails to send, how to word those emails, etc. But blindly following this process is absolutely no guarantee of success. (Believe me, I speak from personal, painful experience here.)
What's needed is the ability to step back from the granularity of the process to think about why events are unfolding as they are. Why is the prospect's response rate so slow? What value did you show to convince them to return your call? Did you take into account their business situation is the pitch you made to them?
This need to think may mean you have to flex your process, to slow things down, or speed up in other situations. It may mean you have to reconsider the order of the steps, or even the validity of some of the steps themselves. But it ensures that we don't put on our blinders in the hope that the process alone will see us through.
Of course, some of this comes from experience. Many times, especially when we're starting out, we want a recipe for success - just tell me what to do and I'll get it done. Over time, though, we realize that doesn't always do the trick. We have to learn our way through the process. We realize that the process has value, but it isn't the value.
And when we do, we begin to think - and act, and achieve - differently.