By Dave Kahle

Should You Create a Sales System?

At its most fundamental level, business is always and only about three things:  Money, people, and systems.

There is a huge body of content revolving around money in business.  Lots of books have been written and consultants’ careers advanced in the pursuit of wiser use of money.  A whole population of professionals – bookkeepers, accountants, and CPA’s — have come into practice to deal effectively with money.

When it comes to people as an element in business, there is an equally impressive body of knowledge and infrastructure.   Lots of books have been written, YouTube videos created, seminars developed, and consultants’ careers enhanced by our constant quest to hire, manage, and develop good people.  The field of human resources is primarily devoted to that pursuit.

When it comes to systems, however, there is not nearly the quantity and quality of conversation. And yet effective systems, particularly sales systems are, at the very least, just as necessary to the growth and health of a business as good people and adequate funds.  Good systems are where the company’s financial assets intertwine with the people to produce results.

Often a company’s financial or people woes are really a symptom of poor systems. We’ve all heard the analogy of the business necessity of getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  Before you get the right people in the right seats, you must have the bus, and the bus needs to have identified seats for people.

Systems are like the bus.  Without effective systems, there is no place for any people.  If your business is going to be effective, you must create effective systems so that you have the right places for the right people.

There is a fundamental principle at play here:  Systems define the behavior of the people who operate within those systems.  Effective systems make good people better.  Poor systems encourage the worst in people.

Let’s look at a macro example of this.  For years, the USA and USSR were in competition with one another.  Their populations were roughly equal, and, because of the massive size (300 million), it is fair to assume that the distribution of talents and abilities were roughly equal. Their access to natural resources was roughly equal.  Yet, one of those two nations far exceeded the other in economic activity, personal freedom, human expression, and quality of life.  What was the difference?  The systems that governed the life of the citizens.  One system encouraged individual initiative and excellent performance, the other did not.  People responded in kind to the pressure of the system in place. Systems dictate the behavior of the people who operate within those systems.

Here’s an example on a micro-scale. For years, my wife and I were foster parents and have 19 fostered children.  Almost all came from traumatic home situations and were emotionally upset and out of control.  I would watch my wife impose our system on them.  On the first day in our home, she would lay down the rules of the system: “Here’s your bedroom.  You will sleep in the bed, and not in the closet or on the floor.”

“Here’s the bathroom.  You will wash your face and brush your teeth before you greet the family.”

“Here’s the kitchen table.  You will eat, sitting in a chair, with silverware when the family eats.”

The behavior change was predictable.  Within a few days, the new child would catch on, and begin to modify his/her behavior to fit within the system. That began their healing.

As a consultant, I’ve personally and contractually worked with over 600 companies.  Out of that experience, I’ve formulated a principle for making positive changes within an organization:  Change the system, and you change the behavior of the people who operate within that system.

~ Change the system and change the behavior of the people who operate within that system. ~

I was often able to make significant changes in a company’s growth and profitability, without even meeting most of the people, by analyzing and refining the sales system. To extend the analogy, before you get the right people on the bus, the engine on the bus must be well-tuned; the bus must have good tires, be mechanically sound, have the right number of seats, and be heading in the right direction.

We have a great example of the importance of effective systems when we look at creation around us.  At every level, from the way atoms come into and out of existence and interact with one another at the tiniest level, to the ‘eco-systems’ that arrange and order life on the planet, to the movement and relationships of stars, galaxies, and constellations, we see systems everywhere we look.

The creator did not just create stuff – matter, light, energy, and life in all its expressions — but arranged that stuff into systems to empower its continued existence and development.

I’ve concluded that creating, implementing, and forever improving powerful sales systems is the highest and best use of executive time and talent.

What does it mean to create a sales system?

It means that you have considered your sales efforts, and asked and answered the question: What is the best way to do this?  Not only have you answered it, but you have documented the answer, typically flow-charted the step-by-step progression of events in the process, created ways to measure the input, outputs and key steps in the process, created appropriate tools to facilitate the process, and hired and trained the right people to operate the system.

Then, you’ve measured and managed the system regularly, and continually improved it forever.

How to begin

Whenever I am working with client company, we always start with an understanding of the fundamental purpose of a sales system. Once we have that, everything we do can be built on that infrastructure. Here’s a diagram I use to convey the concept:

Every sales system should be built on the idea that the system is designed to move the right quantity and quality of people into an ever-growing financial relationship with your company.

It begins with the globe – a representation of the “world of apathy and ignorance” where your suspects live.  Suspects are people and companies who you suspect may do business with you one day.  They live in the land of apathy and ignorance because they don’t know you exist, and they don’t care.  The first step of the system is to identify an ever-growing number of suspects.

Then, we must move some of them to become prospects.  Typically, we research them and drop some out of the process.  A prospect is someone who has a need for your product or service, can make the decision and can pay for it.

The next step of the process is the most difficult, as we engage with the prospect and entice him/her to by something from us for the first time.  When money changes hands, the relationship changes dramatically, and now they are a customer.

Our process then indicates that we engage with the customer in such a way as to encourage them to buy repeatedly, at which time they become a client.  And then, we work with a select group of clients to turn some of them into Partners.

When we do that well, in sufficient quantity and quality, money spins off as a result of our efforts and our sales continually grow.

You can see that there are three separate and distinct processes involved:

1.  Creating a customer

2.  Enticing a customer to buy repeatedly and thus become a client.

3.  Encouraging some clients to become partners, and then nurturing those partners.

Where to now?

There is an extensive list of things that need to be examined and considered to shine a light on implementing effective sales systems within your business.  We’ll save those for later articles.

For now, begin to think about the idea of growing your business by creating and implementing effective sales system.  Effective sales systems are one of the foundational pieces that enable a business to rise to the level of sustainability and growth.

Copyright MMXX by Dave Kahle

All Rights Reserved

Originally Published: An Introduction to Business Systems

About the author:

Dave Kahle is one of the world’s leading sales authorities. He’s written twelve books, presented in 47 states and eleven countries, and has helped enrich tens of thousands of salespeople and transform hundreds of sales organizations. His book, How to Sell Anything to Anyone Anytime, has been recognized by three international entities as “one of the five best English language business books.” Check out his latest book, The Good Book on Business.