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Did you follow the recipe?

Mar 11, 2024

3 minute read...

I recently worked with a client who has a sales process that runs like a well oiled machine. Or at least, it did. 

They had spent years and years developing and honing their approach such that the results had become fairly predictable. They knew if they did A then B then C they would close the sale a predictable percentage of the time within a predictable length of time.

And then COVID happened. And then a post-COVID supply shock.

In the midst of these external changes, a couple internal changes occurred as well. First, the sales team had to adapt their process for a new environment. It was designed to guide prospects through their buying process in person. What do they do, though, when the prospects always did their product search and purchase in person, and now they can’t (or are hesitant to or believe they have no need to) go to the store? 

The second change was that the supply chain dried up and there was a shortage of products. Customers grabbed up what they could find. Parts of the sales process were simply dropped or adapted without any reduction in sales. In fact, the sales close-rate went up! Perhaps certain steps really weren’t necessary? Perhaps the world really had changed?

Except, the world hadn’t really changed, at least as far the fundamentals of their business was concerned. Supply chains worked themselves out and the demand frenzy – of too many consumers chasing too little supply – subsided. And that vaunted sales process? Well, it didn’t work like it used to.

Did you follow the recipe?

Before I tell you how my client’s story ends, I want to tell you another story.

My husband, Danny, is the cook in our family. Occasionally I try my hand in the kitchen and sometimes it turns out fine. Other times, not so much. On one such occasion I ventured to make a quiche from a recipe I had used before. I got one of those pre-bought crusts, I whisked the eggs, I measured out the onions, cheese, and other ingredients into little individual bowls. And then I put it all together and baked it to a beautiful golden brown as I always had.

So was this one of my culinary successes? As you probably have guessed, it was not. It turned out badly. The texture inside of the quiche was not the medium firm that it had been in years past; instead it was a watery kind of mush. 

At first, I was confused. But then I double checked the recipe, and there it was. I had substituted with low-fat versions of the milk and mayo, and the fat that I left out of the recipe by doing so was the difference between delicious and yuck.

Did you do what you said you were going to do?

We’ve all been in that awkward situation in a meeting where someone throws up their hands and says “we tried that, it didn’t work!” and then another person, ever so calmly, offers the incriminating question: “you said you were going to do such-and-such. Did you do it?” This is usually followed by some fidgeting and then an eventual acknowledgement that, no, the thing they said you were going to do was not actually done.

While this is a particularly dramatic (though not uncommon) instance, I believe this same principle plays out in our lives and businesses over and over again. Sometimes it’s a recipe that didn’t turn out, sometimes it’s a commitment to lose weight that doesn’t materialize, sometimes it’s a product launch that goes sideways, and sometimes it’s a sales process that isn’t working like it used to. Yes, there are definitely occasions when the plan itself was flawed from the start. But in my experience, unsatisfactory results are usually because the plan or process wasn’t actually followed in the first place.

As for my client, we were able to work back and figure out where we had stopped following the sales process that had previously served the business so well. Through collaborative conversations with the whole sales team, we were able to identify where certain processes had been neglected or altered and where they needed to be reinstituted and followed up on.

And you know what? It’s working. The sales team is following its own process again and the results are showing up.

So next time you're trying something and it doesn’t seem to be working, ask yourself: “did I actually do what I had said I was going to do?” You’ll be surprised how often the answer is no.




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