Leaders: Why You Need a Common Sales Language and a Common Process


If you are a leader in your organization, it’s a pretty good bet that you count on the members of, say, your accounting team to use the same terms and the same methodologies when they are collaborating to complete their work. For instance: You assume that when one person on the accounting team refers to the “cost of goods sold,” they mean the same thing as everyone else on the accounting team. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t be able to rely on your P&L statement being accurate! You don’t want to worry that your P&L is reflective of two, or five, or ten people’s conflicting realities. You want to know it is created according to a predictable, shared standard – that the people in accounting have a shared language and are following a consistent methodology.

The same applies to the work done by those in operations, in production, and in all other areas of the business. You count on people to use shared terminologies and shared processes to create consistent, predictable outcomes.

Yet, all too often, we find that the sales team does not meet this expectation. If there are twenty different people on the sales team, there are likely to be twenty different interpretations of important phrases like “qualified.” There is no shared understanding about when it makes sense to invite others into an account. In short, there is no shared language and no shared process. Here’s why that’s a problem.

First and foremost, when there is no shared language and no shared process on the sales team, your ability to predict and sustain revenue is always going to be skewed. Revenue, of course, is vitally important, as is your ability to count on when it is coming in! Revenue allows you to make investments, meet payroll, respond to competitive challenges, and fund all your day-to-day operations. It’s possible that you’ve made heavy investments in CRM in order to get a clearer picture of just how close your various accounts are to closing. But if there is no common sales language and no common process, your forecasts are still going to be off, and you are going to experience unpredictable swings and shifts.

Second, if you end up having a problem on the sales team (and eventually you will), it’s going to be impossible to coach a meaningful solution to that problem if there’s no shared vocabulary and no shared process. If the football team goes out on the field, huddles together, and someone says, “On the count of three, do what you feel like doing” – you can’t coach that! Similarly, if you’re going to coach people on your sales team toward improvement, there must be a shared playbook, and a shared understanding of what the team and the individual is accountable for.

Third, the lack of a clear set of processes and terminologies on the sales team typically impacts the rest of the organization, making it operate less effectively than it could. A classic symptom of this problem is that people who need to work with sales – engineers, consultants, support staff, and so on – complain that they’re being brought in too late, brought in too early, or brought in when they shouldn’t be brought in at all. This is a major waste of organizational resources – and a detriment to organizational morale.

Bottom line: When someone on your team says a lead is “qualified,” that word needs to mean exactly the same thing to that individual salesperson as it does to everyone else on the team. Additionally, the next step for that “qualified” lead needs to be based on a clear, documented sales process that everyone else in sales understands, follows consistently, and can confidently summarize for people outside of sales.

If you’re not implementing a common sales language and a common process in your organization right now, you are operating at a competitive disadvantage. For help in turning the situation around, contact us.

Great sales teams start with great sales managers.

Sales manager leading a meeting for their team
A sales manager leading a meeting for their team.