The Ham Sandwich Test

Almost always, one of the first things I do with my new clients is to help them kick off a straightforward customer engagement or retention process. It’s simple enough that I can have them do it with a pen and paper, and within a single day, we’ve typically got enough done to start rolling it out.

There are no tools. No fancy software. No elaborate training. It’s up and running almost immediately, and we’re already starting to tweak and improve it within the first couple of weeks.

In a nutshell, it’s “Do this every day.”

The companies that take the exercise seriously get incredible results.  It’s not uncommon for my clients to tell me that they’d struggled for years to get the kind of consistency that they see within just weeks of this work.

You can apply this thinking anywhere. After all, it was Seinfeld who said, “even nothing is something.”

Consider your sales team or sales organization. 

I believe a terrible sales process is 100X more valuable to you than the best salesperson you’ve ever had.

Smaller companies tell me they’re terrified of implementing a sales process because they think it will alienate their salespeople, and it would be catastrophic to lose high performers.

They’re often skeptical when I tell them, in all seriousness, that it would be far more profitable for them to have a horrible sales process than to have five more duplicates of the best performer on their sales team.

Here’s the thing about high performers, though – eventually, they leave.

Here’s the other thing about high performers – they’re hard to find!

If you’re in the position of needing to replace a high performer because they left for a better job or a better city, or just because they’ve made enough money and want to retire. You’re in for some hard times.

If you’re in that position, you’ve probably had more than a little heartburn thinking: 

“What happened when Joe leaves?  He’s been responsible for 15% of our revenue for the last five years… How will we replace him?”

Can you think of anything you could do in the 3-6 months it would take you to find replacements for him that would slow the bleeding in your sales?  

What could you tell your team to do differently in his absence, that would make it less painful?

“Be more like Joe” is pretty terrible coaching, after all.

But why would a bad sales process help?  

Here’s the thing about bad sales processes… They can get better. Quickly.

When you introduce a new process and everybody is following it, you’ll know exactly why things are improving or declining.  

“This sales process step that says ‘Stay at your desk and pray that somebody walks through the door’ doesn’t seem to be doing much to help our new client generation. We’d better swap that out with a new business prospecting process.”

“Everything seems to be going well until we get to the part of the sales process where we tell our prospects that we don’t have any after-sales support and that if it breaks within two days it’s not our problem… Maybe we should look into that?”

“Everybody in the sales team is hitting their numbers except Jim… When we look at his activity log, it looks like he’s completely skipping the prospect qualification step, and taking everybody who waves at him out for lunch.  Time for some coaching.”

If you don’t have a sales process (or have one that nobody’s following), then it’s impossible to tell why things are working, and impossible to fix them when they stop working.  

A great sales process allows you to distill the very best of what works from your team and helps bring everybody’s game to a higher level. They allow you to pinpoint who needs help, in what areas.  

They also signal to new hires that you know what you’re doing. That you’re not expecting them to shoulder the sole responsibility of continuing to keep the company alive (or to turn it around if it’s struggling).

Your Challenge For This Week

You may remember what I call the “Ham Sandwich” test.  Think about the process that your employees have to go through to get their expenses reimbursed (say, for a ham sandwich for lunch).  What are the hoops that accounting makes them jump through?  Does everybody understand that process, and follow it regularly to get their expenses back?

The challenge is this – for each of these critical areas, ask yourself whether or not everybody knows what’s expected, and follows those expectations as closely as they make the accounting rules for expense reports.


Sales Management

Customer Retention

Referral Generation

Customer Service

Decision Making

Do you have a process in place for all of the above? Or do you have nothing? 

In other words – Do you have more rigor and oversight into reimbursing your employees for a ham sandwich than you do in ensuring they’re working towards keeping your company alive?

While nothing is still something, something would be better than nothing.

In the next few weeks, I’ll be showing you how I can help you with process development in these areas and more.