Sales process – it must mirror the customer’s buying process

Sales process

Sales process

In the last ten years a substantial amount of time, effort, and money has been devoted to discussing the sales process.  Listen to a conversation about the sales process and it usually begins by someone saying something like:

  • “We have very aggressive sales targets and we’re just not getting there.”
  • “We’re not leveraging our own best practices – a lot of our sales reps are simply doing what they did the last time.”
  • “Our customers’ buying process has undergone dramatic changes but we’re still selling like we always did.”

Whether or not you have consciously addressed the topic of putting in place or modifying your sales process – it is happening everyday.  It is whatever your salespeople are doing on a given day to navigate the customer’s buying process.

If you want to put in place a more effective sales process, avoid these two pitfalls.

Lack of definitional clarity.  Sales process is one of those sales concepts that unfortunately means something different for each person with whom you talk. Some would say if you put in place a new questioning model you have changed your sales process. Others would say that is simply adopting a new questioning model. Try it.  Ask someone what their sales process is and a good bet is you will get not just different answers but entirely different types of answers.

To make something better everyone needs to have a clear and common vision of the topic at hand – it’s about being on the same page.

Our best suggestion is to restrict the term sales process to mean the overall set of steps you take from beginning and end of your sales cycle to win the business versus using the term interchangeably with concepts related to selling techniques, models, frameworks, and best practices.

Unbridled compliance.  It is not a good idea for a whole bunch of reasons to have everyone do their own thing – that is not the road to success in today’s market.  That’s an easy one.

On the other hand, in today’s disruptive buying environment it is equally true that unbridled compliance to a standard sales process can have its own pitfalls.

The greatest risk is that rigorously following any standardized process only works when one is absolutely clear that you are following a path that leads to success.  In the B2B market the problem is many companies are going through transformational changes.  These changes are impacting what they buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.

So, a strategic caution is in order: Are you doing a good job driving compliance to a sales process that is more about what and how customers were buying five years ago versus what they are doing here and now?

Summary.  On the sales process scale of “everyone does their own thing to blind compliance” we suggest being somewhere in the middle.

Introduce a well thought out sales process because it can contribute to replicating success and scaling the business.  But, beware of overdone rigor and excessive compliance.  The latter will tend to eliminate innovation and discourage the positive deviants among you from exploring the ideas that will define what success looks like tomorrow.

 

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©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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About Janet Spirer

For more than 30 years Dr. Richard Ruff and Dr. Janet Spirer - the founders of Sales Horizons - have worked with the Fortune 1000 - such as UPS, Canon USA, Smith & Nephew, Boston Scientific, Owens & Minor, Textron - to design and develop sales training programs. Janet has followed two different, yet complimentary paths. First, as a B-School Professor she taught marketing, sales, and business strategy courses. She also managed a consulting practice focusing on sales productivity and marketing – working with a variety of clients ranging from Xerox to IBM. She translated those experiences into a book – “Parlez-Vous Business” – that helps sales people develop the business savvy to sell successfully. Since co-founding Sales Momentum® in 2000 with Richard Dr. Spirer received her Ph.D. from The Ohio State University, an M.P.A. from The University of Texas at Austin, and a B.A. in Economics from Brooklyn College. She holds the appointment of Professor Emeritus at Marymount University.
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2 Responses to Sales process – it must mirror the customer’s buying process

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