Growth Driver #3 – Sell the Way Customers Buy

Failure to sell consistently the way customers buy risks losing the sale after substantial investment at worst, and at best, significantly lengthens the sales cycle.

Consistent utilization of sales processes has long been a problem for sales forces, and it still is. According to CSO Insights 2012 research 25% of CSOs surveyed indicate that their sellers consistently use their company’s sales process less than 50% of the time, while just 40% of CSOs indicate that their sellers consistently use their sales process 76% or more of the time.

A number of factors contribute to to inconsistent use. However, our experience suggests that the two biggest impediments to consistent use are:

  1. Whether the Sales Process Mirrors the Customer Buying Process
  2. How Adequately the Sales Process Addresses the Needs of Stakeholders in the Buying Process

While mirroring the customer’s buying process may seem basic, CSO Insights data show it’s not, in fact 46% of CSOs surveyed in 2012 suggest that a key area for improvement of their sales processes is “clearly understanding customer’s buying processes”.

What should we do if our sales process is out of sync with buyer’s processes?

If you find yourself in this situation, it’s time to pull in your best sales people, who think and work in a disciplined way, and ask a number of questions:

  • What are the preferred steps in our customers’ buying process?
  • Which steps are of greatest importance to each stakeholder in the customer buying center?
  • Where does the customer want us to simplify the sales process?

But, what about our ability to address customer needs?

Once you have answered the above questions for different segments of customers, you are ready to beef up your sales processes, increasing your ability to meet the needs of all stakeholders in the buying process. Doing this, requires answering a second set of questions:

  • What must you know about each stakeholder before beginning the sales process?
  • What does each stakeholder want to learn at each step?
  • Which stakeholders are most important at each step in the buying process?
  • What value propositions and messages must you convey to each stakeholder within each step in the buying processes?
  • From whom, in our organization, and how, does each stakeholder want to learn at each step?
  • What are the indicators of successful completion of each step with each stakeholder?

Now, it’s time to take your show on the rode and test your perspective with samples of your customers. Then, integrate the insights you gather and finalize your process and support systems.

If you are able to create the following kind of examples for each step in the buying process, you are on the right track and ready to start educating the sales force on your revised process.

You’ll know you’ve got it right when sales cycle times (with similar types of customers) start to decrease, close rates and retention increase, and stakeholders in the customer organization actively do things to help you sharpen your process and move the sales process forward. Over the long-term, you will recognize the value of your efforts in increased quota attainment.

If you have recently created a buying process, please comment below or on Twitter @Evergreengrowth.


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