When I sit down with sales organizations, we inevitably spend a lot of time talking about the Sales Process. There are always so many issues that come up in these discussions, I’ll cover these in this series. But one of the most fundamental problems I see is these sales processes are internally focused, always looking at the things we Do To Our Customers.
There are all sorts of activities, separated by stages, focusing on what we inflict on our customers. We:
- Qualify them.
- Discover their needs.
- Re-qualify them.
- Find out who’s involved in the decision process.
- Focus on identifying the key decision maker.
- Focus on the alternatives they are considering.
- Determining their budget.
- Presenting them a solution.
- Handling their objections.
- Negotiating the final pricing and terms.
- Closing them.
- And more…..
The focus tends to be on what we need to accomplish to get a PO. And, too often, we tend to position these things almost as an adversarial relationship.
Sometimes, we take a little more sophisticated view of the sales process. We add a separate column to our checklist, labeling it “The Customer Buying Process.” In it, we post all the activities we think the customer should be doing. We want them to be very disciplined in their activities:
- Clearly, defining their problem and needs.
- Securing the budget and authority to spend the money.
- Engaging us in understanding their needs, problems, budget.
- Assembling a knowledgeable buying team.
- Identifying a clear schedule and sequence of events culminating in a decision.
- And more….
Implicit in both our versions of the selling and buying processes is our internal orientation. These are all the things that we need to do and we need the customer to do to win. If we and they do our jobs effectively, then we are likely to win.
The reality, is complex B2B buying never happens this way. First, we define the selling process in very self centered terms,. It’s about what we need and want to have happen. It’s focused on our success, secondarily the customer success. Second we, arrogantly, assume these activities we inflict on the customer are actually helpful to them, but they are primarily helpful to us.
Third, when we start thinking about the customer and what they are going through, we define the things we want them to be doing in the process, the things we want them to do that enable us to engage them the way we want to engage them. And we assume they know what they are doing and can work with us efficiently.
Depending on your perspective it’s a dream–or a nightmare.
What if we changed our perspectives on the selling/buying process. Rather than things we do to our customers and the things they might do to us, what if we thought of the things we do with each other. What if we describe the processes in collaborative terms?
Walk through all the statements you have outlining your selling process–things we do, things we need, actions we take, positions we take. Change the wording to start looking at them as things we do with the customer, things we engage together, things we learn together. All are focused on achieving a shared goal.
Then walk through each of the items you have listed in your “ideal customer buying process,” identifying how the sellers collaborate and help the customer in those activities. Re-write them as things we do with the customer, things we do to help the customer, looking at how we collaborate–again in achieving shared goals.
The most effective selling/buying processes focus on how we create value with our customers. They focus on our shared success and our shared goals. And if we don’t have those shared goals, we won’t both achieve success.
Action: Take your current selling process and rewrite every activity to be a collaborative activity. Focus on how we and our customers work together to execute the activity. Then execute in every engagement.