This is a trick question—but there is a lot of confusion about whether sellers should be focused on the selling or buying process. Of course the answer is both.
Some might fairly argue, “We are better aligned with the customer when we focus on the customer buying process.” Of course! And too often we fail to do this, focusing on what we want to accomplish–executing our selling process. We implement sequences of qualifying, discovering, demoing, proposing, closing. Each step is scripted, we are driven to execute it as quickly as possible. As much as possible we try to shoehorn, the customer’s process to align with ours, rather than the reverse. “Selling would be so great if it weren’t for those damn customers slowing us down!”
And we see the results of rigidly inflicting our selling process on the customer, increasingly, they are choosing rep-free buying journeys.
There are those that focus on the customer buying process, they align themselves with the customer buying group, responding to the customer, supporting their buying process activities. And while the customer may have never bought this category of solution, they know, generally, what they should do. They need to get a team together, they recognize they may add or drop members. They need to align around what they are trying to achieve, develop a work plan to understand challenges, gain support from within the organization, gain management support, identify/evaluate solutions, make a decision. purchase and implement a solution. All while being diverted by their day jobs.
We, also, know that each situation is unique and different, so while they generally know what they need to do, they struggle specifically with what they must do.
In the end, we know as they execute their buying process, it tends to look like this:
And we know, for committed buying efforts, 60% of these fail! Either through the status quo winning or through indecision.
Yet we know what effective buying processes look like. We’ve been involved in hundreds or thousands of both successful and unsuccessful buying processes. We know where customers tend to succeed, where they fail, questions they should be asking, who they should involve, how they align to reach consensus–and how they might go off the rails. We know how we can help guide them to achieve success, helping them choose and through the process earning the right for them to choose us. And we know if they don’t choose us, they will continue to pay attention to us for future requirements.
We incorporate that knowledge into our selling process, providing a structure built on prior experience that helps the customer succeed. The selling process helps us advise and guide the customer in creating and executing their buying journey. The selling process, also, identifies things we must do to get support within our own organization. Perhaps specialists, perhaps other customers, perhaps tools we can/should leverage to help us help the customer.
Ultimately, the selling and buying process are mirror images. We leverage our experience and knowledge to help guide the customer through addressing an issue they have little experience in addressing. We, also, know each customer is different. Their situation is unique, how they work together is unique. We know how to adapt everything we have learned to the specifics of the customer situation and what they want to achieve.
Both the buying and selling process are critical and necessary–for the customer and for us. The customer has certain things they want to accomplish and a process, unique to their organization–focused on how they get things done. But it is general and something the customer doesn’t do every day. And they struggle.
Our selling process is focused on our past experience of working with hundreds of other customers in addressing similar issues. It is customer focused, and designed around how we collaborate with the customer to help them succeed in what they are trying to do. We and the customer adapt the process and embark on a shared journey to reaching a decision.