For a better sales process, most Sales Managers constantly tweak the steps salespeople take and the methods they use to win customers. It’s an endless series of refinements and shifts – of responsibilities, of deliverables, of actions taken – designed to make sales more efficient and effective. But frankly, it’s a self-centered, small-picture, myopic approach that overlooks perhaps the most important and fundamental aspect of the sales process: how a buyer buys! Let’s take a closer look at why the buying process should be a key factor in crafting a better sales process.
The Missing Link for a Better Sales Process
It’s easy to appreciate why Sales Managers and business owners view increased sales as a critical goal. It’s easy to understand why they constantly search for a better sales process to make this goal attainable. And it’s easy to appreciate the tendency to focus inwardly on methods and processes they can control and change. Nonetheless, it’s essential that Sales Managers and business owners also take a step back and view the bigger picture. Only then will they be able to see that they are viewing only one side of the sales equation – the selling side – and ignoring an even more important aspect: the buying side. Yes, it’s true – buyers have a process, too. And understanding the buyer’s process for decision-making and buying just might be the missing link that can be a game changer for creating a remarkably better sales process!
The Real Goal
When you take a step back and look at the complete picture, you quickly realize that making the sale isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) the true goal. Nor is increasing revenue the ultimate prize. Instead, the real goal salespeople should strive for is to create a mutually beneficial long-term relationship in which the buyer continues to benefit from solutions provided by the seller. The result of a successful sales process might be a sale and more revenue, but the goal should be a sustainable long-term relationship! Once you realize that, it gets easier to expand your perspective and consider the buyer’s needs as well as the process the buyer uses to get those needs met.
Delayed Selling Can Lead to Faster Sales
In previous articles (like this one and this one), I’ve shared how you can make more sales by doing less selling and more listening. I’ve noted how “no” can be an acceptable answer and how the quicker you determine if a win-win relationship is possible, the better it is for both seller and buyer.
But I’d also like to advocate that to improve sales results, you should lead with a true interest in serving the needs of the prospect. In other words, adopt a servant mentality and genuinely care more about making sure the buyer gets what they want than you care about making the sale. Obviously, this requires getting to know as much as you can about the buyer’s needs. This first step demands that you subvert your natural sales instincts, that you set aside your inclination to tout features and benefits, and that you get to the root cause of the buyer’s need. How do you do this? By actively listening and by asking empathetic questions to learn your prospects needs, their process for buying, and where they are in that process.
The Buying Funnel
We are all familiar with the sales funnel and the importance of moving the prospect deeper into that funnel until they emerge as a customer. But what about the other side of the equation? What about the buyer’s side? Is there a funnel there, too? While it’s not as widely considered or understood as the sales funnel, I believe there IS a buying funnel. Like the sales funnel, it is essentially a series of stages. Here are the stages in the buying funnel:
Stage 1: Recognizing a problem or need
Stage 2: Gathering information about possible solutions (and gaining an early identification of possible solution providers)
Stage 3: Identifying key factors and developing decision-making criteria
Stage 4: Gathering deeper information about solutions directly from solution providers
Stage 5: Making a decision and buying a solution
Stage 6: Assessing the success of the solution and the buyer/seller relationship
Typically, the salesperson’s interaction with a buyer begins no earlier than Stage 2. Nevertheless, it is certainly helpful to discover where in the buying process the prospect stands before launching into a one-size-fits-all sales pitch. Toward that end, the better first steps in any sales process are to ask, listen, and understand the buyer’s perspective. Then, and only then, discuss and describe the solution you offer – IF it represents a good fit for the buyer’s needs.
The Bottom Line:
A better sales process begins with acknowledging there is also a buying process. From there, sales success improves if you discover where the buyer stands in that process, what they need and want, and how your solution helps them meet their goals. This is a big-picture approach to a better sales process our licensed Sales Xceleration Advisors understand well. Want to learn more? Click here to find your nearest Sales Xceleration Advisor or call us at 844.874.7253.