About Pascal Persyn

Pascal supports organisations in delivering commercial excellence in the areas of Sales Enablement, Content Strategy and Buyer Journey Enablement. His pet projects are about helping companies overcome challenges due to the empowered customer and thus evolving into buyer-aligned organisations. His executive experience in private, VC-backed and public companies enables doing the right thing at the right time with the right people. Don’t hesitate to contact Pascal for expert advice: pascal@perpetos.com


Thomas is Operational Manager for a logistics company with 23 lorries on the road. Tight margins in the sector brought the director of Thomas’ company to start looking for ways to cut costs. Together they’ve identified a number of issues that regularly cause problems, such as poor agreements about pick-up and delivery times and driving empty lorries back, all of which comes at a cost. Thomas’ bonus this year largely depends on him finding a solution!

How Thomas buys

He’s known for a long time that there’s software available for optimising the planning. And he’s already looked at how much it costs, but at the time he only saw the investment cost. Now, with pressure coming from management, Thomas decides to take to the internet again to get a global idea of the solutions available for his problem, work out roughly what it costs, and see how much it could help the company save in terms of unnecessary costs.

The conclusion of this ROI exercise is positive: Thomas finds that resolving the issue would cost considerably less than suffering more losses in the current situation. Then he keeps searching to see exactly what his company needs. He looks for opinions and feedback from peers, and tries to find out what differentiates the good software from the bad. He wants to know which providers are offering top notch solutions. And what differences there are between all these providers and their products.

With his list of ‘buying criteria’ ready, he invites three providers who seem to be offering more or less the same software. Together with his manager, Thomas decides to sign with the cheapest provider.

Sales reps still have an important role to play

There’s a good chance that Thomas’ story sounds familiar to many readers of this post. We speak with lots of companies whose margins are deteriorating in a price war with competitors.

But the fact that customers are smarter these days, and have already compared your product features with those of your competitors before ever contacting you, doesn’t mean that the salesperson no longer has a role to play. Online information isn’t always correct, for example, and it might even be irrelevant in the customer’s specific case. Buyers don’t always know how to get good value from the information they gathered, either. And that’s exactly how salespeople can help them – by leading them along the right lines.

Salespeople who succeed in the digital era often have this attitude:

  • Align the sales strategy with the phases the customer goes through in their buying cycle
  • Take the right action at the right time with the right contact person
  • Strongly believe that helping customers is their top priority

Read more about the CUSTOMER-CENTRIC SELLING open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

CUSTOMER-CENTRIC SELLING open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company


I used to be closely involved with a sales team at a medium-sized technology company. Nicolas, one of the salespeople there, often came away from meetings feeling a bit dazed, convinced that procurement’s only goal was to buy at the lowest possible price. But Bruno, one of his colleagues with the same types of customer, sells very successfully without always needing to lower the price. Is Nicolas just unlucky, or is there more to it?

What Nicolas isn’t seeing

Nicolas keeps falling into the same trap. He ends up negotiating on price because he hasn’t convinced the customer of his solution’s value, which leads to buyers trying to hammer the price down. Or he starts bargaining before other issues have been cleared up, such as delivery times or SLAs. And sometimes he simply gives up too quickly.

So what makes Bruno so successful?

Bruno, on the other hand, appreciates that negotiating actually means finding solutions. He understands his customers’ challenges and KPIs, and responds by offering them added value in his solutions. He keeps a ‘give and take’ list, which gives him self-assurance and helps him find a win-win situation together with the customer. Last but not least, he also always has a strategy and action plan. Customers see Bruno as a partner and adviser; he understands their situation and is there to help them.

Negotiating techniques

What’s crucial in negotiations?

  • That you, like Bruno, understand the procurement KPIs – there’s a lot more to it than simply buying at the lowest price
  • This knowledge gives the seller a certain amount of bargaining leverage
  • And that puts sales in a position to understand their discussion partners’ objectives and strategy, and predict their next move, so they can tailor their sales strategy accordingly

The moral of the story is to start negotiating as soon as the customer begins their buying journey, in the initial conversation. If you as the seller do everything right throughout the customer’s buying cycle, negotiating actually becomes very simple, even for complex matters. It turns the negotiation into a simple conversation that successfully concludes all previous discussions.

Read more about the COMPLEX NEGOTIATION SKILLS open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

COMPLEX NEGOTIATION SKILLS open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company


Marc has many years’ sales experience. But it’s still often difficult to make contact with the right decision-makers in prospective customers’ companies. He’s been trying to get his foot in the door of an international technology company for several weeks, but he keeps being sent from one contact person to the next. Marc therefore doesn’t appear to be making any progress, and is gradually becoming more and more frustrated.

Analyse problem situations as a team

In the next sales meeting, he decides to present the problem to his colleagues in a intervision exercise. Marc is the client, the other salespeople act as consultants, and their manager moderates and keeps an eye on the time. Marc outlines the scenario and the consultants ask factual, open questions. This is because it’s important to first have a clear picture of the situation before you can come up with any solutions. For example:

  • Who are you talking to?
  • Who is your most important contact?
  • Why are there so many contact persons?
  • Which questions should you ask?
    Etc.

Collective intelligence

Marc answers the consultants’ questions one by one, and then clearly explains what he expects from the participants: “I’ve got lost in the customer organisation. I’m looking for specific advice to structure my approach better, find the right angle, get my foot in the door and develop this opportunity – without wasting any more time on conversations with the wrong people.” Thanks to this clear question, the other participants can now give advice and offer solutions.

Marc in turn provides feedback about the advice and presents his action plan. He remains in control of the scenario and retains the solutions he finds interesting to get out of the impasse.

Finally, the consultants are given the chance to offer their opinion about Marc’s action plan, and the sales manager asks what lessons the team can learn from the collaborative exercise.

Everybody learns from a joint effort to find solutions

The strict procedures in Marc’s example force all participants to ask relevant questions and form a clear picture of the situation. There’s no competition between the salespeople – about who comes up with the best proposal – because Marc remains the master of his case. The consultants are forced to actively listen, and aren’t allowed to interact with each other. Marc gradually develops the exercise to find a solution for his impasse, using the advice that he deems useful. The group then helps him to consider his solution in detail.

This technique is called Intervision or Co-development and relies on Collective Intelligence. The solution is created through collaboration and collective efforts focusing on one and the same person: the customer.

Benefits of Collective Intelligence

This technique has a number of interesting benefits:

  • Strong sense of collaboration: everyone is prepared to help Marc and trusts the other participants, so any doubts and concerns are easily shared
  • Efficiency: Marc moves off the beaten track and tries to have faith in the new solutions suggested by his team, so he can integrate them in his action plan
  • Strong commitment to each other and the company: Marc’s case is taken from the daily reality – it’s the type of situation that all the salespeople in the team could come across. They now feel more connected to each other

Read more about the INTERVISION AND SALES TEAM COACHING open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

INTERVISION AND SALES TEAM COACHING Open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company


After a few weeks in his new role as Sales Manager, Eric has a number Coaching sessions scheduled. He already benefited greatly from the coaching he received earlier in his career. In fact, the reason for him being promoted so soon by his new employer is precisely because of the excellent coaching  which helped him develop his skills so quickly in a previous job. He has very high expectations for the one-to-one session with his manager, and is therefore preparing for it very carefully.

He explains his objectives and challenges in his first Wednesday afternoon session. His manager appears to show commitment, listening attentively and asking a couple of guiding, closed questions. When Eric then explains a difficult situation that developed within the team, his manager starts to offer some coaching advice: “You’re going to have to tackle it like this: …

This sets of alarm bells for Eric: that’s not coaching!

What is coaching?

Many managers are still convinced that coaching is the same thing as listening, asking a few questions, and then providing unilateral advice. But that’s not coaching …

So what is coaching?

Coaching enables your team to create new possibilities themselves.
And the person being coached is always the focus here.

The coach’s mindset

As a coach, you enable your team to come up with their own creative solutions by approaching the discussion with the following attitude:

  • Asking meaningful questions
  • Active listening
  • Offering constructive ‘feed-forward’

Read more about the COACHING SALES PEOPLE open training, see if the next session fits into your schedule, and book your seat straight away:

COACHING SALES PEOPLE open training

Click here if you are looking to set up a Sales Academy in your company

 


Our customers’ buying behaviour has changed dramatically since the emergence of the internet, and since social media took over some of the salespeople’s tasks. The recent Connected Commerce paper from Nielsen once again confirms how much we’re all shopping with smartphones in hand, comparing prices and searching online for product specifications and reviews. Phenomena such as webrooming and showrooming fit in seamlessly with this trend.

Before you read on, we’d first like to reveal that showroom salespeople do still have an important role to play in the digital era! But the job is different nowadays, and certainly hasn’t become any easier.

We’re still buying expensive (customised) products from real-life salespeople

Showrooming is when customers go into a shop to look at, try on and test products such as clothes and electronics, but then place their orders online. Webrooming is the opposite: customers search for information online, but then validate their choice in the shop or showroom, and ultimately buy from a salesperson in the flesh.

However … the higher a product’s value and/or complexity, and the less often you buy it, the greater the sense of risk. You can quickly choose and pay for a new vacuum cleaner online, for example. But for bigger investments – especially when there’s some customisation, e.g. kitchens, patios, doors and windows, tiles or a car – most buyers still want to complete their buying process with some form of human interaction. This is therefore a typical product category for webrooming.

Challenges for showroom salespeople

Potential buyers of higher value (customised) products are still going to showrooms, but only less than twice on average. We’re also seeing that good, experienced salespeople are spending much more time and energy completing sales nowadays. But why?

  • Webrooming, discussed above
  • Increasingly competitive markets – sometimes with several suppliers offering similar products in the same street – mean that salespeople need to convince customers why their products are the best option. Customers don’t always have a clear overview of any differences, and so are tempted to simply choose the cheapest.

In order to convince potential customers to complete a purchase, our salespeople generally have two options, each with their own disadvantages:

  1. Immediately finalise all the details for a product sale with the customer (e.g. design a kitchen, configure options for a car, etc.), provide a quote straight away, and try to seal the deal.
    Disadvantage: this takes a lot of time. But mainly: the potential customer then has all the information they need, meaning in principle that they no longer need the salesperson, and can instead use the information gained to negotiate a price with your competitor
  2. Or the salesperson tries to make a second appointment.
    Disadvantage: waiting too long to find out all the information and receive a quote increases the risk that a potential customer will seek a solution elsewhere and buy from your competitor in the meantime

Dovy Keukens: what competences do salespeople need today?

You used to be a product salesperson who knew your product inside-out. Or you were good at building relationships, and you made sales based on the trust you earned. But you need more than that nowadays.

Johan Verbeke, Sales Manager at Dovy Keukens, a leading Belgian supplier of tailor-made kitchens:

Like all companies, we had to adapt to the digital era. We’ve realised that salespeople need to do the right thing at the right time to meet each individual customer’s wishes. So they need to work out rapidly what to do- and what not to do- and decide if it might be better to make a follow-up appointment.

Salespeople need to translate the desired experience into a proposal that makes the most of our product strengths. They also need to capitalise on the company’s strengths, because the way we approach things can also make the difference. Sealing the deal at the right time keeps us ahead of our competitors.

Salespeople are therefore expected to be real all-rounders these days. Together with Perpetos, we’re actively working to develop all these competences in our sales team. And we clearly see the positive impact this has on our conversion rates.

Important role for Sales Management: keep the team focused

In order to discuss customer cases quickly and efficiently, and maximise our salespeople’s results, it’s important that managers and salespeople speak the same language.

Sales Management can help keep salespeople focused by providing sales support and coaching the team- to take advantage of each individual situation in practice. Digital tools, such as CRM, are often still seen as an administrative burden, even though they can help with coaching and improve performance. This does require the CRM being adapted as a sales support tool, however, and not just a reporting tool.

Is there room for improving your sales performance? Do you want to optimise your margins or sales cost? Would you like to discuss your experiences without any obligation? Contact our experts

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Less than half of the sales reps meets their target quota. A third of them not even 40% of their quota. These alarming figures come from the research report: Global Chief Sales Officer Study 2018 from Sirius Decisions. The results are based on interviews with sales directors of 250 companies from different sectors, from medium sized enterprises to multinationals.

In the competitive market today, companies with a personalized sales approach have to be able to sell valuable products for a decent price, but also have to create an efficient experience for the buyer. To convert sales experience in a competitive advantage and to attain the target quota in 90% of time, more focus on the sales strategy is needed.

More structure

For not 50%, but 90% of your sales to reach their quota, sales needs a clear structure. To start: Every sales manager needs to create a clear organization structure, properly defined territories, have a clear repartition of tasks and provide sufficient support.

Increased sales cycle

That structured approach is also applicable for the content assets for sales. Those sales support resources should be mapped onto the buying cycle for each customer segment, specific clients, each sector,… So that every market is completely covered.

More buyer journey

Is your sales strategy completely focused on how your clients prefer to buy? Is your approach in line with the buying cycle of different type of customers? What is the willingness to buy of your customer and do your sales reps take the right steps at the right time? Or as we prefer: Where is your prospect on the Buying Clock? This approach offers nothing but advantages: your sales reps increase their probability of attaining quota, your margins go up, the buying experience of your customer improves and you are able to make more accurate revenue predictions.

Only by focusing the entire sales process onto the buying cycle, is the sales team able to guide a prospect trough the decision making process efficiently. This leads to much faster results than when you force the buyer to take certain steps that are part of a classic sales scenario. Above solution is the best way to fight the increased sales cycle length as reported by 64% of the participating companies.

More internal cooperation

In most cases sales managers can count on other departments to generate leads. How can you ensure that everyone keeps contributing to lead generation? How can you structure those different efforts in a coherent strategy?

lead generation

This can be enabled by aligning sales, pre-sales, inside sales, marketing communication, product development and other departments. The best result is attained by focusing everyone on the customer and his buying cycle, this creates a much better internal alignment. This approach has to be anchored in your company culture, individual behavior, your processes and systems, but it all starts with the customer. Companies where everyone is cooperating on the basis of the customer and customer needs, grow 19% faster in revenue and reach 15% higher efficiency in comparison to the others. Clear rules on who follows up the leads in the funnel are an important part of the strategy.

Often the opposite is true and different departments hunt for other potential buyers with different products and messaging, which drives the sales productivity below average. You can create better harmony by aligning on the target markets, customer grouping and type of buyers.

More business insight

It is crucial to have talented sales reps in your team. So spend enough time and budget in your sales team, not only to attract new talent, and on-board newcomers, but also to keep your best sales reps.

Sales reps need continuous training for the specific needs of each customer. Almost three quarter of sales managers reports that their sales reps lack the ability to connect solutions to business issues. So it is important that your reps have the ability to convert product knowledge into buyer context. Read more on our blog on Measuring and maximizing the impact of sales training.

More software

Our wish list is almost ready. Also important in including in your sales strategy is automation, which saves time for your reps and increases their productivity. Did you know that sales on average only spends 27% of its time with real sales activities with customers and prospects? So it is useful to find out where sales is losing time. Often these are administrative tasks, planning, keeping systems up to date,… Most of these tasks can be relatively easily eliminated with the right apps and automation.

In summary

30% of sales reps achieve only 40% of target. Sales organisations traditionally used 2 strategies to tackle productivity issues: either hire new people, or organise more sales training and coaching. A recent study conducted by SiriusDecisions, shows that the digital era requires a different approach. In a competitive market, we need other solutions to sell more with the same or lower cost.

Not sure where to begin? You can start by doing this benchmark scan
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We can help with a tailored improvement project. But mostly by anchoring the changes to have a lasting impact.


In his blogpost on sales productivity and competency, The Value Shift CEO Dave Fitzgerald discusses the most important reasons for the ongoing decline of quota attainment. And we also find overwhelming evidence at our prospects and customers, that a lack of knowledge and experience are major challenges to overcome.

So let’s have a look at the numbers first. CSO’s yearly study on quota attainment shows a growing problem. Because the number of companies achieving their revenue plans has decreased.

productivity01

And the number of salespeople making quota is even worse. It has declined to 58.1%, according to Jim Dickie at CSO Insights.

For over 25 years, people have been looking at sales productivity as the combination of efficiency and effectiveness of their activities. This has been reiterated in a Miller Heiman blogpost from 2014.

 

productivity02That definition of the sales productivity challenge might be useful to create awareness in the sales community. But it does not actually improve results. For far too long sales training and methodology companies have dominated the discussion. They tend to link this challenge to a need for more training and for cloning the practices of top performers. Resulting in an annual spend of $24 billion in sales training in the US alone, according to ASTD.

Let’s bury the past and analyse the current situation. And come up with strategies that actually work in today’s competitive selling environment. Today, almost everybody agrees that customers are better informed and no longer accept being sold to.

So what has changed?

Sales has been able to cover up their lack of customer knowledge by explaining the features and benefits of their offering – preferably supported by demos. Customers settled for that way of interaction with sales because they had no alternative. Yet, in today’s market, people are able to educate themselves without the help of a sales rep.

This has revealed the ‘real’ problem of sales teams: the ability to add value in the sales conversation. According to research by CSO Insights, 82% of senior executives indicated that content is a significant driver to their buying decision. As a result, content production increased dramatically in the recent years. And some vendors and analysts are claiming that content marketing is taking over from sales.

What hasn’t changed?

Yet, the 2015 B2B buyers study by SiriusDecisions proves that content marketing hasn’t solved the problem of decreasing quota attainment. And besides that, they reveal that there is an almost 50-50 divide between “digital” and sales interactions. These numbers are almost independent of the buying cycle complexity and the stage in the buying cycle as shown in figure 3. So let’s make absolutely clear here, that content marketing is important but doesn’t replace sales.

productivityCIn addition, we need to kill a second misconception, that the buyer is forcing sales reps to enter only at the end of his buying cycle.

Moreover, let’s stop using the CEB number indicating that 57% of the buying cycle is already done before salespeople are involved. What we need are meaningful conversations. No matter if the conversation occurs via human interaction or non-human engagement. And as long as buyers find the answers they are looking for throughout their buying cycle.

Does this mean that investment in sales content and training is no longer effective? On the contrary, both are more important than ever. It is more difficult to train sales people on business knowledge and industry expertise than it is to train them on product related knowledge. This calls for additional conversational selling skills as well.

What is all of this telling us as to how to overcome the sales productivity challenge?

Sales leaders need to initiate strategies to increase a sales rep’ ability to add value to the buyer/seller conversation. The low rates that sales teams experience converting leads to decisions clearly prove this. In fact, 60% of opportunities lead to a ‘no decision’ according to another study by CSO insights.

Investing in “efficiency” technologies and processes to have more conversations, isn’t going to increase sales productivity. Not as long as we don’t work on the quality of those conversations. Better first invest in strategies focused on “effectiveness” to increase conversion. Once that is in place, we can still focus on efficiency.

 

productivity04Here’s an updated graph from Dave Fitzgerald’s post reflecting today’s B2B competitive selling environment:
Results – can be number of wins, revenue sold, quota attainment, (your choice)
Competency – the ability to do something well
Experience – skill or knowledge that you get by doing something
Knowledge – information, understanding, or skill that you get from experience

Time to implement a solution that works

Our analysis shows over and over that more experienced sales are by far the majority of top quota carriers. They have had the time to learn and improve their competence. So the solution has to impact the ramp up time as well as the length of their tenure. And during that time, we need to improve knowledge sharing combined with a culture of continuous improvement. This will create the shortest time to experience, adaptive to changes in the marketplace.

In other words, if we want to improve the productivity of the entire team, the solution needs to create a continuous stream of knowledge and experience sharing. So ask yourself the following 5 questions:

  • Is my sales process enabling sales management to coach people on doing the right thing at the right time?
  • Do we have content adapted to each phase of the buying cycle AND to the different people (Buyer Persona) involved?
  • Are we re-packaging marketing content for conversational use by the sales team?
  • What is management actively doing to create a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous improvement?
  • Is our sales training continuous, snackable and integrating skills, attitude and company specific messaging?

 

productivityEThe figures, based on a CSO insights study, are both aspirational and motivating to boost initiatives based on the 5 aforementioned questions. Talk to one of our experts and get custom and actionable input.


Commercial excellence means you know your customers so well, that you fully understand them as well as their context. This allows your company to anticipate their needs and expectations. And via sales and marketing to communicate the right thing at the right time, and to show the impact and value of what you have to offer.

To achieve commercial success, it no longer suffices to promote your company. Nor to merely listen and ask questions. Buyers increasingly expect the right information at the right time. And a number of elements are important in this regard.

Commercial Excellence: really know your customer

We need to align activities to the customer’s expectations. Any contact with your company, personal or online, needs to contain the right message aligned to the customer’s readiness to buy. You can accelerate the sales process considerably by meeting their expectations with every contact.

In terms of results

It’s not about what your service or product can do, but about its value to the customer. How does it impact their organisation? What specific results can they expect?

Highest market price

A customer-oriented organisation strives for the highest market price for its products and services. But at the lowest cost from the customer’s perspective. Commercial excellence has a positive impact on your cost of sales and enables you to get results twice as fast.

How can you achieve this? You may ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do your product developers and officers understand the importance of your products and services to the customer?
  • Do they know how the customer will work differently? And what improvements he will accomplish?
  • Are all persons involved aware of how your strengths will contribute to a better result?
  • Can you say whether your products or services will give a better result than those of your competitors?
  • Do your customers recognise the link between your strengths and their accomplishments?

Becoming a customer-oriented organisation

Not every industry has noticed crucial changes in customer behaviour yet. Determine to what extent your customer target groups are already part of the experience economy. To what extent do they use the Internet and social media to inform themselves? If this is the case, follow these four steps to achieve a more customer-oriented approach:

  • Ensure that your market is segmented on the basis of equal needs and reasons to buy. So that your sales messages can be used on a wider scale and are at the same time aligned in detail to each segment’s unique character
  • Map the obstacles preventing your employees from embracing new ways of working. Also map possible motivating factors to change work patterns
  • What current processes and KPIs obstruct a more customer-oriented approach?
  • Develop and implement a change project taking into account all of the above. Take special care to implement the required changes on a human scale. And clearly communicate the benefits for each person involved so as to stimulate willingness to change.

Watch video: Filip Goos, Managing Director at Cheops, explains how they implemented Commercial Excellence (in Dutch)

 


The combination of technological evolution in the internet, mobility and social media is changing the way customers buy. The only sustainable competitive advantage of the future is to know your customers better than they know themselves, and to engage with them in a buyer-aligned way. This brings new requirements to our sales process.

Research by Forrester shows that 74% of executive buyers, once they commit to making a change, will go with the company that’s able to help create a buying vision. And hence, sales changes from a push to a pull strategy. Sales now has to facilitate the buying process based on the strengths of their offering and the impact it will deliver for the customer.

Critically important questions to ask when selecting a sales process

So a lot of companies are re-evaluating their current sales and marketing approach. And it’s no surprise that they tend to have some common questions:

  • Is my current sales process appealing to the better informed customer?
  • All vendors tell me their sales method is aligned to the buyer journey. How do I know if this is true? How do I choose the right one?

Sales Management Association found a 28% higher growth rate for companies using a buyer journey-based sales methodology, along with lower sales costs and improved margins. But get the answers wrong and you’ll have the opposite:

  • Worse relationships with prospects and customers. You’ll even alienate them.
  • Less power. No influence over the customer buying proces
  • Lower hit rate, higher sales costs, fewer leads, less revenue, decreased margins

Below you’ll find the three most critical evaluation criteria when selecting a sales process/methodology.

1. Pseudo buyer alignment versus real buyer alignment

You can typically recognise companies offering a Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Process by the following:

      • They translate the buyer process into a sales process. So first they analyse a customer buying process and then superimpose a second process that has the corresponding sales process steps to take for every step of the buying process. They claim that because the steps of the sales process are aligned with the steps of the buying process, they have a buyer-aligned sales process.
      • It is a linear process that is identical for all opportunities.

This is not only wrong, but so theoretical and complex that the sales force find it impossible to implement with a high adoption rate. Consider a simple analogy: in the spring we plant seeds to align our farming activities with the season. But planting seeds does not mean that therefore it’s spring. You have to monitor the seasons and align the farming activities accordingly. You don’t monitor the farming activities and then deduce that the season is aligned.

When salespeople follow a Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Sales Process they make the same fatal assumption. They assume that since they executed this step of the buyer-aligned sales process, the customer will now move to the next stage of the buying process. Can you see how this is completely wrong? Their reference points are the steps of the buyer-aligned sales process, instead of those of the customer buying process.

Beware of a sequential set of steps

The second problem with this approach is that the Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Sales Process is a sequential set of steps:

      • You take a step
      • Finish it
      • Check box
      • Done
      • Next step

In contrast, the buying process is neither linear nor sequential. It is a dynamic and iterative process, which means that the customer goes back and forth within each stage of the buying process. So even if your sales process includes customer milestone checkpoints when passing from one stage to the next, it still doesn’t work in reality. Because the customer may say one thing one day and then something else another day. How many times have you had a meeting where the customer was enthusiastic about something you said but then changed their mind at the next meeting. Why? It’s very simple. Customers do not live in isolated worlds. After your meeting they talk to peers, they go on the internet, they talk to colleagues. This influences or even completely changes their opinion.

Online information influences 71% of decision criteria

Recent research by SiriusDecisions shows that online information influences 71% of customer decision criteria and their buyer journey. Sales reps need to be able to see how their customer evolved since the last meeting. Contrast this with a salesperson who follows the pseudo buyer-aligned linear sales process: “I did step A of the process, so now I need to do step B?” But who says so? Who says that because you executed your step that the customer also evolves? And if so, who says the customer didn’t change their mind or wasn’t influenced by others since your last contact? Your sales force needs to be focused on the customer buying process and adapt their behaviour accordingly.

Therefore, implementing the sales steps in your CRM won’t help. Even if you align them with a generic buying process. Your salespeople will focus on those sales steps and lose track of the buying process. What you need to do is to implement the buying process stages and tools to continuously monitor buying readiness.

Check: ask your sales to show and explain their sales process and a screenshot of a CRM implementation.
If you see sales stages and/or a linear process, you know you have a Pseudo Buyer-Aligned Process. 

2. Company buyer journey versus individual buying readiness

As we learned in the previous point, we need to detect the buying stages and align activities accordingly. Not the other way around. That being said, there is another dimension to this that makes this even more critical. Each member of the decision making unit (DMU) is going through the buyer journey at their own pace, dynamically and iteratively. Each person is influenced in many ways and could potentially be involved in another stage of the buying process.

Misalignment of the sales activity with individual buying readiness will result in a longer sales cycle and a lower win probability. So there’s no need to explain why you need to install a process that enables you to monitor individual buying readiness and/or alignment of the DMU. Implementing a company buyer journey doesn’t help because it doesn’t exist. Every company has a unique buyer journey, with stages that include:

      • Definition of requirements
      • Evaluation of vendors
      • Short list of vendors
      • Negotiation with short list

As you can see, these stages are very high level and company-based. They don’t allow you to monitor individual buying readiness, which means your sales force won’t be able to individually align and influence DMU members. Many initiatives from top management stall because people lower down in the organisation were not ready to buy. If we want to win deals, we need to identify these individual misalignments and have the right sales and marketing activity in place to resolve these friction points.

Check: does your sales methodology take individual alignment into account? Ask to see the sales process. If it shows general buying stages, you won’t be able to focus your sales on aligning DMU members.

3. Is your sales process multicultural?

There is a big difference between European companies and US-based companies. Most sales methodologies developed in the US fail in implementation in European and global companies. The US has a ‘hero culture’, where the CEO, VP Sales and people delivering results are heroes. This has a totally different impact on the way sales reacts to or views top-down implementations and rule-based ways of working. In Europe, the fact that top management says something can actually have the opposite effect on salespeople.

Here’s a simple test to define the culture: count how many sales people are using individual spreadsheets – a feature of the hero culture. The methodologies of US-based companies are using this hero paradigm. So in all the intricacies of the method you buy, you will find all kinds of resistance to adopting it from your sales force.

Check: is your methodology based on multicultural diversity?
If not, be prepared for resistance.

These three requirements are crucial if you want to implement a sales process that will truly align your reps with the new buyer and that the team will adopt and use. Want to learn more? Download our eBook below.

 

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7 criteria for a Sales process your Sales team will actually use

 

 

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