Optimise your sales productivity and improve your commercial fitness with one short action per day.

1. Pimp your LinkedIn profile

Update your photo, summary, value proposition, skills set… and ask your best-known linked contacts for feedback

2. Clean up your mailbox and get rid of useless newsletters 

Sort out emails, unsubscribe to what is no longer relevant to you and delete ads. Respond to emails you forgot about, even if you received them a long time ago.

3. Set up your videoconferencing place 

Set up a quiet and comfortable space to work with colleagues remotely and sell from a distance in times of social distancing. Test you video and audio material for an optimal customer experience.  

4. Prepare ready-to-use answers to five key objections  

List the most frequent objections that you receive and address the top ones. Write down the best responses to these objections and practice with colleagues in the most natural way possible.

5. Create your cocktail party pitch

The more you talk, the more your speaking fee drops. Prepare your to-the-point personal experience pitch. Try it out so that you appear and sound authentic.

6. Work out your top 5 discovery questions

Think about powerful questions to improve the outcome of conversations. Memorise them for future customer interactions.

7. Find out what your best customers have in common

Create a customer profile for customers you like to do business with. Look for prospects that meet the same criteria and start interacting with them. Keep in mind the tips for selling in times of social distancing.

8. Identify who inspires your most important accounts

Group customers by activity sector and identify their key influencers. Get connected with them, read their most relevant posts and leave comments.

9. Engage in web and social media competitive intelligence

Analyse how your key competitors are navigating this period of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). Find out how they communicate, what is new and how customers react to their initiatives. Identify their strengths and weaknesses and share with colleagues.

10. Build customer success stories

Choose a couple of different industry verticals and build your “happy ending” customer stories. Start with the positive outcome, the original situation and the negative business impact it was generating. End with how they are using your products or services today and take next steps with that customer when relevant.


In-person meetings are important, and this is what sales like, what gives energy. But now, none of it is possible. We may need to resist the temptation to binge watch Netflix. But what for? How can we be productive in these times? How can we optimize our time and continue selling during social distancing? 

So, the question isHow to sell in a time of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt? 

Correct? Then, take a few minutes and read on. Watch the recording of our webinar “Selling from home”

Grow relationships by putting the customer first 

Genuinely caring about your customers is more important than ever. We therefore not only need to maintain contact but also build deeper relationships. As we probably have concerns, our customers do as well. About the general situation, but also about how to maintain their business afloat. If our products and solutions can support their business, they will certainly be open to hear how we plan to continue deliver what is valuable to them. However, this will not work by talking about our business and products like ‘talking brochures’. More on this in our blog: ‘Are your sales people like talking brochures?

They will be curious to hear how (fast) we adapt to the new situation and how we can help them adapt faster as well. So, reach out and have authentic remote conversations geared towards getting past the current challenges. 

Become an expert in video conversations 

You want to focus on the quality of the conversation, not the channel. If you are not used to video conversations through Zoom, Webex, Teams, FaceTime or other platforms, practice with family, colleagues or friends. Make sure to properly install and test your audio and video. You don’t want the line to drop, or have trouble hearing what customers say. Ask feedback on your tone of voice and body language. Test how close or far from the camera you need to be in order to respect the personal distance, exactly like in face-to-face situations. Don’t forget that 97% of our communication is non-verbal. 

If you’re familiar with video, whatever the amount you dedicated up to now with customers, double or even triple it. Your customer doesn’t just need your product or service. Your customers need to know that you’re available and that you care! 

Don’t prepare but be prepared 

Prepare video calls even better than you do for live meetings. Content-wise and appearance-wise. Review your notes from your previous touchpoints and prepare conversation scenario’s. You also have to prepare physically and mentally. Some even dress up as they would on a visit in order to feel in ‘working mode’. All fired up. Everybody is working from home today, so there is no dress code as long as you are in ‘visit’ mindset.  

You want to know more on how to be effective in selling from home? 

[FREE WEBINAR]
Selling in times of social distancing

  How to optimize your core selling time and be productive
  What sales can do to be better prepared for the aftermath
  Take the opportunity to grow relationships and expand account coverage


Customers’ buying behaviour has changed considerably in the past few years. How can companies respond to this challenge? How do you organise sales in a digital world? Are you still sending your salespeople out like talking brochures, or will you take action? And how? A diagnosis.  

Time for a sales reboot 

Since 2012, the results of a multitude of studies about the changing buying behaviour of customers have been published. However, many companies only take action when the impact really becomes painful. And it’s often too late by then. It is therefore advisable to take action proactively. But can you motivate people and organise your sales in such a manner that the transition can take place in a timely and painless manner?  

Download our eBook “7 Criteria for a Sales Process your Sales Team will actually use

Avoid a reaction that is either too soft or too hard 

There are two ways to react to the reality of changing buying behaviour.  

  •  (Too) many companies continue to assure their clients that with some adjustments, the existing commercial solutions are immune to the changes. Unfortunately, the sales pipeline is like the arteries in our body. If we do not adopt a healthy lifestyle, they slowly get clogged up. The consequences in the long term are disastrous. Holding on to old habits is not the solution.  
  • Others call for a revolution. The world is no longer the same, which is why a drastic transformation of sales is required. We have to start over! That means completely redesigning the processes and systems and preparing for the future! That may be so, but… intrusive action often triggers a shock effect, which in turn has serious consequences.  

Opt for the human approach!  

How can you react to the constantly changing world? Doing nothing is not an option. Starting all over again is not the right solution, either. Actually, the answer is simple: we have to evolve together with our customers. Selling is and will always be a people business, even online. The impact we are noticing with our customers and prospects shows that the changes are real. It is therefore necessary to develop a change process as soon as possible. This way, the changes can be implemented gradually and on a human scale. Without disruptions or all too radical actions.  

Toward a new role for salespeople  

All change processes are based on insights. Customers are still overwhelmed by salespeople who are sent out by their employers like some sort of talking brochures, although they don’t care about salespeople bombarding them with arguments and the benefits of the products they try to sell. Some consultants take advantage of this fact by stating that salespeople will disappear altogether. Nothing could be further from the truth, but it is true that the role of salespeople is changing drastically.  

60% of the sales opportunities come to nothing because the customer does not buy or does not change suppliers.  

The sales cycles have become 22% longer since 2012 and your biggest competitor is no longer your direct competitor, but customers who do “nothing”.  Recent research has shown that up to 60% of the opportunities are simply closed in CRM because the customer doesn’t buy anything or is not willing to change suppliers. You can imagine the impact on the sales cost.  

Sales are needed as long as you:  

  • … incorporate the right mix of digital and human touchpoints in the entire buying cycle of the customer. This depends on the complexity of the product or service you offer, but mainly on the impact on the customer.  
  • … use an interpersonal approach focused on supporting customers and creating added value. This requires the salespeople to have contact with an increasing number of different persons with the customer and at other moments during the buying cycle.  
  • … adjust the sales pitches to every moment during the buying cycle and to the profile of the persons with whom the salespeople are to engage in dialogue.  

Do you want to find out how you can prepare your commercial staff for the future without having to take all too radical actions? Contact us or read more in our eBook:

7 Criteria your sales process has to meet

Are you looking for a new Sales process to find a (new) way to reduce your cost of sales, stop margin erosion or better align your approach with the customer’s buying cycle? Learn how to make sure that the selected process is right for your business.


Why sales coaching?

Research by CSO Insights has shown that sales coaching enables sellers to substantially improve their sales skills and so win more deals. The second benefit is that it allows sales managers to shift their focus from simply helping people to do their work to actually developing their skills. Which is surely an advantage, isn’t it?

But how?

Sales managers need to use coaching techniques, tips and tools. Even though some may have a talent for coaching, many don’t know how best to go about it. Sales management coaching programs help them gain the skills and self-confidence they need to integrate coaching as part of their daily routine. Fortunately, there’s technology available to help them. Sales coaching software doesn’t just make it possible to personalise the coaching, but also to measure it by looking at the sellers’ individual actions, monitoring their progress and providing a visual representation to make things clearer, rather than simply using their own perception, gut instinct and experience.

Sales coaching tools

Coaching isn’t the same thing as providing solutions or giving everyone the same advice. A good sales coaching tool can chart progress and zoom in on the lowest level of knowledge, and combine this with the extent to which this knowledge is actually applied.

It differs from eLearning or other content offered by Learning Management Systems (LMS) in this sense, because a sales coaching tool combines software for teaching sellers and ensuring they retain this information, stimulating behavioural change, making everything measurable, and providing suggestions for the management to reach the right conclusions and implement the right actions. Altogether, it forms an integrated solution that provides content exactly when it’s needed.

Enabling just-in-time coaching

This flexible (agile) method for developing sellers’ skills is called ‘Coaching Enablement’. It allows you to organise, manage and individualise coaching while ensuring sellers retain the information they’re given. It also provides dashboards for sales managers, higher management and HR. This means HR can now measure, support and adapt each employee’s development and the impact they have. Peer-to-peer learning is also provided.

A good example of this is ‘video pitching’, where the seller records an answer to a client situation using their smartphone, which can then be used as coaching input for the sales manager, and good examples can be shared with other team members. This enhances the performance of the whole team, contributes to continuous development and improves team spirit.

The main advantages of just-in-time coaching are:

  1. Identifying possibilities for personal development
  2. Building self-confidence
  3. Strengthening desired behaviour, knowledge and skills
  4. Installing a culture that stimulates continuous improvement for each individual and the team
  5. Measuring the impact on sales results

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

Start the conversation


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
Take the test now

We can help with a tailored improvement project. But mostly by anchoring the changes to have a lasting impact.


More and more salespeople are struggling to meet their targets. This is a statement we increasingly hear when talking to CEO’s as well as heads of sales and marketing. Upon further investigation, we find overwhelming evidence that there is an important lack of customer knowledge, vertical business acumen and sales competencies specific to the current era.

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.

 

 

 

 

Click here to see ‘Checklist: What customers expect from your sales people’ in which you will find the 10 most important customer expectations.


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

 

 


As long as too many salespeople continue to make the following three mistakes, your sales costs will be too high. You can achieve a higher conversion rate and a higher margin on your deals by avoiding the following errors:

1. Incomplete needs analysis

Unfortunately, this is a classic mistake: questions are limited to strict requirements in order to draw up an offer. This results in conversations that do not offer any added value, neither for the customer nor for the potential supplier. The customer gets an offer based on a rather superficial diagnosis, but not necessarily a good solution to his/her problem.

A number of additional questions might help to better map the context:

  • Who else is involved?
  • By when should you be able to use the solution? (this is a customer-oriented version of the question “when will you decide?”)
  • What do you wish to achieve?
  • What is the ideal solution for you?
  • To what extent do your colleagues share this view?
  • How will you make sure that the best decision is made?

2. Making too many price offers too soon

The Sales rep continues to push the customer. First he had not made sufficient inquiries into the context and then explained what the ideal solution would be from his/her own perspective; now the time has come to try to prove these claims through an offer. Whether or not the customer has already made up his/her mind does not seem to matter.

Once we sent the offer, there are three possibilities. Everything turns out all right and the deal is settled shortly afterwards. A less positive outcome is also possible: you lose control of the customer because he/she no longer has any reason to keep in touch once everything has been written down. Now your competitors can further influence your prospect.

Or you end up in a situation where you keep on making new versions of offers. This is not good for the sales costs and causes the customer to doubt. The sales rep thinks the customer is changing his/her mind once again. The customer, in turn, thinks the sales person falls short because he/she is proposing changes.

You can easily identify these deals by the following two situations:

  • The customer delays the decision date once or several times
  • The sales rep makes several offers for the same opportunity
    It is quite easy to measure both

3. Not providing the customer with what he/she really needs

Imagine yourself going to the doctor, who immediately gives you a prescription because you’re the tenth patient that day who has come to see him with a runny nose. This makes a diagnosis superfluous, or does it? You wouldn’t accept this from a doctor, but many salespeople still behave like all-knowing oracles. They concentrate on what they want to sell to the customer, and only hear what they want to hear.

This creates an area of tension between the salesperson and the customer. It usually results in the rep continuing to talk, trying to convince the customer and discussing technical details. But does the customer feel understood? In this context, it is crucial to imagine yourself in the customer’s situation. In other words, are you prepared to put yourself in the customer’s place? If not, your sales costs are at risk again.

Lower Sales costs, higher conversion and a higher margin on deals

Avoid this by really listening to customers, interacting with them and trying to fully understand their context. Take the appropriate sales actions in the purchase phase, talk to the right people on the customer’s side and give advice. And finally, ensure follow-up of customers who are not yet ready to buy by the marketing or inside sales department.

Check out this post to learn how to select the right Sales process for your business

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