Does this sound familiar?
- The customer is interested but the criteria for making decisions keep changing.
- You sound out prospective customers for information – such as their current way of working and associated challenges – so that you can design your sales pitches accordingly, but they don’t bite.
- You work with the same contact person throughout the entire sales process, and they are really interested, but suddenly replaced by a reluctant colleague in the final stage.
- You have to send several quotes for the same sales opportunity
- A deal gets called off just before it’s concluded. Subsequent inquiries show that the customer never even made a purchase order request.
Perhaps in all the above cases you are the victim of your own sales processes, which don’t take the customers’ readiness to buy into account. Too many companies fall into this trap, often lured by companies selling marketing techniques, training courses, CRM and marketing automation, consultants and software suppliers. They did a one-off analysis of a buying cycle, which was then converted into a sales process and uniformly applied to all customers and sales opportunities.
Navel-gazing leads you down a dead end
People who use sales processes as their guide instead of the customer’s buying cycle often find themselves down a dead end. This is just plain logic, because you are ignoring the customer’s reality in favour of your own reality. But it’s the customer who ultimately decides if and how much to buy.
You’re also asking your sales and marketing departments to convert all their external interactions into a linear and company-internal process. This never corresponds with the customer’s situation, by definition.
Briefly consider the following (and perhaps decide to get rid of the sales process):
- There’s no such thing as one sales process for every sales opportunity. Each individual has their own dynamics and insights.
- A sales process shifts the focus from the customer to the seller. A lack of focus on the customer leads to the right actions being taken, but at the wrong time.
- Sales-oriented processes don’t offer any scope for sales to adapt their speed and communications to the customer, or to coach the customer according to their situation.
- Someone who assumes their own processes can rarely make an accurate forecast: they only consider their own logic, and not the customer’s readiness to buy.
Another way is possible. There are models and tools that focus on the customer’s buying cycle rather than the sales cycle. Scientific research has shown that everyone goes through the same mental phases for every decision we make. It’s a mental phase that is not related to gender, age, job or nationality. Placing these mental phases in a model enables us to make this buying cycle predictable and so design a company’s actions to match it.
Sellers more important than ever
In this new model the role of the seller is more important than ever before. Every customer has their own way of indicating which phase they are currently in. The more important the purchase for the company, the longer the decision-making process can be expected to last. Only sellers who can correctly detect the buyer readiness of everyone in the buying cycle will conclude the majority of sales opportunities successfully. Because they are keeping their finger on the pulse, everything will run smoothly, as long as the customer allows. This doesn’t just improve your win ratio; it also keeps the buying cycle as short as possible.
Lower sales costs
So get rid of your sales process as quickly as possible and change your way of working, reporting and coaching to match the individual buyer readiness of all concerned. And sell more at a lower sales cost.