Many of the world’s best sales forces are the best because they have developed and use a systematic sales process. Having a map of the things we as salespeople have to do to make a sale provides a framework for sales planning and activity that reduces mistakes and shortens new hire ramp-up time.
However, what is conspicuously absent from most of these process maps are the things that our prospective customers have to do each step of the way in order to buy. The truth is that the things we do at any particular step or stage in the process could be a complete waste of time if the client doesn’t do what they must do to move forward to the next step or stage in their buying process.
As sales professionals, you and I don’t retire quota or earn commissions for anything that we do. We get paid on what our prospects do. When they sign a contract or issue a purchase order, then we make some money. This is the root of one of the major challenges of selling. We have to accept that we cannot control our prospects.
As sales people or managers we often ask, “What do we have to do to close this deal?” That, in fact, is the wrong question. What we should be asking is, “What does the prospect have to do in order to buy?” and then the follow-on question is, “What do we have to do to get them to do those things?”
Whether or not we have or follow a systematic sales process, we should endeavor to understand and document our client’s buying process. We must understand not only the things that have to happen throughout the selection and approval process, but who will be involved along the way.
Armed with a thorough understanding of the steps and stages of our prospects buying process, we can plan our work accordingly. Then every single move we make can be made with the specific intent of enabling or empowering our prospect to take the next step they need to take in order to buy.
If you think about it a minute, before we speak to a prospective prospect on the phone we should know and understand exactly what has to happen next in their buying process, and what we’re going to do on this call to make that happen. And if we spend the time and money to go visit a prospect without a plan of what we intend to say and do to help them take the next step in their buying process, then we are little more than a professional visitor.
Defining and documenting a useful map of our prospects buying process will take time, it will take effort, and it will require that we reach, qualify, and sell to all of the people who will play a part in the selection and approval process. We will need a lot of input and perspective because simply accepting any one person’s opinion of their process leaves too many variables to chance and ultimately leaves us with too much exposure and opportunity for failure. Taking the time to thoroughly understand all of the things that the prospect needs to do in order to buy often makes the difference between the very successful and those who simply get by.