What is a sales process and why do we need one? Why is the topic of “sales processes” worth discussing? Why does it matter? Why am I much more likely to succeed if I use one?
If you’re looking for the answers to any of those questions, keep reading.
The Problem with Process
The problem really isn’t with process, it’s in not having a process. Sales reps continuously lose deals or see opportunities stall thanks to an ineffective process, or lack of sales process altogether. When sales reps don’t lead the sales process, they’re doing a disservice to their prospects and customers (and themselves and their own company).
A good sales process is like a roadmap, (or in today’s world, a GPS), guiding both driver and passenger through each turn on the most efficient route towards their destination.
The goal of a sales process is to help your prospect reach the best decision for their business. That’s the destination. And in order to get there, your sales process needs to be more than a series of vague plans to continually “follow-up” with your prospects and leads.
An effective sales process is clear and specific. It has definitive action steps for each stage of the sales cycle. It’s driven by the sales rep, not the customer. It tells you what to do next and how to proceed. It advances the opportunity.
The truth is, process will save you.
The Purpose of Process
Most sellers look at a sales process as it relates to them; where they are in the stages of a sale cycle chronologically, i.e. qualify the lead, conduct a demo, proposal, etc.
That’s a mistake.
“Process should be built around how to help the customer make the best decision related to your solution.” – Tom Stanfill
Think about it. Customers will likely only evaluate and buy your solution once (or maybe just a few times) over the course of their career. They don’t necessarily know the best way to evaluate this particular solution. But as a sales rep, you are immersed in your solution and the industry you serve. You know the best process to help your customer reach a decision about how to solve their problem.
Therefore, we need to rethink the sales process and frame it up in these terms:
What are the stages that a customer should go through to determine how to evaluate risk, determine what the need is, and ultimately make the best decision? That’s what your sales process should do.
Your sales process should also differentiate your solution. Break it down into steps that will help your decision makers experience the benefit of your solution. Do this well and your win rates will increase. No more lost or stalled opportunities
Sell your process, not your products.
Doing so will elevate you from sales rep to trusted partner in the eyes of your customer. It is your role to lead, and leading starts with having a great sales process.
The Importance of Process in Virtual Environment
The problem today in selling is that there is so much information available. Formerly, a sales rep’s role was to give the customer information. The seller’s role was to educate and inform.
But now, with such vast amounts of knowledge available to anyone with an internet connection, the role of a salesperson has changed. It’s no longer about giving information, it’s about helping your customer navigate the process and make a good decision. That is the true role of a sales rep today.
The Pitfalls of a Bad Sales Process
We’ve outlined below some of the areas where sales reps often hear their GPS “recalculating” while establishing or following a sales process. Don’t go wrong by falling into these traps:
1 – Not having clear next steps.
What are the steps of your process?
This is the first thing you should do when outlining your process. Come up with all possible events, define the resources you can offer your prospect. Look at the stages of your process and match up the corresponding action steps.
Your sales process should be broken down into actionable steps that will help the customer reach the best decision about solving their problem. Be very customer-focused as you go through this exercise.
Get really specific about the payoff for your customer at each step or with each event. What’s in it for them? What is the tangible benefit, the value for them?
Communicate to your customer that whether or not they buy from you, by making the investment of time and energy to take the next step in the process, they will learn something valuable to aid in their decision making process.
If you’re at a loss, or don’t know what these steps should be for your solution, do some homework. Ask others in your organization, talk to long-time customers, engage with veterans in your company, get creative and figure this out. It will help you be more successful in your role of serving your customers.
2 – Blindly following the customer’s process.
It’s important to respect and understand your customer’s buying process. That’s just a fact. But remember, when it comes to your solution, you are the expert.
Your role as a sales rep is to communicate why it’s in their best interest to follow your lead. Articulate why following your process and your steps will ultimately benefit them and help them make the right decision for their business.
3 – Wrong mindset.
Words are not as important as your motive. If you are truly Other-CenteredⓇ, it will show, because your motive is transparent.
If your motive is to serve your customer well, leading the process will be natural. Customers will not fight you on your process if you make them the priority.
Remember, your customer is not motivated by your goals. In order to increase their receptivity, you need to demonstrate that your goal aligns with theirs: to reach the best decision for their business.
4 – No “gates.”
A good process needs “gates” – certain things you need to have in order to move to the next step or event. Boxes that need to be checked.
In an Other-Centered way, communicate why that gate, or criteria, exists. Position it in a way that helps your customer see the benefit for them.
For example, meeting with the decision maker before your presentation, or having them attend when you do present, may be a gate. Presenting to evaluators onsite or virtually, may seem like a win, but if the decision maker is not involved, you won’t be able to flesh out objections or uncover true needs and decision drivers.
Gates are safeguards. They exist to protect you and your customer from wasting time, money, or other resources.
Do not advance to the next step if you can’t get that box checked or that criteria met. If that’s the case, the gate should remain closed until you are able to convince your customer that it’s in their best interest to agree to your process/ requirements.
Whenever possible, do not depart from your process.
Summing It Up
As the seller, your job is to lead this process for your customer. Be Other-Centered, communicate in an Other-Centered way, and fulfill your role as the sales rep. Guide your customer through your process, the best way you know to help them make the best decision for their business.
You will stand out, you will differentiate yourself from your competitors, and you will serve your customers well.
As President of ASLAN, Marc is responsible for all day-to-day operations including our sales and marketing efforts and growing our success in helping our clients be Other-Centered®.