You’re a hard-working sales rep and you firmly believe that the world revolves around your sales funnel. But much like early astronomers who were convinced the Earth was the center of the universe – you’re completely and utterly wrong. I’m sorry to tell you, but your sales funnel is not the center of a buyer’s universe.
While you’re pushing your prospects through Qualification, Discovery, Evaluation, Buying Process, and more, your prospective customers are thinking about the sales process very differently. Instead of forcing prospects to flow through your sales funnel, learn to put yourself in the buyer’s shoes and understand how they make decisions.
Once you accept your place in the sales orbit and allow prospects to drive the selling process, you’ll be able to close deals more easily than you ever imagined.
Think Like a Buyer
Step back a moment and think about how you buy products in your personal life. If you’re looking to purchase a new car or another expensive item that you need to consider carefully, your buying process probably looks something like this:
- Initial Interest
You hear about a product, do research to learn more, talk to family or friends who give you their input, analyze the information, and then finally decide whether or not to buy. Depending on the cost of what you’re buying, this process could be anywhere from a few weeks to months long. While B2B purchases are very different than B2C, the buying process doesn’t change as much as you may think. Instead of talking to friends or family, B2B buyers need buy-in from their team and boss. Instead of taking a test drive, B2B buyers may do a demo of a product to test it out. And instead of talking to a used car salesman, B2B buyers are talking to you. You should always keep this buying process in mind when you’re talking to a prospect.
Don’t Force It
Now that you’re thinking like a buyer, you can better understand how little your sales funnel has to do with their decision-making process. Every company has their own internal buying process and their own path to take before signing a new contract. Instead of being frustrated by this or having an inaccurate sales forecast for every deal, you should better align your sales funnel to the buyer’s process. Some prospects need to get approval from their legal department, their CFO, their CEO and every level of management before making a purchase; others can sign the contract tomorrow if they’re really convinced they need it. Some buyers will take months to evaluate your product and others will sign deals in mere days. Because every deal is different, you shouldn’t try to force every buyer to conform to the same sales funnel process. With the buyer’s needs in mind, you will be better able to predict when the deal will close.
While you can’t always force prospects to fit perfectly into your funnel stages, that doesn’t mean you should forget about the funnel entirely. It’s quite the opposite actually. You should still be carefully tracking information about the sale in your CRM and moving prospects from stage to stage as they move down the funnel. This will still help you understand how you should be selling to the buyer, even if they’re not aware of the funnel themselves. Allow them to feel as though they are in complete control of the sales process, even if you are really guiding it behind the scenes. Some prospects may nearly skip over the Evaluation stage and others may combine Qualification and Discovery into one. You have to be flexible, and learn to relax and allow prospects to follow their own path to becoming your customer. As long as you’re aware of where they are in the funnel and the tactics you should use to sell to them in that stage, you will be able to close the deal.
Buyers don’t care about your sales funnel, but that doesn’t mean your sales funnel isn’t important. The funnel it is vital to your selling process, but once you realize that it isn’t driving your prospect’s buying process, the easier your next sale will be.