In 2014, buyers, consumers and prospects will be smarter than ever. By the time they engage with your sales rep, they will have done their fair share of research and know all the in’s and out’s of your product and its various features. That old piece of advice that sales management used to dole out to sales reps – Always Be Closing? That is now an archaic line of thinking that no longer works on prospects today.

What sales reps need to do is stop focusing so much on selling. Instead, they need to start getting in the mindsets of the people they are trying to sell to – sales reps need to think more like buyers, in 2014 and beyond.

It all begins with your sales process

How can you expect your sales reps to think like buyers if your sales process does not match up to the buying process that your customers go through? It all begins here, starting with the sales pipeline stages you define.

Previously, your pipeline stages might have reflected the perspective of your sales reps and their sales cycle. They were probably nudged in this direction by your Salesforce or CRM software, which focuses on internal tasks, i.e. what your sellers are doing. In truth, your sales pipeline stages should map directly to the buyer’s perception of what their next step is, with crystal-clear conversion points.

For example, your seller’s process might look something like: Initiate – Educate – Validate – Justify – Close. That makes sense to your sales reps because that’s the process you go through, the different stages or checkpoints you hit in your CRM. However, your prospects are not likely to respond to that – they’re not (and shouldn’t have to) put themselves in the shoes of your reps.

Instead, your sales pipeline stages should reflect the buyer’s mindset at those aforementioned stages and look more like: Initial interest – Education – Transfer of Ownership – Rationalize – Decide. Notice the difference? While there are similar things happening at each stage, the difference is that you’re now approaching pipeline stages from their perspective, instead of your own. These subtle tweaks in stage names will make all the difference in how your reps think about what they are to do at each phase.

Thinking like a buyer vs. thinking like a seller

Buyer’s Process

Seller’s Process

Initial Interest




Transfer of Ownership






Customers don’t want to be sold to: they want their problems solved!

Customers have a natural aversion to being sold to. Hard-sell tactics that talk about product features will sound like “blah blah blah” on an uninterested prospect’s deaf ears. But what if, in thinking like the buyer, you stumble upon their pain point? Suddenly, their ears will perk up and their curiosity will be piqued.

The pushy salesman who is always thinking about closing is falling by the wayside in favor of the helpful expert who happens to know a lot about these particular pain points and has possible solutions. The prospect has this pain point and is currently residing in a window of dissatisfaction – the buyer realizes that their needs are not being met and are looking for alternatives, one of which might be you.

What you have to do, then, is create a trigger event – that’s where your sales reps come in. Have them put themselves in the shoes of these reps and ask, “If I were facing this pain point, what types of solutions would I want to hear about?” By adopting this buyer’s mentality, they will be able to better deliver results and insights that the prospect is looking for.


Thinking like a buyer should govern all levels of an organization, from the initial messaging of the sales pitch to the nurturing campaigns at each level of the buying process. From day one of training, your sellers should be focused on a buyer-centric mindset, and this should carry throughout your sales process. Start thinking like that and see your sales results soar.

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