One of the biggest mistakes Sales VPs and sales organizations make is thinking too much about themselves, and not enough about their prospective buyers. And where this problem rears its ugly head most prominently is, ironically, in the sales process.
This might seem counterintuitive; it’s a sales process – of course it should be designed by the seller, for the seller and with the seller in mind…right?
Wrong! The best sales processes are actually those that think about the buyer’s journey – the long, winding road prospects take before they become a happy customer. You and your sales reps are the ones guiding them through that journey; it is imperative that you know the road that they will take, and put yourselves in their shoes before walking that road.
So, how can you change your sales process from a seller’s perspective to that of a buyer?
The benefits of a buyer-focused sales process
Before we dive into how to switch your sales process to a buyer-focused one, we should first clarify why you want to do this. Here are the three biggest benefits to having a buyer-focused sales process:
Improve your conversion rates by staying more in-tune with what your buyers are thinking at any given time.
Improve your sales forecasting by preventing opportunities from being moved to a later stage than they belong in.
Revive closed-lost opportunities more effectively by having a more accurate sense of why they closed-lost in the first place.
One of the reasons why the aforementioned three benefits occur is because of the stringent exit criteria that exists between each of the buyer’s stage. Before advancing to the next one, the buyer must do or prove certain things; only after that is done, and the criteria is met, will they be advanced.
It’s all about your sales funnel
Now that you know why you should tweak your sales process to a buyer’s focus, it’s time to figure out how to do it, and the how starts with your sales funnel.
What does your sales funnel look like? Chances are it has 4 or 5 stages, with each stage named after what your sales reps are supposed to do there. At the first stage, your reps are qualifying prospects for BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timing), at the next stage they’re presenting their solution, etc. It’s all about, “Me! Me! Me!” with no real consideration as to what the prospect is actually doing and thinking about at each stage.
It’s actually pretty simple to change your mindset and sales process to reflect the buyer’s journey. After all, you’re already halfway there – all you have to do is tweak your perspective slightly.
At this stage, both you and the buyer are qualifying each other, so not much changes here. Your sales reps are qualifying the prospect for need and authority, to make sure the prospect is actually a viable candidate (either now or in the future). Meanwhile, the buyer is qualifying you and your product, to make sure it actually provides a realistic and valuable solution to an existing pain point or that it actually provides a clear and quantifiable ROI.
After the initial qualification on both your parts, it’s time to go a little deeper in your mutual discovery – a much more buyer-focused stage in the journey than “present solution.” The exit criteria at this stage might look a little something like this:
For the seller – The prospect is interested for the fairly immediate future (within the next 90 days). The prospect you’re speaking to is also the authority, or has the power to make buying decisions. Initial and very brief discussion of price has been brought up with no major disagreements.
For the buyer – There is an immediate need for the product, and they would like to learn more about the individual use case for themselves, through more demos or a free trial.
This is when the inspectability of confirmation emails should begin. One reason a buyer-focused sales process works so well is because after every stage, the sales rep should send an email summary of the agreed-upon points – such as the aforementioned exit criteria. This provides a system of checks and balances that can be inspected and verified after the fact.
After the initial discovery, it’s time to really get down to brass tacks and for both sides to evaluate just how serious they are in moving forward.
For the seller – The prospect has, for all intents and purposes, communicated a desire to buy. An email confirms that the prospect was satisfied with the demo or trial and is ready to make serious moves toward bringing your product on board. Budget and timeline should both be fairly firmed up now and should not be blockers.
For the buyer – The prospect wants your product. They have determined that your product will in fact solve their pain, and the technical aspects of onboarding and using your product have been explained.
Time to buy! But first, you have to go over the buying process in explicit terms. This means…
For the seller – they know who exactly will sign (the key decision-maker) and when this will take place. The price has been negotiated and agreed upon. The nuanced terms and conditions have been hashed out, and all legal obstacles have been hurdled.
For the buyer – They have received the contract, with all the kinks and details ironed out to their satisfaction. They are ready to sign!
Congratulations to both parties! You’ve just completed a successful sale, while your new customer is ready to start enjoying the fruits of your product.
This might seem like an ultimately small tweak in your overall sales process, but just shifting your perspective ever-so-slightly to think more from your buyers’ shoes can make a powerful impact. Your new sales funnel – as seen above – will bear higher conversion rates that result in more closed-won deals. Your sales reps will find that prospects are more receptive to their message when approached from a buyer’s point of view. Start seeing things differently today, by changing your sales process.