Sales and Marketing
What is a “Winning” Sales Process in the Modern World?
Most people, when asked, suggest that they don’t like to sell and don’t like to be sold. This feeling of antipathy towards sales usually comes from a wide range of experiences which have not felt very positive (or are sometimes extremely negative) and are therefore best avoided, if at all possible. If these experiences have involved selling (outbound sales), individuals will have felt the frustration of trying to reach a decision maker, having to overcome many objections, dealing with unreturned phone calls or emails and general resistance to almost any “pitch”. And if these experiences have been on the buying (inbound sales) individuals will have often had the feeling that every possible product/service solution looks the same, is misrepresented or oversold in some way, or perhaps, doesn’t ultimately fit their needs even when they’ve said “yes” – leaving a “ bad taste on the mouth”. In this sense, both parties in the sales transaction are actually looking for a better or more positive, less “friction-full” process or one that represents more of a “win” for both of them. So what could or should this process look like, especially in the modern business world where we now have so much “new technology” to help or hinder what we do? In this brief article, we will suggest that such a process should include five key steps:
STEP 1-Carefully qualify the prospect ahead of time
Perhaps first and foremost and for the benefit of both the seller and the buyer in the relationship, every effective selling process must qualify the person who has some “pain”. In simple terms, this means determining whether or not there is a good fit between a prospect’s business challenge or issue (and the need for a new solution or approach to deal with it) and our specific expertise/product/service that we offer (to assist or provide a solution). Given this need, qualification effort must ask questions such as:
- Can we deliver a tangibly valuable result for this issue/challenge or pain point?
- Is our solution the best that is available in the circumstances?
- What will the prospect do if he or she (or they) cannot solve this issue/challenge or pain point?
In summary, these questions are all geared to determine whether the prospect’s pain is broadly relevant enough for them to be interested in our product/service and that our proposed solution is likely to justify them making a change, assuming that our solution is the best available to help them reach their goal?
STEP 2-Collaborate to assess the potential solution
Sales should never be about slavishly following a pre-defined process or telling a prospect a series of “canned” statements about a possible solution. Instead, both seller and buyer will benefit most when they collaborate on the specific needs in question and on how the potential solution will meet those needs. The main emphasis here therefore should therefore be on carefully working together to determine what actual results would be deemed to be acceptable, good and even great in the future when measured. Naturally, the means by which this outcome will be measured can also be discussed and agreed upon together.
STEP 3-Quantify the “pain”
Once a prospect has been carefully and properly qualified and the “pain” and its possible alleviation appropriately identified, the next step is to quantify what actual “harm” this is causing in tangible terms, whether this is monetarily or in terms of lost time, poor quality, general wastage or other respects. In other words, the buyer and seller should work together to determine exactly what the impact of this pain will be in the short, medium and long term so that the likely losses are fully appreciated and the investment that may be required to lessen and remove them are appreciated also. This step is crucial to the buyer because it shows that the seller appreciates the real impact and will therefore keep prices “reasonable” given this and crucial to the seller because it allows the price discussion to be avoided until the impact has been fully quantified and agreed upon thereby showing that the price is justified to get a good result.
STEP 4-Exchange information openly
Once agreement has been broadly reached on the impact of not solving the particular problem or addressing the so-called “pain” and discussion has taken place on how improvement results can successfully be measured, debate what should be done and when, exchanging information in both directions as this is done. This information exchange process may be quite short but needs to go on as long as necessary as it helps to build the relationship and forge the partnership which together will solve the problem.
STEP 5-Close the process together
At this final step both seller and buyer can close the sale cycle together or collaboratively by talking about exactly what it is best to do, by when and in what way or how. Although this appears to be a step that may be difficult or uncomfortable for either or both parties, if the previous four steps have been followed, it is a surprisingly easy end to the process and one that can positively maintain the relationship so that future measurement and review can take place to ensure that the agreed upon solution is fit for purpose (and if not adjustments can be made).