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Is Your Sales Process Lying to You?

February 02, 2016|Steve Silver

  • A well-designed sales process helps identify the current status of an opportunity, plan next steps and increase predictability of win rates
  • A linear, step-by-step sales process may be ignoring several important factors in the buying process
  • Avoid a “one size fits all” approach to sales process design that doesn’t always align with buyer needs

A well-designed sales process is built on a thorough understanding of the buyer’s decision process, with each sales stage mapped to a distinct stage of the buying process. Each stage has specific attributes such as knowledge inflection points, observable outcomes, sales assets and sales activities. The process and stage attributes are then built into the sales force automation platform so that reps can identify the current status of an opportunity, plan the next set of action items, and increase the predictability of win rates and close dates.

One Size Does Not Fit AllThis sort of linear, step-by-step process works well when there is a well-defined buying process, with known purchase criteria and a set timeframe for a decision – such as a government procurement cycle. But for most b-to-b sellers, this sort of static approach may be ignoring several important factors.

  • First, as recent SiriusDecisions research shows, the decision process almost always involves multiple buyers. In fact, for purchases between $50,000 and $500,000, three to five buyers are involved. And for purchases over $500,000, six or more buyers are involved. Each individual progresses through the decisionmaking process at their own speed, based on their own set of influences and interactions.
  • Second, as any salesperson knows, humans don't always (some would say never) progress toward a decision in a logical or linear fashion. Each individual buyer interacts with the seller throughout every phase of the decisionmaking process, leveraging multiple sources of information and a variety of human and non-human touchpoints such as online demos, sales events, Web content, face-to-face meetings, online forums and peer groups. Each participant in the buying process may be at a different point in the buyer’s journey.
  • Third, the type of opportunity impacts sales process attributes, actions, velocity and win rates. Existing customers who initiate the transaction generally move faster and need less interaction than a new buyer who has initiated an opportunity.

Given these uncertainties and variables, how does the sales rep answer the question, “Where is the buyer in the decisionmaking process, and when will this deal close?”  Reps often end up defaulting to an average, based on assumptions about where most of the buyers are, or focusing on one decisionmaker and trying to chart where they are in the decisionmaking process. 

This “one size fits all” approach to sales process design often results in misalignment with buyers’ information needs or misses key influencers and decisionmakers. An incomplete or inaccurate sales process can contribute to stalled deals, lower conversion and win rates, and forecast inaccuracy.

In my next post, I’ll show you how to assess your current sales process to identify problems and gaps, then we’ll explore some of the current thinking and capabilities around smart sales processes that actually deliver guidance and insight to the sales rep for each unique opportunity type.

Learn more during one of our upcoming webcasts or events - or contact us and we'll be happy to help.

Steve Silver

Steve Silver is a Senior Research Director of Sales Operations Strategies at SiriusDecisions. Steve brings with him more than 20 years of executive-level experience spanning sales operations, sales and product marketing. Follow Steve on Twitter @jstevensilver.

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