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.
This 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.
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.
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.