Creating a Buyer Aligned Sales Process
Operationalizing your sales team under a common sales process will help you win more deals. It will also help you win bigger deals faster and more frequently. Most staffing organizations make two fatal mistakes when it comes to creating a sales process.
First, most staffing organizations invest heavily in Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) and/or Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software with the expectation that the software is the sales process. Your CRM or ATS software is NOT your sales process but a system to support the automation workflow of your sales process. This strategy and investment rarely translates into field adoption, resulting in unpredictable and unfavorable results.
Second, when designing sales process, most staffing organizations focus exclusively on the activities to be performed by the seller or the recruiter and fail to account for what the buyer has to do in order to buy the service and hire the candidate.
In this blog post I'm going to share with you how creating a buyer aligned sales process improves sales effectiveness and creates value for the customer.
Look at the illustration to the right. Look familiar? This is how most in the staffing industry would describe or illustrate their sales process. What is missing in the diagram are all of the steps and activities that the buyer must complete and the decisions the buyer must make before the sale can close.
Once your sales reps are able to connect the two they can:
- Improve the buyer experience and add customer value
- Tailor and align their messaging based on where the customer is in their buying process
- Increase win rates
- Accelerate the sales cycle and avoid stalled or delayed sales cycles
As your salespeople are progressing through the stages of the sales process, their prospects and customers are on their own path—the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, commit to and make a decision to purchase your or service. Top performing sales teams develop buyer personas, which can help an organization map out the buyer’s journey in detail.Aligning Your Sales Process with the Buyer's Journey
Understanding where a prospect is in their buying process helps salespeople ask the right questions, share the most relevant information and focus on solving the most relevant problems, all of which moves the prospect to the next step of their buying process.
Creating and adopting a buyer aligned sales process allows your sales reps to quickly identify where a prospect is in the buyer’s journey, and meet them in the correct step of the selling process.
To align your sales process with the buyer’s journey, let’s define what activities or actions the prospect or client is taking during each stage of their journey.
- Awareness Stage: The buyer realizes they have a problem to solve or a goal to achieve
- Consideration Stage: The buyer defines their problem and considers their options for resolving the issue
- Commitment Stage: The buyer must decide if they are commitment to making the change
- Decision Stage: The buyer makes a final decision and picks a solution or vendor
Why a Buyer Aligned Sales Process is Worth the Investment
For staffing leaders looking to improve sales effectiveness, drive consistency, increase deal sizes, improve win rates and shorten your sales cycles, you'll want to consider adopting a buyer aligned sales process. When sales people take the time to put themselves in the shoes of the customer and "see things as the customers see them," sales reps gain a deep appreciation for how and why customers buy. Aligning your sales process with your buyer and how they buy will allow you to put the needs of your prospects front and center and make them the the focal point of your sales process rather than centering your sales process on your self-serving agenda and company pitch.
Instead of making a sales pitch for a meeting or pushing the customer for a job order, today's top performer focuses on guiding their buyer through their buying journey and purchasing process. They align their sales process including their messaging and content to the needs of the buyer as their progress through the buyer journey. A buyer aligned sales process is one that is designed to support the buyer and the seller to educate, consult and even challenge the buyer at each stage of the sales cycle. While this does require an upfront investment, it improves sales effectiveness and drives genuine buy-in from the sales force because it simply makes sense. It's how today's buyers buy which makes it the right way to sell. Who doesn't want to be viewed by their customer as a thought leader who is helpful and consultative? This process caters to and supports those sales behaviors.
Connecting Your Sales Process to the Buyer Journey
As mentioned previously, the buyer's journey refers to the specific steps and action items that your prospect or targeted audience must complete in order to buy your service. The first step to connecting your sales process to the buyer journey starts with plotting out the sequence of steps, activities or events the buyer is trying to complete as they evaluate their options and make their final decision. This normally starts with the buyer recognizing they have a problem (awareness stage) that needs to be resolved and the research that follows.
Next, below the buyer journey plot out the activities and steps the seller must complete to support the buyer in completing each step of their buyer journey. For example, if the prospect is in the awareness stage and experiencing symptoms of a data integration issue, the sellers activities should focus on providing the prospect with unbiased, third-party information such as a white paper or bench marking study to help the prospect diagnose their issue. The seller should NOT be pitching a candidate and pushing for a meeting.
This is your high level sales process. Review the illustration below to help guide you through the process of creating a buyer aligned sales process.
I think you will find as I have that redesigning the stages and objectives of your sales process will help you and your salespeople gain a greater appreciation of how and why customers buy and the process they go through.
Build Value into the Sales Process
After you map out your sales process, go back and examine each stage and think about what content, tools, resources and messaging would be most relevant and valuable for your buyer to receive and hear based on their stage of the buyer journey. For example, a buyer in the awareness stage probably doesn't want to hear your pitch on an available candidate nor do they want to sit down and meet with you to learn about your services since they can do that initial research online and are not yet considering potential solutions. What would be more relevant is the sales rep sharing information with the buyer to help them better understand their issue.
Repeat this process for each stage. When I went through this process I discovered that I had a lot of prospects in the awareness stage but I struggled to move my prospects down the funnel to the consideration and decision stage. What I discovered was I had created a lot of content for buyers in the awareness stage, but I had very little content designed for buyers in the consideration stage. Chances are you have content and messaging for prospects in the decision stage but not in the awareness or consideration stage. I've found that most staffing firms lack content and messaging for buyers in the awareness, consideration and commitment stage.
Finally, keep in mind that not all buyers follow the exact same buyer journey or purchasing process and purchasing habits and process change over time. This means your sales process will need to be agile. Designing your sales process is not a one time even but rather a living, breathing entity that evolves over time. The better you’re able to align your sales process with how your buyer's buy the more effective your sales reps will be. Fortunately, the investment to get there is well worth it.
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.