Creating a Buyer Aligned Sales Process
A best in class sales process will help you win more deals. It will also help you win bigger deals faster and more frequently. One key to an effective sales process is designing it in such a way that is keeps sales reps in sync with the buyer throughout the buyer journey including their purchasing process. Not only does this ensure sales reps keep the buyer's needs front and center across all touch points of the sales cycle but this is also what enables sales people to create a memorable and valuable customer experience. These elements tied together drive adoption of your sales process. After all, your reps will quickly know whether or not your sales process is grounded in reality or if it is nothing more than marketing jargon simply relying on a numbers game.
The problem with most sales processes is they focus exclusively on the seller and/or recruiter's activities and actions. Look at the illustration to the right. Look familiar? This is how most in the staffing industry would describe or illustrate their sales process. Or, it may simply be cold call-meeting-job order. For these firms, sales is purely a numbers game. They believe if they do "X" of this and "Y" of that they will win "X" number of deals. IT staffing sales teams have gotten by with this approach for decades but it no longer works. How do I know? Have you been on your sales floor lately? Chances are it is like crickets. Dead silence. Why? Because this process no longer works. Your reps no longer believe in this. This is why many sales reps no longer pick up the phone.
Below I highlight the typical sales process and philosophy for today's legacy IT staffing sales manager and today's misguided sales rep.
Legacy Sales Manager: "Dan, I need you to get 10 meetings a week. This will get you to <fill in any random number> job orders per week and <fill in any random number>start per week."
Today's Misguided Sales Rep: "I'm going to do the bare minimum to keep my manager off my back. So I'm going to book my 10 meetings per week within anyone who will meet with me, even if I know the person is not qualified. Heck, that random and coincidental run-in I had with Jim Smith in the hallway last week while meeting with Sally Jones ABC Company....I will log that as a sales meeting too."
Let's take this illustration one step further.
Today's Misguided Sales Rep Calls Today's Empowered Buyer "Hello Mr. Customer, Dan Fisher with XYZ staffing, I was calling because I will be in the neighborhood next week and wanted to see if I could pop in for fifteen minutes to introduce myself, drop off my business and share with you a little about our company service offerings and how we might help you in the future. How does Tuesday at 10:00 am look?"
Today's Empowered Buyer "No thanks, I'm not currently in the market for your service and I don't have any needs. Besides, you need to get on our approved list with our HR department."
This is a classic example of a sales rep "selling out sync with their buyer." In this case the seller is pushing a message that the buyer simply is NOT ready to hear and they certainly are NOT in a position to commit to the action (meeting with the rep) the sales rep is asking of them. In essence, the sales process is not aligned with how today's empowered buyer buys.
This "old school" sales process and legacy management philosophy is flawed and generates all sorts of negative outcomes including:
- Weak behavior on behalf of the sales rep (they will push to meet with anyone to keep their manager off their back)
- Longer sales cycles for opening new accounts and generating net new bookings (placements) because the focal point of the sales process is on the sales rep executing his or her scripted message and self-serving agenda
- Low sales win rate due to poor or no qualification
- Increase in missed quota because sales reps rely too heavily on business from existing customers and the three reasons listed above
How, then, can you enable a more effective sales force? How can you create a sales process that that gets your team excited, where they want to execute the activities? by creating a buyer aligned sales process.
Why a Buyer Aligned Sales Process is Worth the Investment
For staffing leaders looking to improve sales rep 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. The way a buyer makes a decision varies by buyer persona as well as the industry they work, company size and other factors. Most importantly, 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 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 scripted company pitch.
Instead of making a sales pitch for a meeting or obtaining a job order today's top performer focuses on guiding their buyer through their buying journey and purchasing process. They map their sales process including their messaging and content to the needs of the buyer as their progress through the buyer journey. A sales process that is designed to support the buyer also supports 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
The buyer journey refers to the specific steps and action items that your prospect or targeted audience completes in order to buy your service. The first step to connecting your sales process to the buyer journey starts with plotting out a process that includes the completion of each step and objective the buyer is trying to accomplish for each stage. This normally starts with the buyer recognizing they have a problem that needs to be resolved and the research that follows.
Next, below the buyer journey plot out a process the includes the completion of each each step and goal you (the sales rep) are trying to achieve for each stage. This is your high level sales process. After you complete this ask yourself the following question, "is my sales process aligned with my buyers to support and help them through their buying journey?" If this answer is no keep reading.
For many, reconciling the sales process to align with the buyer journey can be confusing and challenging. For instance, you probably have "Qualify" as a stage in your sales process but where and how does that fit in with the buyer journey? Before the customer can make a decision they first need to decide "am I committed to making this change?" (remember, hiring a new staffing firm or consultant requires a change from the status quo and your customer to make changes to do their daily work routine). So the "qualify" stage could map in parallel to the "commitment to change" stage.
I think you will find as I have that redesigning the stages and objectives of your sales process will help you and your sales people 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 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 (perhaps you have read some if it like my Cold Calling Tips 2.0, Objection Rebuttal Book, and Face to Face Meeting Playbook) but I had very little content designed for buyers in the consideration stage. Now I have consideration stage content that includes the eBooks Sales Training That Sticks and Why Menemsha Group's Prospecting Methodology Reigns Supreme. If you read them you will notice they focus a little more on how Menemsha Group does things and helps IT staffing firms as opposed to my awareness stage content which is focused purely on educating the reader on a topic rather than positioning Menemsha Group as the solution. I still need more of this content but when someone shares with me that they are considering sales training I know to share this relevant content with them.
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.