Your prospects don’t care about your sales process — maybe you shouldn’t either

Sales ProcessOne of my friends thinks ‘Sales’ is about talking. Another person I follow on Twitter thinks it is about ‘convincing’ the customer. I wince every time I hear someone characterize an engaging, fluent, fast talking, bloke as ‘sales material’.

Sales, as you might agree(especially if you are in sales yourself), is really not any of that.

Definitely not.

Unless you sell snake oil or some hair cream that promises magical appearance of hair overnight on sprawling bald patches on the head (but of course, you’d have flown out of town overnight before they find out that wasn’t going to happen).

Glib talk, convincing, pushiness…none of that is really sales. Not if you are selling technology solutions. Not if you are in consultative selling. These require a different skill altogether.

But then, is there really something like Consultative Selling at all?

I would argue that there is no such thing. If you really look at the big picture, there ought to be no active selling in consultative selling. If you look back at all the times you have really been successful in closing a deal, you’d realize that more often than not, you have thought less about closing the deal and more about helping your prospect buy. You will realize that each of those times, you really weren’t wearing the old sales hat.

What is likely to have made you successful each time was that you helped those prospects decide what was right for them. You put aside your hard-sell compulsions and your quarterly target pressures and the lure of sales incentives and truly enabled the prospect along his journey of his buying process. Of course, you also got them to see how your product or service was a right fit, but essentially all you did was only align their need with what you had to offer.

You did not force-fit your product or service to their need…or your timeline.

A good sales guy wouldn’t hesitate, when he has all the required facts, to tell the customer that his product or service doesn’t quite meet the need of the customer – he may even advise the customer not to buy his product or service.

And yet, how come the good sales guy seems to think of his sales process as being a series of milestones along his engagement with Mr.Prospect? Geofferry James makes a great point of this in a recent article “The Real Truth About Sales Process” where he says

Sales process is not about how you sell but how the customer buys.

That really is spot on.

The customer really doesn’t care about your sales process at all. Or your targets and all the reasons that motivate you to engage with them.

Sales is really about enabling the customer to buy. A good sales guy puts his effort in making sure the customer is able to address their need, he puts his effort behind establishing credibility as a decision-enabler – not around the chance of a sale at the end of a rigid sales process. A process, which really is very internal to you and your sales team.

If your sales process is too rigid to align to the customers buying process, you have a big problem. As Geoffery says,

…here’s the real truth about sales process: it must be adaptive rather than manipulative.

Make that crucial distinction and your sales process will help, rather than hinder, your sales efforts.

Well said.

It is a private motivation only another sales guy would know, but when it comes to consultative selling, the real joy is not as much in closing a deal as much as seeing the customer look back and feel good about his buying decision. And be thankful that he trusted you.

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Categories: Information Technology, Selling, Strategy

Author:Jaisundar Venkat

Jaisundar Venkat is a process professional specialized in Business Process Management. Jaisundar leads BPM Consulting at a large technology firm and is on a mission to help companies achieve the fundamental promise of BPM. His areas of interest include BPM, CRM, SFA, Sales Performance Optimization, Corporate Performance Management and general IT industry developments & trends. He writes on these topics at his own blog, BouncingThoughts.com and also writes for a few popular sites specializing on Business Technology trends, specifically the crucial intersection between Business and IT.

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4 Comments on “Your prospects don’t care about your sales process — maybe you shouldn’t either”

  1. May 30, 2013 at 12:33 am #

    Jaisundar
    I enjoyed reading this. In principle you are right, but of course their are other factors that come into play – such as sales and revenue targets and incentive schemes.

    Your core point about listening and discovering needs is certainly critically important. But there are a couple of things that tend to go wrong. One is how well the customer actually understands and can express their own requirement. Especially in a fast-moving field like technology, getting alignment with what is possible can be extremely challenging. My requirement definition is often constrained by your inability to explain what I could perhaps achieve. And that is especially problematic when requirements are actually generated by a whole host of internal stakeholders, most of whom are not even in the room.

    Second, you are right that the sales person should be explaining how their product or service aligns with needs. But it is perhaps unlikely that most sales people will be quite so forthcoming with regard to short-comings or areas where the alignment is not so good. And in today’s complex and volatile business environment, they may not even be aware of some of the likely limitations.

    At IACCM, we conduct extensive research and one area we have studied is around the most frequent sources of claim and dispute between customers and suppliers. First on the list is ‘disagreement over scope and goals’. So the point you are making is clearly important – and it is also clear we have a long way to go to put it right. There are key questions to be considered about how to get the sales and buying processes better aligned, but also about the skills and knowledge needed on both sides. Finally, I would make the point that many buyers ask the wrong questions and fail to undertake proper exploration of supplier capabilities, so if they are victims of ‘the sales process’ it is perhaps their own fault!

  2. May 30, 2013 at 7:17 am #

    Thanks for the comment and that very interesting insight from the study.

    It’s true many prospects/customers are unable to express their own requirements. And I think that is really where the ‘consultative’ bit comes in – and really, that is where our sales person’s responsibility begins. Being a subject matter expert of sorts in the area, it is also his responsibility (arguably?) to help in articulation of the problem and define the need jointly with the customer. In a way, he is holding the hand of the prospect and taking them along the path of understanding and defining their own requirements accurately. And so he ought to handle that responsibility responsibly. This is a position of influence and it is tempting for a sales guy (who is thinking y/q/m targets and incentives and closure glory) to mislead, or at least not lead right. IMHO this is what makes consultative selling unique.

    I don’t know if the customer really cares if the sales process is aligned to his buying process. In a way its a good thing to have considering there is a balance of mutual interest, but it is not a prerogative of the customer.

    In the end i think it comes back to the guy selling. He is the one that needs to adapt.

    Thanks again for the comment!

  3. Tapan
    July 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm #

    Very well articulated Jai. Infact sales is no longer about selling pet-rock or selling a refrigerator to an eskimo….It has to be need based……

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  1. Honesty in Sales | Commitment Matters - May 30, 2013

    […] On the Successful Workplace blog, Jaisundar V wrote a thought-provoking piece under the title ‘Your prospects don’t care about your Sales process – maybe you shouldn’t ei…. […]

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