Abandon your sales process. Really?

In the past several months, I’ve read several blogs and articles that are advising sales leaders to abandon their sales process in favor of adopting their customer’s buying process. In some cases this might be wise advice. But in many, it may result in disaster.

It’s true that the buyer has more control than ever in how they go about purchasing products and services. They also have more information than ever, earlier in their buyer journey. But this does not mean that you should throw caution to the wind and adopt how they want to buy. Here are a few reasons why.

  1. The impact on deal qualification. If you abandon how you sell to the buyer’s process, you will end up chasing a higher percentage of bad deals. What’s a bad deal? One where you will make a poor margin, have a bad solution fit or the buyer may clearly not be someone you want to do business with (poor company fit or high risk concerns). If you abandon your early stage qualification steps, you run the risk of significantly decreasing your level of sales efficiency and increasing your cost of sale. This may be a bad thing to say, but most buyers may not care if this is a good deal for you or not.

  2. The impact on need/solution qualification. Does your prospect really know what is right for them? It’s similar to a patient telling a doctor the cause of their illness and just asking the doctor to blindly do surgery or prescribe medicine – without the doctor doing his/her necessary research and diagnosis. Most buyers want the seller to provide them advisory and consultation along the journey. Nearly every top-producer I have ever had the privilege to work with was a master in consultative selling, needs dialogue and delivery of honest advice no matter if they won or lost the deal.

  3. The impact on your business insights. Insights into the behaviors of your sales people and the key data you need to understand how to help your individual contributors improve. These insights are traditionally bucketed into things like prospecting, needs dialogue, presentation or negotiation skills. Not every sales person is great at each of these. Abandoning in favor of a pure customer process could cause lack of insight into these critical skill sets.

So what is a sales leader to do? The best advice is to align your buyer process with your sales process. This is not a new concept, but one that works really well. Most buyer stages/steps/phases will align with your sales process. What is different are the actions, expectations and goals – and those need to be fully aligned.

Aligning the two processes is not an easy endeavor. It involves a deep understanding of your buyers and the actions and activities that they take when they purchase a solution. It also requires training, coaching and sustainment at the field level. You can’t just send out a single piece of paper to the sales team that shows a buyer process and expect them to understand it or how it relates to their sales process. You will also have to modify your CRM system in order to show the alignment and capture any additional information needed to confirm alignment. Net is that this will affect your people, your process and your technology.

Before considering this journey, engage someone who has done this before (peer, consultant, advisor). Their experience in helping you navigate the project will be immeasurable. Selling is a behavior-based activity, it takes at least two to tango and everyone wants to be the lead. They key is to combine the two processes in a way that both partners are in control and can add value to the overall process. Because we all know that a successful sale is one where both parties are happy with the outcome and the experiences they gained along the way.