TALKING SALES 37: "Track the buying process"

John Smibert

Snakes & Ladders

John DeanIn this interview John (JD) Dean emphasises the importance of being aware of, and to track, the buying process that the customer is following.

He explains that too often we focus too heavily on following our own sales process. This can result in us being out of synch with the journey the client is on which can negatively impact on our sales results (like snakes and ladders).

He also explains that every buying process or journey can be different - therefore we should ensure we understand it and adapt to it in each and every sales opportunity.

John (JD) Dean is a revenue and growth strategist, a board member, an author and a keynote speaker.

See more of the 'TALKING SALES' series here


John: Welcome back JD, I know you're very interested in the whole subject of the buying process versus the sales process, and I think it's a very, very important subject for most salespeople to be across. We need to focus more on buying process, don't we?

JD: Absolutely, yes. The buying process-it's quite interesting, almost every business we've ever done work with actually tracks the sales process. Whether they've done proposal, first meeting, value proposition, etc. - whatever that process looks like. We often talk to organisations about starting to track the buying process, because ultimately the buying process - when a customer's ready to buy, that's when I want to be forecasting opportunities.

So, stop tracking the sales process necessarily, start tracking the buying process, and even maybe thinking about putting that in your CRM. One of our clients has a process where they track both the sales process and the buying process.

John: And I like that as a concept.

JD: Right.

John: As long as the two are very well aligned.

JD: Yes, you're spot on. Spot on.

John: You don't want a sales process that isn't cognizant of what the buying process typically is.

JD: Exactly. So, these guys have got a seven-stage buying process and a seven-stage selling process.

John: Right.

JD: And the alignment is to each of the steps, and I'm continually amazed and stunned that a sales rep will do an account review - in which we have some involvement - and the customer is at stage two, which is developing needs, and we're at stage four which is about to propose a solution. It just doesn't make sense, right?

John: Yes.

JD: Why would we be that far down the track if the customer-we need to be in the thought leadership and providing more insight for the customer, not figuring out how much they're going to buy from us.

John: I like the concept, I think it's really, really important. So, to make sure we put that in place in an organisation and the salespeople get their minds around that: what do you recommend organisations do or think about doing?

JD: There's a process in Solution Selling by Mike Bosworth which I really like, which is mapping what he calls a "go/no-go". What are all the steps that the customer needs to do - looking at a proposal, reference sites; whatever is important to the customer - and actually asking them to spell that all out. So we track that entire buyer process.

John: And that can be different from customer to customer.

JD: It typically would be.

John: Yes.

JD: Yes, absolutely.

John: So it's not about having one buying process that we monitor, it's about making sure we understand the buying process in every single customer and in every single deal, because even within one customer two different deals could have two different buying processes.

JD: And not only that, there's all sorts of other implications such as if a deal's got to go to a board then when do the board meet? Does that suit the timing? Is that really relevant? How quickly do the board papers need to go out? There's a whole bunch of conjecture even within the timing, which enables me to better understand that buying process.

John: And if you don't understand that process and what they're going through to make a decision then you're not in the deal.

JD: Then you're on a slippery slope, the deals slide again, and...

John: And it doesn't matter what your sales process is.

JD: It doesn't matter what the sales process is. And you'll have a sales director on top of you all the time - "Where's that deal at? We don't want to talk about ABC corporation again!"

John: Okay. Great advice, I love the whole subject of buying process and making sure we get our minds around that. Your advice is well-appreciated - thank you, JD!



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Want to touch base? If you have questions please feel free to contact me - email: john.smibert(at), Phone: +61 404857893 or Skype: john.smibert

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