Why a Structured Sales Process Falls Short
Aligning your sales process with the buyer’s journey is not much of an option anymore—not if you want a top-tier B2B sales organization or even an above average one.
Unfortunately, many sales teams still try to use a structured sales process even after the market dynamics have changed so dramatically. Here’s an example:
- Discover the buyer
- Qualify the opportunity
- Assess pain points
- Present the solution
- Handle objections
However, when we look at a typical B2B buying process, the differences jump out:
- Discover need
- Conduct research
- Identify solutions
- Evaluate solutions
- Narrow selections
The big problem is misalignment. At any given stage, especially early in the engagement, buyers come to the table educated and expect certain responses and information from the seller, but the seller does something different—something in line with their structured sales process. Buyers are on step four or five of their journey, while sellers are on step one or two of their process.
An example of misalignment…
The buyer has done extensive research, calls and asks for product information and pricing not available on the seller’s website.
Instead of responding to the request, the seller explains he really can’t do that yet because he doesn’t know enough about the buyer’s needs, and instead suggests a discovery session. The seller is trained this way—not to provide detailed product information or pricing until he understands and qualifies the buyer. He sees the buyer as “jumping ahead.” The request is outside the steps in his structured sales process.
For the buyer, this is like slamming on the brakes—a real turn off. Instead of perceiving the seller as helpful, the buyer sees the seller as getting in the way of her research—her buying process. It’s hard for sellers to recover from a situation like this.
How to get better alignment with buyers
A great way to look at the B2B buying process: it’s like a train moving slowly through the station. As a seller standing on the platform, you need to be willing to jump on and ride for a while. You can decide to jump off before leaving the station, or elect to stay on board. But in all cases, asking buyers to stop the train or “back up and start from the beginning” is not a good strategy.
Let’s take a look at a few adjustments sales teams need to make to gain better alignment with buyers.
Connect by being helpful
Respond quickly to buyer requests in a positive way. Slide into their situation and get in step with their cadence.
“Yes, I can send you more detailed product information. And I can give you a range on the pricing to give you an idea of the costs involved. I would need to know a little more to provide accurate pricing. Do you mind if I ask a few questions so I can make sure I give you what you’re looking for?”
Make step one in your sales process: “Identify where buyers are in their buying process”
The first thing is to determine how far along buyers are in their journey.
“Can you tell me a little about where you are in your search and selection process? It will help me provide you with the information you’ll need.”
“What solutions have you considered or looked at so far?”
“Can you talk about any ways you’ve tried to address the issues internally without going to an outside solution?”
Buyers are almost always open to talk about their situation and share their journey with you, as long as you are playing ball by responding positively to their requests and being helpful.
A couple of key points:
Don’t talk about your products at this point—other than positive responses like “yes, our solutions can address those challenges.”
Don’t pound them with interrogative questions—especially low level questions on specific issues.
Do share some outcomes you bring your customers such as “On average, we’re able to save our customer about 25% of the time they spend searching for and gathering sales materials.”
Backfill information as you get it
Once you understand where buyers are in their journey, you can begin sharing additional helpful information and asking deeper questions to uncover the goals they have and the challenges they’re trying to address. You can quickly qualify and advance the opportunity forward if you and your company are in a position to help the buyer.