In case you didn’t know- I have not been one of those ‘lifelong’ salespeople. I disliked sales so much, that when I settled on what I wanted to learn in college, it was marketing because I wanted to learn how to use marketing to make salespeople obsolete. At least- based on what my perception of salespeople was. If you read Daniel Pink’s book, “To Sell Is Human”, you know that his research claims that 7 out of 10 people have a negative perspective of sales as manipulation, pushy, aggressive, etc. I was certainly one of the 7.
I’m reminding you of this (or informing if you are new to this blog) because like that new employee you just hired, I sometimes look at the way things are done and ask “Why?”. Even now, several years later, I still shake my head and inwardly roll my eyes when I see what most sales processes consist of today. (That is if they even have one that is written down and used consistently!)
When a recent prospect sent me their newly designed sales process and stated that the outcomes they wanted from it were that buying decisions were made on value and ROI- I pushed back pretty hard when I saw that the description of their stages (Promotion, Education, Discovery, Presentation, Implementation) were all about them and no where did I see an indication of a buyer’s behaviors. It had nothing to do with what buyers were doing or asking about at each stage and in no way added value for them.
Unfortunately, these are traits I see a lot. Here are four that I see that irk me the most, because they harm more than they help.
1- They have little to do with buyers. It’s all about the sales process steps, not the buyer’s buying process or the way they make decisions. And this ties back into how salespeople are trained. The training is based on the product and the sales process. No wonder salespeople struggle to remember that this is all about the buyer, not them. It’s being drilled into their heads the moment they step through the door.
What is the first thing your training and sales process talks about? If it isn’t the buyer and their problem, are you unknowingly setting your team up to fail?
2- They force salespeople to ask questions in the wrong way. Because the sales process is all about you, the questions that salespeople are trained to ask are all about qualifying, budget, and product features. And don’t forget there are all types of questions from open, leading, data based, issue uncovery, feel based, etc. It’s not that salespeople don’t know they should be asking more and better questions- the struggle is what questions to ask when and how?
David Hoffeld describes how we coach salespeople to ask questions in his book “The Science of Selling”. Most salespeople are ok at asking first ‘layer’ of questions to probe into a problem that buyers want to fix or an opportunity they don’t want to miss. But transitioning into the second layer of questions that uncover why it is a problem and then the third layer of why it is an important problem are where most sales questions fall short.
If your sales process is designed around you, then is it any wonder that is what salespeople default to asking buyers about? And it they don’t default to it the scripted questions that your sales process dictates must be asked in order to move it to the next stage in the CRM- then they are scrambling internally to figure out what to ask, they stop listening to what the buyer is really saying (or not saying).
3- They don’t help measure sales behaviors that lead to outcomes. Knowing what happened is important, but even more so is knowing what lead to that outcome. And if you really want to get ahead of poor sales performance- outcomes are a lagging metric. Behaviors are a predictive metric. And if you really want to 10X the performance of your sales team, dig deeper into what drives the behaviors. Which mindsets do your salespeople have that support (or inhibit) the sales behaviors that lead to making and breaking quota?
4-They are built on the “this is what we did before at XYZ company” premise. Probably the most common way I see most sales processes are design is based someone’s previous experience at a company, a competitor’s process, how the CRM consultant set up the system, or the lastest trending methodology that the newest groundbreaking book describes in detail. Where’s the objective science? How is it customized to your buyer and business? Are you repeating the mistakes of another, or worse- alienating your buyer because there is no value added to them during the process?
Please don’t misunderstand me- a sales process is important. You can not scale or accelerate sales without one. It will never be ‘perfect’, in fact it should always be evolving with your buyer. (Or should I say, revolving around your buyers, like the planets around the sun?)
But does your sales process help both your salesperson and buyer answer these questions?
- Do you understand the problem? Do they have a problem you can fix?
- Why is it a problem? Do they know it?
- Why is it important to fix? Do they want it fixed?
- How will it be decided? Can they tell me to fix it?
- What is it worth? What if it is not fixed?
Download the editable 'Layered Questions Framework' and fill in your own questions to help you model your sales process around your buyer.