Jul 10, 2023 • Podcast

How do I establish a sales process?

Paul tells what to do and what not to do when establishing a sales process.

Show Notes

A sales process will guide you through the uncertainty of customer decision making.

Deals will stall out. Where is the opportunity lost? A sales process will help you pinpoint where the deal fell through.

Your sales process should not be about how your company wants to sell, but how your customer wants to buy.

To have a successful sales process, you must follow the customer’s buying path.

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How do I establish a sales process?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we’re going to talk about establishing a sales process: why it’s important, how to do it, and what common mistakes companies make when they are establishing their sales process. So, we’re going to get into that in just a few moments.

Before we get into establishing our sales process, know that Value-Added Selling and Selling Through Tough Times both have sales processes to help guide you as a salesperson. So pick up your copies. Value-Added Selling and Selling Through Tough Times are available wherever you get your books. So check it out. You can learn more about those processes. I will say with Value-Added Selling, it’s specifically designed to help you sell more profitably. So if you are in a price-sensitive industry, or you tend to be higher priced in your market, I would encourage you to start there. Selling Through Tough Times is really, I’ll say, a simplified process to guide your efforts. If you’re brand new to sales, if you are facing a rolling recession in your industry, or you’re just having a tough time, hey, check it out. It’s going to be there for you as well. Again, both books available wherever you get your books—Amazon, you name it, you can find it there.

So let’s get to it. How do I establish a sales process? Well, first and foremost, a sales process is important because it helps guide your effort as a salesperson. Selling is not like a manufacturing process. With a manufacturing-type process, you can plug in certain elements, you follow a protocol, and you are going to get a predictable outcome—predictable outcome every single time. Selling is not like that because you can do everything right, and the customer still makes a bad buying decision. And so, you need something to help guide you through that uncertainty, and a process gives you that ability. So that’s why it’s important. But also, it’s a great coaching tool because one thing you’ll notice is that deals just get stalled out, or they don’t make it through and you need to figure out, okay, where is the opportunity lost? And if you look at your process and you see where you’re losing, that is an indicator of how you need to improve as a salesperson. So again, establishing that process is critical.

We’re going to get into it. I’m going to share just a few ideas. We’re going to keep this relatively simple. No need to complicate something that should be easy. So let’s get started.

I would encourage you to begin with your customer’s buying path: not how you want to sell it, but how they buy it. And this is the most common mistake organizations make. They put together a sales process and they base it on how they wish they could sell their solution or how they want to sell their solution. It’s not about how they want to sell it, it’s how the customer wants to buy it. So, we need a realistic understanding of everything our customers go through.

Now, in Value-Added Selling, we call this the Critical Buying Path® exercise. And what’s fascinating, you hear a lot about customer journey, and the customer stages, and this and that, and that really became popular back in, let’s say early 2000s. And this has been part of Value-Added Selling since the 90s. I mean, it really is ahead of its time as far as being truly customer focused. So, the Critical Buying Path® is basically your end-to-end customer experience. It’s the series of steps that your customers go through from the moment a need exists up to complete satisfaction of that need with your solution and eventually the disposal of your solution. And so this Critical Buying Path® generally breaks down into three phases: the pre-sale phase, the transaction phase, and post-sale usage. So, I would talk to your customers, get a sense of every little step that they go through, and create a general Critical Buying Path®. This gives you an aerial view of how your customers make decisions and who is going to be involved.

Now, the hidden benefit of going through this process, you will uncover ways to add value at each step along the way. That’s part of what it means to truly be a value-added seller—you have to add value at each step your customer goes through. So again, I would come up with twelve, fifteen steps. Think about all the steps your customers go through, label them, familiarize yourself with them, and look for ways to add value.

So that’s going to be a great tool to help guide your effort. And then, based upon the Critical Buying Path®, I would then look at some of your most successful customer relationships. Think about those long-term customers. These are going to be your top 20% that deliver 80% of your revenue and 80% of your profit. Look at those customers and ask yourself, “Okay, what were the series of steps? What were the selling activities that I engaged in to win this business?” If you are analyzing, let’s just say 20 customers, 20 of your best customers, and you ask that question, “Okay, what were the common steps that I went through to win this business,” you’re going to come up with probably 10-12 selling strategies that you used to help you win that business. And so, if you can analyze it, look for the overlap, and then label it. You now have a series of steps to help guide your selling effort. And these series of steps should run parallel with your customer’s buying path. Because your customer’s needs will drive your action. And so, what must be ever present in our process is the understanding that it is following the customer’s buying path as well. And having that parallel focus is going to help you sell more effectively.

And another thing, again, with selling, selling is a very fluid process in that it changes—it’s dynamic. So, it’s important that you remain flexible because some of the steps in your selling process may happen out of order, they may happen all at once. We must be flexible, and again, by focusing on the customer and what they go through, that’s going to give us opportunities to add value. Well, that is why and how you establish a sales process.

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