Almost every offensive play in football is intended to produce a touchdown if everything goes perfectly. This is true even if the offensive team just needs a few yards for a first down.
In sales, accepting to go forward in sales pushes salespeople forward a few steps, removing the chance to engage with and understand the stakeholders’ requirements and preferences.
It also means they are not able to tailor their product to each particular customer, making execution considerably more difficult if and when orders are made and, as a result, removes one of their main competitive differentiators.
A Non-Linear Sales Process
On paper, the sales process follows a straight, linear route from one step to the next, neatly connecting milestones. It describes the ideal, as any effective plan should. However, it is not intended to take into consideration all of the many routes that you may take to achieve an agreement.
A transaction may go logically from A to B to C, but it may alternatively proceed from A to A to C to B. The sales process does not have to be linear in order to be successful. It is still possible that an agreement may be reached.
Most of the time, particularly in complicated transactions, it is not appropriate to skip phases of the sales process. In reality, it is almost always a formula for subsequent delayed agreements or bad implementation.
In one of the above cases, failing to take advantage of the chance to personalize their product would have resulted in poor execution. The salesperson may have provided the customer what she desired, but it could not have been flawless; there might have been some issues.
The Buying Process Is Just as Important as the Selling Process—If Not More So.
In all of the above instances, the customer was at a point in their purchasing process that did not correspond well with the sales process. In both instances, the sales department was analyzing requirements, while the purchasing organization was resolving issues.
Making Things Relevant
This is never comfortable. Because they haven’t had enough time to learn enough to make the presentation relevant to the customer, the salesperson never feels comfortable presenting and demonstrating their skills.
It doesn’t seem appropriate since it’s difficult to discuss pricing when the services required haven’t been specified enough to know how to price them. It seems that the customer is attempting to negotiate a cheaper price, which is not always the case. And it doesn’t seem right since there haven’t been enough discussions to determine how to add value to the client’s experience.
In each of the above scenarios, the client had enough of what they had seen and heard. They had a problem, they had identified prospective partners and investigated their alternatives, and they knew what they wanted.
Before they even met with these salespeople, their purchasing process was finished. They asked questions to address the list of issues they had collected throughout their process, and they chose to go forward with ordering and pricing negotiations.
The Purchasing Process
The purchasing process is equally as essential, if not more so, than the selling process. Because these customers were at the resolution of concerns stage of the purchasing process, the sales process had to be shortened to match the purchasing process.
That doesn’t mean you can’t go back and gather the contacts, information, and customizations you’ll need to execute effectively. But it does imply that you accept the customer as they present themselves.
Taking the customer where we find them may sometimes imply that the sales process is C to A to B. This is nearly always a recipe for disaster, because you always need more knowledge than you started with. However, it is sometimes where amazing client connections begin.
Consider Creating Enough Value to Advance Sales
You can’t tell whether or not enough value has been generated to move the transaction forward. That choice is made by the customer.
It is your responsibility to provide value to each sales call. It is your responsibility to determine if the customer considers the call to be a value-creating experience. You may ask them if you are uncertain.
Closing The Sale
Finally, the customer chooses whether or not to advance the transaction and, if so, how far. Every sales call must end with a promise that, if achieved, brings you closer to a transaction. For that commitment, you must close.
One of the keys to getting a commitment to go on with a purchase is to provide enough value on each sales call to make the commitment natural and simple to commit to. This implies that the customer must believe that spending time with you is valuable. It also implies that you must be able to explain the value they will get for making a subsequent visit.
However, the most important factor in getting a commitment for future action is to ask for it in the first place. As apparent as it may seem on your screen, the softness pandemic has resulted in a sales culture (if such a thing exists) that refuses to utilize closing language, even when it is merely closing for a future appointment.
The inability (or reluctance) to seek commitments results in the inability to move a transaction forward. As a consequence, sales pipelines are clogged with prospects that have progressed through one step of the sales process but have made no commitment to take further action with the salesperson or their business. Most of the time, the salesperson did not request a future commitment that would progress the transaction.
Instead of closing for a commitment that would advance the sale, the hapless salesperson left the sales call, believing that they would call the client later to schedule a future appointment, or that they would send the promised information and that would advance the sale. Or that the client would review something and get back to them after they had a chance to think about it or discuss it with a colleague.
It’s quite simple: you may not always be closing, but you must always be moving forward. And moving forward still requires soliciting and receiving pledges! Examine your pipeline. Are there any prospects in your pipeline that have stopped because you left the sales call without a commitment that would progress the sale?
Ask For More
If you sell anything that a customer must buy on a regular basis, you have an obligation as a salesman to ask for their order on every sales call. It makes no difference how much they spend with your rival or how long they have had that connection.
If you’re a salesperson, sell. Your ending phrase does not have to make you seem like a tough, old-school salesman. You might begin by stating something like, “I would much appreciate the chance to work with you and your business, and I am prepared to perform an excellent job for you. Is there anything I can do for you right now?”
For those of you who are still afflicted with the softness virus, immunize yourself by gradually increasing your ability to say, “Can I have the chance to fulfil our next order?” Even if you are a valued adviser, this is a required skill.
The sales process is not a straight line. It is the salesperson’s responsibility to move the transaction along from one step to the next, but not to disregard their client’s requirements or the purchasing process. Going all the way and then returning to pick up the bits in between is sometimes necessary.