Focus on controlling your personal sales process to accelerate decisions
There is general agreement that the world of buying and selling has changed, that universally easy access to information has shifted the balance of power in any sales transaction (or purchase transaction) from the seller to the customer.
And, yet, there still remains a major emphasis in selling today on the notion of controlling the sales process, which is just a euphemism for controlling your prospects. (Google “control the sales process” you’ll get 49,400,000 results.) However, there is perhaps no bigger myth in sales today than that of a salesperson controlling their prospects.
Many companies and salespeople still nominally employ traditional “control-oriented” sales models. In these models the prospect moves through an unvarying sequence of steps from Initial Interest to the Decision. Every sale is the same. Or is supposed to be. It’s easy to understand why salespeople gravitate towards this approach to selling. Maintain the illusion of being in “control” is comforting. It’s a hard habit to break. Even though sales doesn’t work that way in practice.
Think about the sales opportunities you work on. Do they all unfold the same way? Does each prospect require exactly the same number of sales interactions to reach a buying decision? Were these sales touches always in the same order? Do the prospects ask the same questions and require the same information from you at exactly the same step of your sales process? Of course not.
I thought about this while taking my dogs for a walk (in case you’re wondering why there is a picture of a dog straining on a leash at the top of this article). Every walk follows pretty much the same route and is just like every other walk that preceded it. Unless, Riley and Nico decide that a compelling new smell emanating from the bushes demands to be investigated. Or, that some pigeons have wandered too close and need to be scattered by a lunge at the end of the leash. Or, that three yappy purse dogs straining on their leashes on the other side of the street need to be greeted and sniffed from stem to stern. Yes, our walks start at Point A and end at Point B, and while they may seem the same to me, Riley and Nico are alert and receptive to the differences and, to them, every walk becomes a unique journey.
Every sales opportunity with a prospect is also a unique journey. What happens when a salesperson is confronted with a sales process that doesn’t conform to what they’ve been trained to expect? Too often, they act as if nothing happened and try to move forward with their sales process. At which point, the prospect’s buying process with them will come to a complete halt. Because, buyer’s have a process, too. And, they won’t move from one step of their decision-making process to the next with unanswered questions.
In fact, sellers should keep in mind that buyers have a buying process for every alternative solution that they’re investigating. While they may be stuck on Step 2 of their process with you, waiting for you to answer a particular important question, they will have moved on to Step 4 with your competitor who was more responsive to the them and provided the answers they needed in Zero-Time.
Instead of thinking about controlling the sales process, which typically is a euphemism for controlling the actions of your prospects, focus on controlling your individual sales process. What this means is controlling how you respond to the requirements of your prospects for the information they need to make a fast, favorable decision.
Effective sellers today are using responsiveness, content and speed as competitive advantages to help their buyers make informed purchased decisions in the least time possible. Notice the emphasis on “help their buyers.” Selling must be a service in support of the buyer. And service, by definition, is not about control. It’s about responsiveness. It’s about giving, not holding back.