Are there times when your sales process seems longer than needed to win some business? You don’t really need to ask all these discovery questions or meet with multiple contacts and deal with the CRM input, do you? Here’s a scenario when many sales people are tempted to speed things up and take short cuts.
You and your buyer are hitting it off. You have instant rapport and they laughed at all your jokes. You found out you have plenty of things in common and they’ve just poured out praise about your company, product and service. They just about gave you the order at your first meeting, but they need a proposal so you quickly oblige them. It’s not your normal process to shoot out a quick proposal, but heck, why slow things down when you can put one on the books this week? Two months later your manager’s asking what happened to the deal? Aside from not having the order, you don’t have a good answer. The short cut you opted for just slowed this sale to a screeching halt.
Speeding things up in hopes of a quick sale will many times slow things down. Keep this in mind; a sales process is not designed to make you feel good, it’s designed to make your buyer feel great when they buy. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t move things along or pick up the pace (see patient urgency) but skipping steps in your process that’s been designed to help increase sales is risky business. It’s human nature, or should I say sales nature to be tempted to take a short cut in the sales process. Here’s a list of temptations you should be aware of so you don’t go down the slow path of short cuts.
Temptations to speed up the process
- End of the month, quarter or year is near
- Sales management is pressing for more business
- You want to make the buyer happy and a shortcut seems like the answer
- You need the money….NOW
- Buying signals seem strong – (tip to avoid this: there is only one buying signal, an agreement and payment)
- You are trying to wrap it up before the competition gets involved or presents a proposal
- To avoid more work
- So the buyer does not lose interest or change their mind
- To prevent other influencers and users from slowing a decision down
- To win a sales contest
- The prospect does not want to cooperate with your selling process (see managing expectations)
- The buyer wants to control your process in a different direction
- Your focused on your competition more than your customer
Motives behind the temptations
If you study the list of temptations you can find a self-serving or fear motive attached. You are either trying to control the situation from something you fear (like losing the sale) or to get what’s best for you rather than your buyer. If you’re a professional sales person, this alone should be a warning. Fears are related to your thinking and beliefs, which can be managed with some personal work and self-serving motives should be left out of the selling process all together. Of course we’re doing our work for what is in it for our families and us, but while engaged in a selling process with a buyer, you need to keep it about them. Your personal motives should drive you toward more payoff activity and following your sales process.
What should your sales process include?
- An introduction to your contact. This is optional but recommended and why you should focus your prospecting efforts on generating referrals.
- A qualifying step to make sure the person or company fits into the criteria you or your company has pre-determined as worth investing sales time with. A qualifying step will also set expectations of the selling process and confirm agreement.
- Confirmation of understanding and process agreement: Send a letter of understanding to your buyer to confirm your understanding of their situation, expectations, goals, issue or problems and agreed upon next steps.
- Discovery: One or several meetings with all contacts who influence the buying decision. These include financial decision makers, people who use your offering, and others who influence the decision.
- Design or proposal: Done at your office or with the buyer over one or several meetings.
- Present confirm design acceptance: Gain acceptance from all contacts. Many deals are derailed when the financial decision maker is the only person sold. Between design acceptance and final agreement, another contact within the company can change the decision makers mind.
- Final negotiations: Present your proposal and negotiate any final adjustments if needed.
- Consummate the order: You have reached the “Buying Signal”, a signature and payment is made to place an order.
The childhood story of the race between the Tortoise and the Hare is a sales lesson to be heeded every time we begin a sales process. The Hare raced ahead with little foresight. He ran fast because he could, no one was stopping him. The Tortoise on the other hand stuck to his game plan regardless of what the competition was doing. In the end, he won.
By sticking to your sales process and not being tempted to make alterations, you’ll find yourself on the winning side more times than not. There’s one other bonus for sticking to the process. You’ll also have an answer for your sales manager when he asks what happened to that deal.