Accelerating the Sales Cycle: Focus on the Buyer’s Purchase Cycle
POSTED : September 19, 2011
BY : PK

This is the 2nd in a series of articles we’ll be posting in the coming weeks designed to provide sales leaders with tips and best practices on how your organization can optimize your sales cycle. Read our first post here.

Any sales manager will tell you that you can’t accelerate your sales cycle until you have a well-defined sales process that your team can easily replicate on every call. No argument here, but all too often when we ask sales managers to tell us what their buyers’ purchase cycle is we are faced with blank stares.

Focus on the Buyer Process

Regrettably, while tremendous value can be gained from a well-defined sales process, sales managers are too often lulled into process nirvana (aka sales process, call planning, sales playbook, sales motions, etc.) and often neglect to consider—and we would argue– the more important part of the process equation: the buyer’s purchase cycle.

Any effective sales process must effectively anticipate the process buyers must go through when considering ANY purchase. The most elegantly conceived sales process is not worth the laminate you’ve entombed it in if it does not effectively map to the buyers’ purchase cycle.

Here is an example of a typical sales process we’ve seen utilized by inside sales teams:

On its own, this high-level process provides good guidance for the sales team. But take a look at how much more compelling a “Sellers Process” process becomes when viewed through the prism of the “Buyer’s Process”:

Notice how we’ve intentionally re-stated the Seller Process steps to more accurately reflect the intent of the Buyer Process step which precedes it:

Acknowledge the Buyer: Managers have trained sellers to immediate begin qualifying the buyer. While certainly for cold calls this makes sense (but in the age of Linkedin, Marketing Lead Gen, Database Mining, is anyone really making cold calls anymore?) Try instead “acknowledging buyers (even on “cold calls”): “I see you’ve been quoted as endorsing a competitor solution. While the results you reported are indeed very impressive, I wanted to make sure you were also aware of the features of our solutions which our customers tell us to outperform our competitor in almost every category.”

Identify Buyer’s Specific Needs

Be sure to drill down on the specific problem/opportunity/pain point/budget criteria, etc. the buyer is trying to resolve with their intended purchase: “Regardless of which solution your company ultimately chooses, can you please tell me the one or two criteria the final solution must meet in order to win your business?”

Prove the Solution Meets the Need

Once you know the specific criteria under which the buyer will make a purchase, hammer home as many as ways as possible how your solution uniquely satisfies the buyer’s stated purchase criteria. (extra credit: if your solution only provides parity to other solutions in the market, don’t fret—make sure they know the solution meets their needs as well as others AND comes with something the competitor product does not come with – YOU! “I am confident that our solution meets all of your critical needs and, while I know there are competitor products out there you may be considering, I will personally make sure that if you reward our company with your purchase I will do everything possible to make sure you get the support you need to get successfully implement our solution into your business.”

Complete the Transaction 

Sellers want to Close; Buyers want Completion: A well-executed order, one that follows the buyers purchase policy; on-time delivery; follow-up support if needed, etc. Give buyers what they want and you are one step closer to the next and final – and, we would argue—the most important step in the Sales Process…

Confirm Buyer’s Satisfaction

When is the last time you called a customer you sold to last month/quarter/year and asked them if they were satisfied with their purchase? If you are not doing so on a routine basis, you are missing perhaps the greatest opportunity to accelerate future sales with not only your immediate buyer but any buyers your customer is willing to refer you to.

If you are looking to accelerate your sales cycle, take a look at your Sales Process and determine how well it maps to your Buyer’s Process. If it’s not aligned, start talking to your customers today and let the sales process re-engineering begin.

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