First, apologies to Geoffrey Moore and his seminal book Crossing The Chasm.
Several of my recent posts have stimulated discussions about the chasm between our Selling Process and our Buying Processes. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about, ‘Shouldn’t we be focusing on their buying process,” “How do we bridge the selling and buying processes,” “How do we manage to two processes simultaneously,” and a number of others.
These are great and difficult issues.
I think the best way to start bridging the gap is to focus on where do we start in designing the process?
Usually, when we think about our selling process, the design starting point is our company, our strategies, our products, services, etc. We review our best experiences of how we have won in the past—who did we call on, what did we do, how did we maintain velocity through the process, and so forth. We try to design the process by answering the question “How should we sell?”
We can actually design a pretty good process doing this, but there will always be a gap between our process and the customer buying process. We have to constantly be attentive to bridging this gap–and it’s tough, inefficient.
So what if we change the design starting point?
What is we started designing our sales process by posing the question, “How do our customers buy?” (This should actually be the starting point for all sales and marketing strategies.)
Starting there forces us to start talking with and engaging our customers with interesting questions like:
- How do you determine that you need to change, that what you are doing right now is no longer acceptable and you need to change?
- How do you determine who is a stakeholder in that effort and engage them in the problem solving process?
- What is your problem solving process?
- How to you organize everyone to align priorities and buy?
- How do you educate and inform yourself about new ways of doing things, about alternative solutions?
- How do you get management buy-in to invest and implement?
I could go on with the list, but you get the idea. However, if you need help, don’t hesitate to call
We need to talk to a number of customers, learning from them, using their input to understand how they buy.
The answers to these questions inform the activities we need to undertake to design our sales process. They enable us to define how we best facilitate their buying process, creating value through every stage.
So what we are doing is actually embedding the customer buying process into our selling process.
That probably gets us 85% there.
There are some things that we have to do independently of the customer and their buying process. For example, we may need to get and align resources from our company or partners as par of the process. We may have some internal business or design reviews. There may be things customers do in their process that are irrelevant to us.
This allows us to tune the process, combining how our customer buy with other activities critical to our shared success.
Finally, we need to test this against our past experience of wins and losses. Have we captured everything, can we simplify it?
This gets us 97.2576% of the way there (through careful scientific research).
Finally, we test it, we get people to execute the process over the next 3-6 months, we learn, adjust and tune the process based on our experience in executing the process.
This gets us 99.675% of the way there—we never get 100% of the way there. Our customers change, we change, nothing ever stands still. But too often we forget we need to tune and update–or sometimes completely redesign our sales process. We need to periodically, usually annually unless there are huge disruptions in our markets, customers, or our business.
Using this approach, starting with “How do our customers buy,” eliminates the need to constantly think “What’s our sales process, what’s our customers’ buying process, how do we make sure we are aligned” What we’ve done is embedded the buying process into the sales process, we’ve unified them into one process–so we never get out of alignment.
The strategies we adopt for each deal will vary–the sales process is our starting point, and our strategies focus us to the specifics of the customer buying process–this customer, this deal, at this time. But since our process starts with “How do our customer buy,” we are already well aligned in synchronized with the customer.
Photo Credit: Crossing the Chasm/shutterstock