Don’t Let Your Sales Process Kill Sales
Recently I’ve been helping a client through the selection process for technology platforms, and I’ve noticed something disturbing: Many of the vendors we’ve approached have a decidedly unfriendly sales process. They’re using methods that seem designed to reject legitimate business although in reality, chasing away valuable customers is probably not what the top brass intends.
For example, one firm insisted on scheduling a fact-finding call before they’d book a demo, even though they already had all our requirements. We told them what we needed and why we needed it, but that wasn’t enough. The “process” dictated that another call was necessary and getting them to bypass that step was a herculean effort.
There was no thought that a prospect’s time is valuable, that we might, in fact, know what we want, and that (wait for it) we might even be able to move through the sales process faster by skipping this step.
Another firm insisted on speaking to the CEO before scheduling the demo the CEO had requested. This is the same firm that played hide-and-seek, not responding to multiple online requests and messages that went unanswered. Even a tweet for help, which solicited this immediate response: “…sorry you’re having a hard time reaching us. Can you please DM us your email? We will get back to you ASAP.” yielded nothing but crickets.
If this company really wants to grow their business, they’d be better off to responding to prospects quickly rather than slowing things down by requiring a rep speak to someone who has clearly delegated authority to a trusted surrogate. Doing so alienates both the executive his or her delegate, preventing them from forming the trust so vital to big B2B sales.
Playing Hard to Get?
I assumed this had-to-get sales act was an anomaly until it surfaced at three firms in a row. “What’s going on?” I wondered. During my decades in B2B, I’ve purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology solutions and I’ve helped sales teams book millions in revenue—without being coy.
There’s no doubt that it is critical for a sales person talk with a real buyer, the decision maker, so they don’t waste their time. It’s no surprise when they ask to talk with the person who will sign the check. But they also need to understand that sometimes that person doesn’t need or even want to be intimately involved in the decision process. They want a recommendation, they make a decision and move on.
Forcing sales people (and I am making the assumption that they are following a prescribed process, not making it up as they go) is doing them and their prospects a disservice. It’s pushing away buyers who want to move quickly. It slows the sales cycle, opening the door to lost business opportunities.
Try Customer Focused Sales
In contrast, a customer-focused sales process is both flexible and highly responsive. It allows representatives to adapt to customer needs and timelines without taking so many shortcuts that problems arise down the line. It is possible to complete due diligence on a prospect without demanding that they jump through your favorite hoops. That’s a lazy way to approach things, and it’s bad for business.
Training sales people to listen carefully, hear what buyers are saying, and modify their approach accordingly takes more work. It demands situational awareness and a level of autonomy that some organizations don’t want to give their employees. These are also the companies that wonder why competitors are constantly winning the sale.
It doesn’t matter if your market is B2B, consumer, or retail, if you want to win more sales, let customers set the pace. Pay attention to their needs and help them buy. Don’t stand in their way, create hurdles or block the entry door.
Photo by Ricardo Santeugini via FreeImages.com