When one designs a sales process, it is normally presented on a slide, beginning on the left side with a box, normally titled “target.” It ends on the right side of that same slide with the box titled “won/lost.” It is shown to be a linear process.
We generally follow the same format when we present the buyer’s journey, another orienting generalization with real value, even if it is not as straightforward for B2B as it is for B2C. That process is also shown as something linear, with a straight path that is predictable and easy to follow.
Some sales organizations have decided to pay less attention to their sales process, preferring instead to believe their role is to facilitate the buyer’s journey. Others are slavishly devoted to their sales process without much regard for where the buyer is in their process, driving hard to move through their sales process, buyer be damned. Still others work diligently to line up these two processes. That, however, is not easily done.
Not a Journey, but Journeys
When you look at the major, disruptive trends in complex B2B sales over the last couple decades, none of them might be as important or as difficult for sales organizations as the number of stakeholders involved in a single opportunity. Not only do more stakeholders slow the process, more people involved in a decision tends also complicate things by revealing conflicting interests and internal priorities that are often at odds.
As it pertains to lining up a sales process and a buyer’s journey, more stakeholders immediately destroy almost any approach one might take.
Maybe the executive leadership understands the nature of their problem and is highly compelled to change. This is a wonderful occurrence if you’re the one calling on executive leadership in this hypothetical, especially if you have their support. But, what if at the same time their IT department is wedded to the status quo and willing to defend to the death any attempt to change things? These two groups are out of alignment in any buyer’s journey, and recognizing where each group is in your sales process isn’t all that likely to help you sort out their differences.
Complex, and Increasingly So
Because the buyer’s journey is nonlinear, the sales process is now nonlinear as well. Complex B2B sales is ever more complex.
I wrote The Lost Art Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales, to provide salespeople with the commitments that are generally needed to help people and organizations change. The commitments provide a bridge between the sales process and a buyer’s journey, acknowledging the fact that different stakeholders may be in very different places when it comes to their buying journey, and providing some guidance on what to do to help move them forward.