“You can’t succeed without following your sales process.”
“The sales process is meaningless.”
“The buyer is in charge now. There is no sales process, just a buying process.”
There are salespeople, sales managers, sales organizations, and sales thinkers that subscribe to the ideas in the quotes above.
Some salespeople make too much of the process and resist following a process. Some sales managers make too little of their sales process by not enforcing its use at all. And some sales organizations and sales thinkers have abandoned the sales process, incorrectly believing that buyers are in charge of the buying process and salespeople are unnecessary, irrelevant, subservient, or create no value through a process.
I don’t believe any of these ideas are correct.
When a salesperson fails to follow a process, they believe that they are being flexible, creative, and adaptable. Their premise is flawed, and they are not these things. In order to be flexible, creative, or adaptable, there needs to be some norm from which you are intentionally deviating.
There are some that would argue that having no process is in fact a process. But it isn’t. A process is something that is designed (or captured) to lead to repeatable success. A sales process is the plan to move from target to close, stacking the deck in your favor the whole way. When salespeople refuse a process, they skip the necessary steps to win and succeed for their prospective client.
These salespeople are really winging it (even if they occasionally win a deal).
Some salespeople, and a few sales organizations, religiously adhere to a sales process. They are inflexible, and they lack resourcefulness and creativity.
When the process defines outcomes at a certain stage, they religiously pursue those outcomes, even if some other outcomes would move them closer to a deal and better serve their clients. These salespeople are, in fact, too compliant.
The sales process is a roadmap, not the terrain itself. Sometimes the road as it is captured on the map doesn’t look much like reality, and a good salesperson is called upon to find another way or blaze a new trail.
The “too complaint” salesperson stays on the marked path even when it leads to a loss.
These salespeople don’t follow a process, but they are super flexible. They try very hard to give their prospective client whatever they want, even if it isn’t right and even when it doesn’t serve the client.
“If the prospective client said they want this to be the next step, then that is the next step,” they say. “The client is always right.”
For all the talk about how much power has shifted to the buyer, many buyers don’t have any idea what they should expect during their buying process, what they need from their potential strategic partner, or what the salesperson can do to create value. By being too flexible and having no process, the salesperson does their client a disservice, and they don’t put themselves in a position to win (or to do well for their dream client should they be fortunate enough to win).
These salespeople have no control when they would be better served by a process that takes the client’s needs into account, a shared control.
Great salespeople follow a sales process. They know that there are certain necessary and important outcomes that position them to win, that serve their clients through the buying process, and that allow them to later execute and meet their client’s business outcomes. But these salespeople don’t follow the process when doing so doesn’t work to achieve these outcomes.
When the roadmap isn’t an accurate representation, they make adjustments. They don’t ignore the process. Instead, they find ways to provide the buyer with what they need while also obtaining outcomes that move them closer to a deal. They are flexible, resourceful, creative, and adaptable.
These salespeople don’t cede control to the buyer. They also aren’t so rigid that they ignore the buyer’s need. Instead, they share control of the process, aligning their process to the buyer’s needs and their process.
In which of the four quadrants do you find yourself most often?
What are the risks of the quadrant you are in now? Why do you stay in this quadrant?
How would you benefit from moving to the In Control quadrant? How would your clients benefit from you moving to that quadrant?
How would you get to that quadrant? What would you need to differently?