There is a reason the nonlinear nature of sales causes so many problems. For a very long time, the real process of selling—and buying—hasn’t resembled what shows up on a PowerPoint slide and starts at the far left with Target and ends on the far right with Closed Won. It no longer follows a similar pattern for buyers, little of which has anything to do with the Internet or access to information. If more information made decision-making easier and faster, the cycle would be growing faster and fewer would end in “no decision.”
One of the challenges now is that salespeople perceive the discovery process as the process where they uncover their client’s needs well enough to create a compelling solution. For a long time, this is what discovery meant. There hasn’t been enough conversation about what the client’s discovery process looks like. My first real attempt at defining this idea is in The Lost Art of Closing, where I outlined the Commitment for Time, the Commitment to Explore, the Commitment to Change, the Commitment to Collaborate, and the Commitment to Build Consensus, a series of potentially nonlinear commitments the client needs to make to progress to the point where they can effectively change.
The truth of the matter is, many of us in sales have a good idea about what the client needs before they’ve come to the realization that they need to change at all. When we are asking for Time and the chance to Explore, we are helping the client explore the need to change, and potentially better results, if they aren’t already compelled to change. This process is important to the client, even if you already know what they need.
We’re asking clients to collaborate on the solution because it’s important that they contribute to the initiative and that it serves their need—and this is true even if you could guess at what you’d need to change. We’re also asking them to go through the process of building consensus within their organization because without that buy in the initiative will likely struggle—if it gets off the ground at all.
One of the reasons you have stalled deals in your pipeline right now is because you believe they have completed the discovery work when they still have work to do on their side. And when they have work to do on their side, you have work to do on your side, lest you become misaligned.