A well-designed sales process is built on a thorough understanding of the buyer’s decision process, with each sales stage mapped to a distinct stage of the buying process. Each stage has specific attributes such as knowledge inflection points, observable outcomes, sales assets and sales activities. The process and stage attributes are then built into the sales force automation platform so that reps can identify the current status of an opportunity, plan the next set of action items, and increase the predictability of win rates and close dates.
This sort of linear, step-by-step process works well when there is a well-defined buying process, with known purchase criteria and a set time-frame for a decision – such as a government procurement cycle. But for most b-to-b sellers, this sort of static approach may be ignoring several important factors.
- First, as recent SiriusDecisions research shows, the decision process almost always involves multiple buyers. In fact, for purchases between $50,000 and $500,000, three to five buyers are involved. And for purchases over $500,000, six or more buyers are involved. Each individual progresses through the decisionmaking process at their own speed, based on their own set of influences and interactions.
- Second, as any salesperson knows, humans don’t always (some would say never) progress toward a decision in a logical or linear fashion. Each individual buyer interacts with the seller throughout every phase of the decisionmaking process, leveraging multiple sources of information and a variety of human and non-human touchpoints such as online demos, sales events, Web content, face-to-face meetings, online forums and peer groups. Each participant in the buying process may be at a different point in the buyer’s journey.
- Third, the type of opportunity impacts sales process attributes, actions, velocity and win rates. Existing customers who initiate the transaction generally move faster and need less interaction than a new buyer who has initiated an opportunity.
Given these uncertainties and variables, how does the sales rep answer the question, “Where is the buyer in the decision making process, and when will this deal close?” Reps often end up defaulting to an average, based on assumptions about where most of the buyers are, or focusing on one decision maker and trying to chart where they are in the decision making process.
This “one size fits all” approach to sales process design often results in misalignment with buyers’ information needs or misses key influencers and decision makers. An incomplete or inaccurate sales process can contribute to stalled deals, lower conversion and win rates, and forecast inaccuracy.