This is a post for any Sales Leader considering or using a buyer-driven sales process. During many of our sales process roll-outs, we’ll get the question “So I should just identify the buyer’s stage and go from there?”


The answer is No.  Many times, much like a Sales Rep, a buyer will rush through their purchasing process in pursuit of a new solution.  Rather than engaging in discovery and determining their needs, they simply want to compare all solutions on the market and make a decision.  You’ve heard it before, “Show me the demo!”


Sales Process Buying Process


It’s tempting for the sales rep to give in.  Who doesn’t want the quick sale?  However, we’ve found that these rush job sales efforts result in a lower win rate, and a worse overall solution for the customer.  Why?


  1. All solutions solve the same symptoms and become commoditized.
  2. Customers misdiagnose their own problems.


At the end of this post, download the Sequence of Events job-aide to help you slow the customer down in early stage purchasing efforts. Also, leverage SBI’s “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook


A Personal Example of a misdiagnosis: My iPhone wouldn’t charge anymore.  A quick Google search helped diagnose my problem:  My battery was shot.  I quickly looked up an iPhone repair shop in the area and spoke to the manager. 


“My battery is shot.  How much to fix it?”


The shop owner paused, “Well, it’s $80.  Can I ask you something though?”


“Sure.” Great, I thought, he’s going to try and upsell me.


“What happens when you plug it in?  Does the battery charger come up?”


“Nope, nothing.” I said. He asked a few more simple questions.


“I’ve got good news.  It sounds like you’ve got a bad port. That takes less time, and is only $60. Bring it in and we’ll see.”


The manager was right.  I had misdiagnosed my problem. But he managed to pull me back in the buying process, and give me the solution I really wanted. One hour and $60 later, I was a satisfied customer.


We work with many firms that sell complex solutions and talk about the importance of staying aligned with the buyer. Today’s modern buyer will conduct an extensive amount of research, list their biggest needs, and ask for a demo and a price quote.


The problem is customers come to a conclusion on symptoms, not root problems.  Sales reps routinely get rushed RFPs written by a procurement department with little product knowledge.  Reps also get calls from the department heads asking “Can you Solve X, Y, and Z?” Sales reps who don’t back up and identify the root cause risk two things:


1)      Losing the deal.

2)      Winning the deal, but entering intense negotiation against every competitor solving the exact same symptoms.


So how do you differentiate yourself from the competition and win?


Slow down the sales process in the early stages, speed up their decision in the end.  If your product is complex, and will require significant investment, your customer probably doesn’t understand all of its capabilities.  They probably don’t even know the last time they purchased it. If you’re the only vendor addressing Root Problems vs Symptoms, your solution will stand apart from the crowd.  Otherwise, you’ll just be a commodity solution, where the buyer shops for the best price.


One tool we use to help slow down this process is the Sequence of Events.  This is a job aid to help understand the client’s deadlines, objectives, and key dates.  The Sales Rep sits down with the buyer, and walks them through the steps in a typical sales process.  Each step’s importance is discussed and outlined.  Sometimes, the buyer dictates their own process, while the sales rep makes suggestions and assigns dates.


One of the best examples of its use, came when I rode along with a new recruit sales rep, Robert.  The client had asked about coming by to conduct a demo- they were already looking at competitors.  An average sales rep would’ve thought, “I’m already late, better give them what they want”. Robert wanted to differentiate his solution from the crowd, but needed a discovery session to tailor his demo the client’s Root Causes, not expressed symptoms


Client:  We’d like our new software purchase to do 1, 2, and 3. Can we see that in the demo?


Robert:  Sure, but why did you decide that these were the most important issues?


Client: We asked the department heads what they’d like to have in the new system, and these were their biggest complaints and requests.


Robert: Okay.  We can definitely solve those, but what I’d like to do is walk you through how we can make this system most effective for your entire company. If I don’t understand everything they want, and WHY they want it, I’m not sure I can answer all their questions sufficiently.  When would you like this system in place?


Client:  By the end of the year.


Robert: Great. (pulls out Sequence of Events).  Here’s an example of the average buying cycle for this type of software purchase.  When was the last time you purchased something like this?


Client: 8 years.


Robert: Great, well this just may be refresher.


Robert then walked the client through the Discovery process and why it was important.  He wanted to show some additional aspects of the software that would make their process even simpler.


The client was overjoyed.  Instead of using the prospect-directed sales scramble, Robert gave them a defined path. He ultimately won the deal, despite competitors showing demos while he conducted discovery.


Download the Sequence of Events job-aide. Your greatest chance of closing is through differentiation.  Don’t squander it.


Dive deeper into Sales Process and emerging best practices in SBI’s “How to Make Your Number in 2018” Workbook or interactive tool. Ensure you have the best strategy planned for next year.


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