Thursday, March 2, 2017

Are You Creating Customers Or Just Selling?

Assuming that you have a product (or service) for which there's actually a market, many sales efforts fail for one of two reasons: Your sales activities are just that -- a set of activities, rather than a true process. Or, you have the wrong sales process.

Addressing the easy one first: a set of sales activities not organized into a process is nothing more than a chaotic, random group of events.  These result in, surprise, a chaotic, random group of outcomes.  Without a true process in place, there is no way to implement fundamental management tools that are required in any function, such as:
  • Measurement and management.
  • Process improvement.
  • Reporting, coordination, and prediction.
The only way to "manage" or "improve" a sales function that is not process driven is to swap out sales people (or sales managers) and hope for better results.  Sound familiar? 

More sophisticated sales organizations claim to have a process in place.  To the extent to which this is true, it is often the wrong process.  That's because too many sales processes have one of two origins.  They have evolved over time to be "efficient" in terms of dollars spent and internal work flow.  Or, they were modeled after some kind of sales program found in a book or sold by consulting firms.

The problem with these approaches should be apparent.  Sales processes constructed for internal efficiencies do little to make it easier for your customers to buy. And sales processes mirroring an abstract one-size-fits-all approach are unlikely to have relevancy to your customers.  Sadly, many companies have lost sight of the very purpose of sales: to make it  easy for the customer to buy from you.  (Causing them to initially desire or be aware of your product(s) or service is the job for marketing -- not sales.)

The key fact is that your customers have a distinct buying process they go through.  They perform a set of buying actions at specific times (or specific time periods) throughout their process.  At each buying step in their process, they require value of some kind from you.  It might be information -- a brochure, pricing, specifications, expected delivery, etc.; it might be a visit, it might be a demonstration, or something else....or it might be to be left alone. 

The buying activities of your customer and the timeline along which they lie is depicted by the lower line in the diagram below.  The colored shapes represent the different buying steps, and the distance between them along the line represents time.  The colored arrow going upwards, toward the upper line, depicts the value they expect from you at each of their buying steps. 

Now, the upper line in this diagram represents a typical sales process.  Note that the steps it performs are not mirror images of the buying steps the customer goes through.  Nor are the selling activities synchronized with the customer's buying activities.  The sales process starts and ends at different times.  The value delivered to the customer at each selling step is not the value expected by the customer.  This misalignment between the sales process and the buying process is a key reason that so many CRM implementations fail -- they have simply automated a bad process.

Next blog: Designing the Right Sales Process

Source: Mitchell Gooze, Customer Manufacturing Group, Inc.

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To share common sense lessons learned with 40-plus years experience in marketing, sales and as a B2B publisher.