Right now, open up your CRM system. Go to the opportunity tab, look at your sales process steps. It will probably reflect critical stages and selling activities, enabling you to move through your process.
Probably, it also creates a “probability assessment,” that is a likelihood of winning. Unless your system has been modified, it measure your progress through the selling cycle. For example, the probability of an opportunity in prospecting is much less than qualifying, which is less than that for proposing, and in turn less than that for closing. It measures your progress through the sales process, but not a propensity to buy.
Perhaps, your stages have been adjusted to focus on the “buying journey.” And it will present a series of logical activities your customer completes in their process. For example, Identify Needs and Requirements, Evaluate Alternatives, Negotiate Purchase.
You might identify the critical selling activities you undertake to work the customer through their buying process.
Largely what the activities in your sales process describe are the activities we, sales people, complete. Often, they may be described as things we do to help the customer navigated their buying journey.
Based on the things we have done, we move the opportunity through our selling process. It’s moved from a prospect into qualifying, then perhaps into discovery, proposing, and closing.
And, theoretically, if we complete all those activities, we have facilitated the customer through their buying journey and all that remains is their making a decision.
When we look at it from the point of view of what we do as sales people, it’s all very neat, clean, linear. If we check all the boxes, we move the opportunity into closing.
But our “completion” of activities is meaningless. What’s important in all our deals is the ability of our customers to complete their buying activities. Unfortunately, those don’t look as neat and linear as our processes may indicate.
The customer journey is a wandering, circuitous journey; filled with starts, stops, changes, starting over, continually shifting needs and priorities. For complex B2B buying, the customer is distracted by their day jobs. They worry about risk, uncertainty, change. They lack confidence in what they are doing–after all they probably haven’t done this before, or at least for some years.
Job completion becomes critical to the customer as they go through their buying process. For them to have confidence in their buying decision, they will have had to complete the four major buying workflows (Problem Identifications, Solution Exploration, Requirements Building, Supplier Selection).
What’ this mean to we sellers? As much as we’d like to get the customer to short cut this process, it just won’t happen. But we can help the buyer make sense of what they are trying to do, minimizing the wandering, starts and stops, building their confidence in the decision they make.
The more we help in their understanding of their tasks, help them simplify this journey, and help increase their confidence in what they are doing, the better both the customer’s and our outcomes.