Sales processes provide a road-map to guide the salesperson from one stage of the sale to the next, obtaining the outcomes necessary to improve their odds of winning the deal.
The stages of most sales processes include things like ensuring that you have uncovered the dissatisfaction that would cause the dream client to change, ensuring that all members of the buying committee are known and their preferences are accounted for, and acquiring all of the information needed to inform your solution. Good ideas all.
But where some sales processes fall short is in identifying the commitments that the dream clients must make to move a deal forward.
A stage that doesn’t end with your dream client making a commitment to take a necessary next action is not an indication that the deal has moved into the next stage. In fact, without their commitment, it often means the opposite: the deal is stalled.
From Commitment to Commitment
At the conclusion of every stage of a sales process, there must be a commitment that you obtain that ensures that your dream client has agreed to taking some action that moves the deal forward.
It isn’t enough to have done a needs-analysis and to have gained the information that you need to inform your diagnosis and your eventual solution.
It isn’t enough to have presented your solution in the boardroom. Regardless of how well the presentation went, if you don’t have a commitment from your dream client to do something that moves you closer to a deal, you have no reason to believe that the deal has advanced to the next stage.
To advance, the commitment should be to take some action in the list of activities that move you into the next stage of your sales process. If there is no commitment that your dream client is required to make to that moves you to the next stage of your sales process, then you have not advanced the sale.
Forcing the Issue
Some sales processes force the issue of obtaining the commitment by requiring that, for example, the client write a letter committing to something that opens the next stage. This is a fine idea, but it comes with a couple built in problems that are great examples of other sales process problems. Unless your dream client has to simply sign your letter, you may be postponing a better commitment that could be easily obtained without having to wait for them to sign your letter (which may or may not be the best indicator of their commitment to move forward anyway).
But the biggest problem with defining a single potential advancing commitment, is that it cuts off the countless other commitments that might be obtained and that might move you even closer to a deal. We take our customers as we find them, and that means that what is right for one may not be right for the next. A great sales process will define the big pieces, like ensuring that the proper needs analysis is done before moving forward to presenting, while leaving enough flexibility to define a wide range and choice of commitments all of which advance the deal.
The Biggest Challenge in Process
The biggest challenge for sales people is obtaining a series of greater commitments that lead to deal. In some cases, it is because their process doesn’t give them the right choices. In other cases, it is because they aren’t resourceful enough to come up with the best commitment they can reasonably obtain. But more often than not, the biggest challenge is not the process itself, but the salesperson’s reluctance (or inability) to ask for a series of greater commitments that move them towards a deal.
Sales is, in part, commitment gaining. Advancing deals is moving from one commitment to the next greater commitment. A good sales process defines those commitments while leaving room for the salesperson to do even more. A good sales organization will provide the coaching and training to ensure their sales force is well equipped to ask for and to obtain those commitments.
- Does one or more of the stages of your sales process end without you having to gain a concrete commitment from your dream client that advances the deal?
- Does your salesforce automation allow you to move a deal into the next stage by completing the tasks on the prior stage, even when that stage ends without you having to obtain a commitment from your client?
- Look at your pipeline. Do you have deals that are stalled that you believe were advanced into the next stage? How’d that happen? What was missing?
- Do you ever mistakenly believe that you have obtained a commitment that moves a deal forward when what you have really done is committed to something yourself? For example, if you promise to send references, has your client made any commitment that could be reasonably believed to have moved the deal forward?
- Do you obtain a series of commitments that logically move you closer to the deal? Do these commitments build towards greater future commitments, or are some of them commitments that are easy for your dream client to agree to?
- Is process your problem? Or is your problem really one of commitment gaining more generally?
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