The Importance of Vertical and Horizontal Sales Processes

Some sales processes are only vertical. They include all the activities that occur during a single sales interaction. They include things like how you open a call, how you agree on an agenda, and how you gain commitments.

Processes that are only vertical assume that only a single interaction is necessary to create and win an opportunity, even when they pretend otherwise. These vertical processes are very effective for transactional sales, and they are mostly old by today’s standards.

Horizontal sales processes take all the stages of a longer sales process into account. They start with targeting and move through stages like qualifying, discovery, presentation, and acquisition. They outline all the outcomes necessary at each stage, as well as the commitments necessary at each stage.

But many horizontal-only sales processes leave out the vertical, providing very little guidance on how exactly each interaction should be approached. The horizontal processes are very effective for longer, more complex sales where there is much risk and longer process. Vertical processes don’t work in sales where the price is high, where risk is great, and where consensus is necessary.

Vertical processes are very useful for B2C sales, and horizontal process are better for B2B. But most B2B sales organizations would do better to think about adding the vertical axis to their approach.

  • More people are entering B2B sales without ever having worked in B2C, and so they have no conception of the vertical process.
  • Most sales leaders don’t want to be so prescriptive to provide the guidance on the vertical axis because they believe it will offend their salespeople.
  • The vertical axis is what provides the salesperson with the knowledge and the direction as to how to create value during every interaction with their prospective client. That value is what is necessary to gain the commitment to move forward.

A better approach is to consider the vertical and horizontal aspects of your sales process and provide guidance and direction along both axes.

Filed under: Sales Process

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