• The Sales Process: Different For Every Prospect

    All too often sales reps try to fit every prospect into their sales process, without realizing that every prospect has their own “sales cadence”.  There are many variables that come into play with each and every sales cycle:  title, the level of need, whether the prospect is even aware they have a need, where the prospect is in the buying process or how they approach a purchase. All of these variables can make the difference between success and failure.  It’s not just about a lost sale (which is all about you), but the lost opportunity to help the prospect realize a goal or solve a problem (which is all about the prospect).

    The sales process is not a one size fits all process.  The process must start with the prospect, continue to be about the prospect and end with the prospect.  I have always believed in this Customer Centric approach and I am currently training my salespeople in Customer Centric Selling. Michael Bosworth, John Holland and Frank Visgatis have written extensively on the subject in their book Customer Centric Selling, a must read for any sales or marketing professional.  I won’t get into a lot of detail, as the book can do that, but what I can say from experience, is that a sales approach which is focused on helping the prospect solve a problem or reach a goal will yield higher close rates. As a company, we currently enjoy a referral rate which accounts for more than 35% of our new business.

    As I mentioned, moving at the appropriate pace through the sales process is critical. Matching the “sales cadence” of the prospect ensures a level of comfort that might be missed by pushing a prospect along at your pace.  Most often the prospect is not nearly as anxious to buy as you are to sell.

    My suggestion is to ask rather than assume. My favorite opening questions are: “What are you trying to accomplish?”, “What are your goals?’, “What are your major challenges?”, “How important is it to reach your goals or solve your problems, and how soon?”, and my favorite question of all, “Why?”.  Getting to the why after almost every question is critical, as it gets to the emotion behind the goal or challenge.  Getting to this level of understanding ensures you will help the prospect solve a problem or reach a goal by helping them buy, not selling them.  Doing so at a pace they are comfortable with positions you as an advisor versus a salesperson, which is good for everyone.

    The most well known Customer Centric organization I can think of is Apple.  From day one, it has always been about the customer experience.  As a result, people love to buy Apple products.  They line up to get their hands on the latest iPad, and pay a premium.  I have never met anyone who did not love the experience of browsing and buying from an Apple store.

    So, for me it’s kind of like business karma.  Do the right thing for the customer and the sales will take care of themselves.  That’s the good news.  The bad news.  You still have to get yourself in front of buyers with your Customer Centric approach, which is hard work, but once you get yourself in front of the right prospect, you will most certainly enjoy greater levels of success.

    Paul Alves is CEO of AG Salesworks. To view all company blogs go to  AG Salesworks blog site.

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