Guiding a prospect down the path to purchasing is a complicated balancing act requiring the cultivation of trust and value. Without laying these building blocks, managing the sales process becomes a guessing game.
By Zen Newman, Marketing Analyst at PipelineDeals
Our customers weren’t born yesterday. They come to us, or we find them, complete with all manner of desires, fears, and suspicions. We don’t get the luxury of a clean slate. Instead, we have to migrate through a minefield of potential traps that can halt our sale in its tracks. Closing the sale means navigating this sometimes treacherous landscape and guiding the client along the way until they understand why they need you. To be successful, salespeople can’t take this journey haphazardly without knowledge of the road ahead. To instill the confidence to buy, they need to be trusted advisors to the client in navigating their needs.
In my years selling, having been trained in many different approaches to sales, one of the more useful things presented to me is a roadmap of how to navigate the buying journey. Each stage of the selling process has its own dynamics between the buyer and seller and different goals. Far from being a script, this framework presents a gradient of a prospects attitude towards the seller and how it shifts over time on two axes, trust and value.
The buying journey requires building trust and value as the client progresses through the sales process.
At the opening of a sale, a new prospect doesn’t know you and consequently neither trusts you nor values what you offer. Getting over the natural objections and knee-jerk reactions at this stage of the call is often the most challenging part of moving the sale forward. To be successful, salespeople must be relentlessly relevant and decisive in moving the sale forward. Successfully navigating this first hurdle grants a window of opportunity in the form of increasing trust. Keeping forward momentum through the sales process past the opening relies on value creation.
Before you can progress to presenting your solutions to a client, there needs to be a firm understanding by both parties about what their needs are. Acquiring this knowledge requires a discovery, or needs analysis, phase of the sales process. The needs analysis is an often cited but rarely practiced part of the call. Trust continues to increase as you take the time to uncovering the needs of prospective clients. In the process, the sales person demonstrates their interest in the customer’s situation. Maintaining forward momentum in the discovery process requires discipline and a firm knowledge of where you want to take the call. Never the less, the discovery is an essential part of the call because it positions the sales person as an authority in what solutions are available to meet the client’s particular needs.
Once you have some knowledge of the prospects situation, you can begin to make an informed presentation that caterers to those needs. Because the sale has now turned a corner from trust building to presenting (which looks a lot more like sales), it tends to naturally lower a customer’s trust as they scrutinize your solutions. Trust can be thought of as a balance that fluctuates up and down depending on where in the sales call you are. Even though confidence is reduced in this stage, your value is being increased in the eyes of the customer as solutions are being carefully matched to customer needs.
This is where the GAP comes in. The GAP is the mismatch between where the customer is today and where they want to be. Read another way, this is the pain point. The primary purpose of the needs analysis stage of the sales process was to uncover the GAP. Once found, the rest of the sales call revolves around providing the customer with the means of overcoming the mismatch and reaching their ideal position.
As solutions are presented that align with the challenges being faced by the client, it becomes time to convince them that your solution is not one of many but, in fact, the only solution that fits their needs. Contrary to popular execution, this process does not consist of competition bashing or aggressive closing tactics. Instead, it hinges on the revisiting the details uncovered during the needs analysis and showing how the solution solves the problem represented by the GAP.
Last comes the close. The reality is that the final close is only one of many present throughout the sales process. Each transition throughout the process is a micro conversion that moves the sale forward. If the buying journey is properly shepherded up until this point, then the final close is rarely more than a simple ask for the sale. The simplicity of this part of the process is deceptive. The ask is an essential element of the sale. It is where your prospective customer becomes a client in earnest. At this point, remember, don’t ever talk through the close.
If there is still pushback at this point, then there is a hole somewhere in your proceeding sales process. It could be a lack of trust in you or a lack of value in what you can offer. If this happens, rather than try to overcome objection after objection, try to get to the heart of the hole and patch it. It’ll increase your likelihood of a successful outcome, and it’ll set your relationship with the customer on the right foot as you get started working together in earnest.
Taking the time to engage in a thoughtful and well-structured sales process is the hallmark of a true sales professional. By minding where the customer’s perspective is at, a salesperson can produce a meaningful relationship while moving them steadily down the road to purchasing. A Salesperson who can take care to develop a relationship even while successfully monetizing it is an essential asset for every company.