Sales process is all about maximising your chances sales process header

At Huthwaite International, we know what a sales process is, and more importantly, what it isn’t.

It isn’t a CRM system, or even part of one, that tells you who you know, what their budget might be, and where you are in your attempts to sell to them. That’s useful as a record and a plan, but there’s nothing remotely persuasive about it.

It isn’t (and this might be controversial) enough to have what most companies call a sales process – a series of steps and gateways that delineate a set of internal procedures through which a sales team or bid manager must pass each opportunity, in order to satisfy a compliance requirement. That might be necessary, in some organisations; but it is never sufficient.

For something truly to be a sales process, it must be focussed on increasing the chances of actually making a sale. And for that to happen it has to be facing the customer’s organisation, not your own; and to be conceived in terms of the buyer’s needs, not the seller’s. That’s why, when we look at our clients’ sales processes – as we often do as part of the consultancy that precedes a training intervention – we always try to map them to the one process that has proven to be effective in managing an end-to-end sales or bid opportunity: the Huthwaite Buying Cycle.

A sales process is actually a buying process

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The Buying Cycle was designed after close observation of the behaviours customers adopt when they are making big purchasing decisions. It asks: what is the buyer thinking, worrying about, saying to colleagues, reviewing, analysing, deciding, while I – as the seller – am trying to persuade him or her to make an investment, and to make it with me? What decision-making stage is he or she at? Which key players in the customer organisation do I need to go and see, when and in what order? What are the competitors likely to be doing, and how will they be perceived by my prospect? How will I know when the time is right to convert the soft differentiators I have used to get onto the shortlist into the hard differentiators I need to make sure I win the contract? How do I know when they are going have last-minute worries that the risks are too big, or we are not the kind of supplier the board usually goes for, however good our solution? When does this sale start to morph into a negotiation?

These are the questions the best salespeople ask themselves, and if they’ve spent some time with Huthwaite International, they will have learned how to answer them. Then they have a sales process that works.