Shortening the sales cycle to increase sales is high on the list of sales management in the current times. A consultative selling method helps the buying committee, (which may be one person), create a vision of a solution based on value. With higher value, faster decisions can be made.
Imagine working on a project for numerous months to get to the end where the customer says, “I just don’t see enough value to take on the additional risks”. In addition, studies are showing sales cycles are getting longer and customers are buying less.
Many companies embrace the belief, “bad news early is good news” to help sales work on those projects which have a higher likelihood of leading to a win-win with their customers. This is the “What and Why”, let’s review the “How and When” to accomplish this.
From a 30,000 foot view, the first step is to break down the buying cycle into 3 main phases. We use the buying phases from one of the largest studies done on buyers in the past by Xerox.
NOTE: Think of “decision makers”, not procurement, when reading the word “buyers”.
1. The first phase in the buying process is discovery and the buyer is focused on the people who can help them discover their compelling needs and assist in developing a vision of a solution. During the discovery phase the main buyer concerns established in the study were needs and a solution.
A consultative selling method allows the sales team to have a business conversation and help the buyer during the discovery phase identify their needs. As the needs are defined, the reasons which are preventing the company from achieving their needs can be explored and the appropriate cost with each reason. In addition, the product and service capabilities, (not feature statements), can be lined up with the associated reasons.
At this point the buyer can begin to form a vision of a solution based on value in their mind, (not the sellers). Our clients have sales document the value back to the customer in writing. This allows the creation of one of the first gates around “bad news early”. If the value is too low to justify an investment, the interest in pursuing a project should be low for both the buyer and the seller.
The written document allows a second conversation to occur around whether the value is sufficient to continue evaluating the products and services being discussed.
2. During the second buying phase, evaluation, the focus shifts from the people who can help them to the products and services offered. The buyer is now interested in proof the products and services being discussed can help them achieve their needs. They are also interested in how difficult it will be to transition to the new products and services for their company.
The curse of knowledge says, “The customer knows how to evaluate products and services”. However, if you are selling difficult to understand products and services, this is rarely a true statement. Especially if your company offers unique capabilities. Using a consultative approach, a mutually acceptable buying evaluation plan is prepared between the seller and the buying committee, (which may be one person).
A properly created buying evaluation plan will help the customer make better and faster decisions working towards a time line they have agreed upon during the creation of the written evaluation plan. Having a plan in place also allows sales, as well as the buying committee, to question when milestones are being delayed. Numerous delays begin to paint a picture around other priorities and the potential of “bad news early”.
3. The final buying phase, commitment, may naturally occur providing there is sufficient value to proceed. It is not uncommon for our clients to tell us they have large projects which proceed with no price concessions at the end. If negotiation comes up, using consultative selling skills around negotiation and proper training, sales goes in prepared with “give-gets” to provide an overall “win-win” outcome. Avoiding heaving price negotiations, or in some cases, “bad news early” if the customer is not reasonable.
Based on our clients successes, shortening the sales cycle can be achieved using a consultative sales cycle lined up with the buying cycle. This helps increase sales by focusing on those opportunities with the best value and leads to better and faster buying decisions. The out come is shorter sales cycles overall.
About The Vision Group: The best of breed in effective sales organizations are utilizing a common sales method and their personnel understand both the “what” to do as well as the “how”.
Our clients use consultative based sales and marketing aligned with how their customers buy. Focused on the shifting concerns of how individuals make buying decisions to transition from “how we sell” to “how they buy our products and services”.