“The magic happens when the sales & buying processes interconnect” – Discussion with John Smibert.
I asked Cian McLoughlin, why it’s important to marry up the sales process and the buying journey. Cian responded by pointing out that “We tend to focus on the sales process, what’s our process, what are the steps we need to move through. But we sometimes forget the customer is going through a buying process.
But what we need to realise that there’s a buying process happening in parallel to our sales process. The magic really happens where those two interconnect”
Cian elaborated on the reasons this is important. He also talked about what thousands of customers have told him – through his win-loss analysis – how they find it difficult to work with suppliers who do not align with their process and give it as a key reason why they did not give them the business.
To get the detailed reasons and Cian’s recommendations view or read the interview below.
Cian McLoughlin is a guru in win/loss analysis, he’s a speaker, an author, and a leading advisor to the sales fraternity.
John: Hello! I’ve got Cian McLoughlin with me again – welcome back, Cian!
Cian: Thanks, John!
John: Hey Cian, I’ve heard you talk about the importance of marrying up the sales process and the buying process or buying journey. I’d like you to elaborate more on that.
Cian: Sure. It’s really interesting, it took me a while I suppose in my own sales career to recognise the intersection of the two, but it’s really interesting that we tend to focus on the sales process, what’s our process, what are the steps we need to move through.
John: It’s a little similar to that earlier discussion we had about we’re focused on the spreadsheet – and where the customer is on our spreadsheet -and not focused on the human element of talking with the customer.
Cian: Correct, yes. I think it’s fine to have a sales process, in fact it’s important to have a sales process, because we can demonstrate to the customer that we know where we’re going next. But what we need to realise, and this is unfortunately where many sales cycles grind to a halt, is we need to realise that there’s a buying process happening in parallel to our sales process. The magic really happens where those two interconnect, where the steps that the customer is following align with or intersect with the steps that we’re following ourselves. If the two are out of sync, it leads to confusion, misalignment, and invariably the deal grinding to a halt.
John: Have you got this sort of feedback through your win/loss analysis, is that one of your learnings? Are customers saying that?
Cian: Look, they’re probably not saying it quite in those words, but what they’re saying is, “We felt hurried. We felt they were trying to push us down a particular avenue that we didn’t want to go down. They were trying to make us jump through hoops, or they were trying to pressure us into making decisions before we were ready to,” and all of that comes back to the sales process. We think we’re at this step or we need them to be at this step, but they’re not there yet, and that misalignment leads to all sorts of issues.
John: Have you got a good example of where somebody has done that well?
ian: Well, I don’t know if it’s a good example, but I think it’s an interesting example in that I did some work late last year with an organisation who were in the technology space. They had a reasonably large sales team, but a lot of those salespeople were quite new, and many of them had come from the customer side; they’d used the technology and then decided “I like this company,” and then they went and worked in a sales capacity. So, bundles of credibility coming from the customer side, but very, very little, if any, sales experience.
What we did was we actually plotted out, “Okay, this is your sales process. What does your customer’s buying process look like?” and we plotted that out as well. One of them on the sales team, very, very new, he decided, “Well, maybe what I should do is just share this with my customers.” He would take in those two diagrams and say, “Look, broadly speaking this is our sales process, and broadly speaking we find that many of our customers, this is their buying process. Where are you at in that phase? Does that represent it and where are you at?” It just became an incredibly powerful tool for him to change the conversation they were having, and he’s found it’s been hugely valuable in moving sales forward for him.
John: The customer would relate to that and see that he was interested in where they were up to, and working with them and helping them through their process rather than driving our process.
Cian: Yes, it’s such a simple thing. What it really said is there’s a level of transparency, which he was providing, that normally doesn’t exist in a sales cycle, where he was saying, “Look, this is kind of how we tend to do it, and this is how some of our customers do it. Does that make sense to you?” And they might say, “Yes, it does make sense,” or “No, actually we have quite a different process, and this is the way ours goes,” which is great, because now it’s giving him visibility and insight, and now you’re getting that alignment, and all of a sudden you can start to move things forward, or you can recognise where objections or hurdles exist and actually do something about it. It’s such a subtle little thing that he did, but it’s been incredibly powerful for him, and it’s actually something I’m encouraging lots of salespeople to do nowadays.
John: I tell you, I’ve seen a lot of young or inexperienced salespeople, that if you really help them just go out and be themselves and be transparent with the customer, and if they use a tool like you just outlined, the customer sees that transparency; they see that honesty, and they see somebody with some value that they can work with, and that just becomes that trusted relationship so much more quickly.
Cian: I agree. Why shouldn’t we be honest with our customers? I think it’s an incredible tool for tearing down some of the doubt and uncertainty and mistrust that can exist when we feel like we’re being sold to, and just levelling the playing field and allowing us to have a conversation like equals. I think it’s a simple thing to do, but it can be very, very effective.
John: Thank you very much. So, the bottom line I’m getting is to focus specifically on the buyer process and the sales process, marrying the two up, and making sure you’re working with your customer in doing that, and they’ll appreciate the fact that you’re transparent.
Cian: Absolutely. If you’re in step, everything else tends to be much, much easier from there.
John: Thank you very much, Cian – great advice!
Cian: Pleasure, John!
More interviews with Cian McLoughlin:
- “What is win-loss analysis“
- “Create lasting value with win-loss analysis“
- “Win-loss analysis: Gaining customer buy in“
- “What customers say the great salespeople do differently”
- “Account Retention Strategies”
- “The downside of sales automation”
- “Right brain selling”
- “The secrets to a winning sales pitch“
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