Let's Talk

Better Sales Conversations: Aligning to the Customer’s Buying Process

blogpost pivotal conversations sales Jul 05, 2016

Alignment is Key

Are you aligning with your customer’s buying process? Do you understand it? Are you accommodating it?

When you’re selling — especially in complex sales — you must consider how the selling organization (that’s you) collaborates with clients to make the evaluation, purchase, installation, and support work as you’re promising. You must have a conversation that focuses on the processes supporting the solution or product — and aligning to the customer’s buying process.

Let’s put it in simpler terms. You could argue that your solution is best evaluated and understood when installed and evaluated over a sixty-day trial period. However, your client may be looking for an installation/evaluation period of 20 days. Thus, the buyer views your process for implementation as disruptive and risky.

Avoid the Disconnect

In this case, there is a “disconnect” between your selling process and their buying process. Investigate the client’s typical processes for evaluating and implementing new solutions. The selling organization can either adapt to the client’s wishes or make the case for a different — better process. This is not a case of leading or not leading your customer. Rather, it’s simply acknowledging that without taking the time to understand this dimension, you could be pushing hard against a locked door.

You Are Risky

Remember, you are having a conversation centered on — essentially — the risk of choosing your offering. While you are trying to close the deal, here are a few of the concerns running through your buyer’s mind…

  • Should I do this at all?
  • Am I making the right choice?
  • Is this being implemented correctly?
  • Am I managing this purchase process in such a process that won’t hurt me in my organization?
  • What are my conditions of satisfaction? What happens if I’m not satisfied?
  • How disruptive will this offering be to our structure?
  • What if the ROI (financial or otherwise) is not worth the trouble?

The Necessary Things

When I was at Tandem Computers, my manager, Debbie (a super sharp sales manager) helped shepherd me through my first really big deal. One of the main things she instilled in my brain was the importance of identifying the buying company’s processes. She said it wasn’t a matter of merely getting the, “Yes,” but I needed to know what check-offs and signatures would be needed — what buyers needed in order to feel confident in us, and crossing all the other T’s and dotting all the I’s.

Looking back, they were all necessary things that any salesperson in complex sales would understand — but the thing is, all the “necessary things” don’t always get addressed before the deal closes. And if your offering disrupts the company in such a way that your buyer didn’t expect and your business with them is tainted, you’ll wish you had a time machine to go back and have this conversation.

It’s Not About Selling — but BUYING

This is really about the buying process — not the selling process. That’s a big distinction here. You are there to help the buyer buy — not to help you, the seller, sell. Selling is not enough. Your buyer must buy — and make that decision in confidence, understanding the risks involved, and being satisfied that they’ve been addressed in a satisfactory way.

  • How do you navigate the conversation revolved around risk and processes?
  • Have you ever known a salesperson to bypass this conversation — only to great peril?