Today, savvy salespeople are learning that a great sales pitch and some information on the target customer’s company and their needs, will no longer simply cut it. Today’s account management wins come from digging in deep, and fully understanding the company, their needs and resulting requirements, and more specifically the target customer and buyer personas.
This type of understanding also influences the sales process itself. It can mean a different sales process for different types of customers or prospects, or even a different sales process for individual product lines, target audience or sales channels.
The Sales Process & Sales Pipeline
Establishing and using a sales process—also known as sales pipeline management—is vital to rapid, profitable sales and company cohesion and teamwork. This means grasping each step of the sales process, understanding the requirements for each, and establishing the whole lot as sales department or even company policy.
But in today’s highly competitive sales climate that sales process must also be flexible; companies must have the capacity to adapt and change the sales process as needed. Sales pipeline management steps established a couple years ago may be out of date now, and sales reps following them, may be unwittingly losing sales.
That kind of adaptability is also crucial as sales reps dig in and fully understand a company, its processes, needs, strengths and weaknesses. For example, two different manufacturers—even of similar goods—may be found to have totally different buying patterns, once they are fully examined. One may require the sales rep, as part of the sales process, to deal directly with the owner of the company. The other may require dealing with the director of purchasing, but also the floor managers intimately related to the product’s operation.
Similarly, different product lines each may have a different sales pipeline. A simple example would be vehicles: it might not be the same sales process that sells a fleet of executive automobiles as well as a fleet of freight trucks, even if to the same company.
It is equally as important to understand the position of the target person at the company you are selling to. What kinds of barriers does someone in that job encounter? To whom does he or she listen? What will your product or service do for them?
Just as with the understanding of company and industry, knowledge of the target person or buying group within that company may vary the sales process. A data entry supervisor constantly hounded about their primary application may want to know that the one you’re selling will satisfy the data entry personnel—hence a full demonstration and perhaps even a briefing for them might be required. Or in another example, you’re selling a product that could replace an industry standard, and the only way you’ll convince your target person that yours is superior is with a feature-by-feature comparison.
A Real-World Reflection
It should be obvious by this point that sales pipeline management and your buyer personas go hand-in-hand. Together they reflect as accurately as possible the real-world set of steps that make up the sales process, dovetailed to your buyer personas and profiles. Having these elements well in place and regularly updated (or at least checked to see if they’re up-to-date), and adding to that a genuinely valuable product or service, you can hardly go wrong.