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Who is Responsible for Mapping the Buying Process? A Sales Consulting Firm’s POV

The following is from one of the organizations that allow us to guest post some of their great content, Sales Benchmark Index.  This post was written by Greg Alexander.  You can find the original post here. It has been modified slightly for presentation here.

Our sales consulting firm has helped dozens of companies map the buying process for their product or service.  Over time, we have developed a process to do this correctly.  Part of this process is to assign this responsibility to a department.  Here is what we have learned:

Sales should not be burdened with the task of mapping the buying process for their product or service.

Product Management should deliver to sales a buying process map for the product or service.

Why?

4 Reasons Why Product Management Should Map the Buying Process:

1 - It must get done and sales departments are not doing it.  Without a buying process map, you cannot sell effectively.  After a half decade of sales leaders talking about it, in the end, they don’t have the time.  Ask Product Management to get it done.

2 - Product Management routinely speaks with suspects, prospects, and customers, as part of their job.  But, they can have a conversation sales cannot have, resulting in rich buyer intelligence.  It goes like this:

Hi my name is Sue. I am a product manager.  I am not a sales person and could not sell anything to you if I wanted to.  I am speaking to you today to better understand the market problems that exist with (insert problem your product solves). This understanding will allow us to invest our development resources properly.  This will result in new products that can help make your life better.

Would you please tell me as you began the selection process, what were you looking for? What were your selection criteria? How did you build the initial list of vendors?  Why did you choose vendor XYZ vs. vendor ABC? Etc.”

3 - Product Management has a running head start in that they already have buyer and user personas built.  They have to provide development with product requirements.  Step one in developing product requirements is to do the research that goes into the personas.

When sales are tasked with mapping the buying process, they build personas from scratch. I am not sure why sales insist on duplicating work that has already been performed, but they do it every time.  Marketing (Cats) and Sales (Dogs) continue to fight. Leverage what has already been built.

4 - Product Management is organized, as a department, by product.  A product manager is measured on how much revenue her product is producing. This means she only cares about how her target buyer makes a purchasing decision for her product.  This results in several buying process maps, one developed by each product manager for each product.  This is how it should be done.

Sales, as a department, are not organized by product.  A sales leader is not measured on how much revenue a single product produces but rather, his total revenue produced across all products.  This means he wrongfully performs a single buying process map, with no recognition of the different purchasing processes for each product.  Worse, he builds a single sales process and forces his reps to use a generic sales methodology that frustrates buyer/seller due to its lack of relevancy.

Call to Action for Sales:

  • Go make a deal with product management. Tell them if they will provide you a buying process map for each product, you will build a corresponding sales process.  You both win because more products will get sold.
  • If you have a single sales process but more than one product, recognize you have a problem. Find out the specific problems each product solves, for who, and how the target buyer decides on a solution.  Then, build custom sales processes for each.
  • If you have an off-the-shelf licensed sales process that is not universally adopted by the field, stop wasting the reps time by trying to enforce it.  These sales methodologies have been around for 30 years and have never worked as advertised.  They are not going to magically work this year.
  • If you don’t have a sales process at all, get one and fast.  Companies that have one out perform those that don’t have one 5x.

What do you think sales leaders?  Can you better leverage those smart people in product management?

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