Companies today are facing increasingly difficult challenges, stiffer competition and more demanding customer needs in a way unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. As such, investing in, implementing, and relying on a solid sales process can be the difference between leading the market or watching your competitors pass you by. Let’s walk through the importance of sales process, define its relevance to both the vendor and customer, and outline many of the steps involved thus ensuring mutual success.
In this series of four short posts, I’ll look to highlight the phases of a good sales process and discuss what we do at Artemis. I’ll touch on: the sales process defined, discovery, presentation, and the final phase – selection, negotiation, and closing. If you want to learn more, I’d love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 4: Selection, Negotiation and Closing
Moving beyond fit assessment and presentations, you now embark down what is known as the selection portion of a sales process. Typically, the customer’s buying team, which can be 1 or multiple people, will evaluate all solutions presented to them and compare or contrast them against each other. A selection will be made by the team at this point on which solution to move forward with OR a short list will be created of which vendors come in one final time. Either way, now is the time that financials really come into play and there has to be a match with what the customer has budgeted and what the vendor prices into their offering. As much as it would be great to own a Ferrari, there’s a slim chance any of us would be spending $225k anytime soon on a car. On the flip side, that same cost for a house is much more reasonable so the value of the offering has to match the budget and requirements of the buyer.
In certain instances, reps have control, to some extent, on pricing and contract terms among other items for negotiation within their authority. It is within reason however and like all negotiations, should involve both giving and getting. Either way, regardless of negotiation power, a rep absolutely can determine who is involved in the buying process, what approvals need to be made and how far up the ladder to go, if a PO needs to be issued or if there will be another form of payment and how long that process takes. It’s not uncommon to have 2 to 4-month legal reviews for contract T’s&C’s for large-scale enterprise deals. If this isn’t addressed up front, there is no way you can forecast it appropriately. If one can’t correctly forecast, there is a good chance of not having the proper internal resources allocated and thereby delay setup for the customer.
When it comes to closing, there is usually a bit of a dance conducted between vendor and customer. Yes, asking for the business is important, however, it is not the only factor. When it comes to the close, a sales rep should know all facets of what the customer currently does or has available to them. They should know exactly why their solution will be worth investing in, from the customer’s own feedback and perspective. A customer should not be unsure or nervous, they should be excited to get started and if applicable, ramping up their internal teams for implementation. If there is a disconnect, go back a few steps and ensure any concern has been addressed.
Many people consider the close to be the most important portion of a sales process, but in reality it’s more of a necessary formality that effectively transitions a project from pre-sale to implementation. If you are leaving anything up to chance when it is time to close, most likely, you missed things earlier on and you put both this “deal” and the customer’s project outcome at risk. Do the work up front where the close begins, and the close at the end will really only be scheduling time for contract signature and allocating resources on both sides to ensure everything kicks off smoothly.
At any time in the sales process, things can become cyclical and get bounced back to discovery, presentation, negotiation or a combination of different circumstances. It is critical to recognize where you are so you can most effectively ensure how to navigate that stage and continue to move things forward. Just always remember one thing: a sales process is set by you; the sales rep and it is structured in a way that ensures mutual understanding between vendor and customer. Its only true objective is to form a partnership with your customers that leaves them delighted in doing business with you and turns you into a critical factor in their success! When you stop trying to win deals and you start trying to solve real challenges your customers face on a daily basis, you will be much more successful and bring tremendous value to those you engage with!