John O' Gorman

Selling Like Columbus – Overcoming The Challenges Of Mapping The Deal

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

Most sellers struggle to map out exactly how their prospects are going to make the buying decision. That is because the buying process is uncharted water and that leaves sellers vulnerable to a shocks and surprises.

In this insight will present 10 steps for a more accurate undestanding of how the decision will be made.

Selling like Colombus

We help salespeople to boost their deal success. We begin by asking the seller to map the steps that the buyer is going to follow in making the decision. This is vital to; understanding what the buyer is going to do next, when a decision is likely to be made and even the real chances of success. Despite its importance however it can be a real challenge.

The sellers first attempts at mapping the buying process are sketchy. Indeed, as sketchy as the early maps used by navigators, such as; Columbus or Magellan. That is because when it comes to the buyers steps the seller’s long journey of discovery has just begun.


Why Mapping The Decision Is Difficult

Increasingly buying is taking place behind closed doors. Buyers can be understandably reluctant to share the details of their buying process with a seller. That means the seller must rely on a certain amount of guesswork in predicting the buyer’s next steps.

If the buyer is at step 3 in a 6 step process then forecasting that the deal is going to close next month is going to result in a shock. But that is just one of the ways in which understanding the buyer process is key to sales success and one of the reasons why accurately mapping the buying process matters.


Beware: The Seller’s Map Is Out By 20-35%!

We reviewed almost 100 seller defined buying processes to determine just how closely they reflect the new reality of buying. We counted the number and order of the steps and analyzed the beginnings and endings – comparing it against our library of real world buying processes.

The results suggest that your early attempts at mapping the buyer’s process are going to be out by as much as 20-30%. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Our analysis revealed a seller centric view of the buying process that results in lists of steps for the buyer that are remarkably similar to those of the seller’s sales process. For example sending in proposal or making a sales presentation are often included. However, although important to the seller such steps may not even appear on the buyer’s process.

2. On first examination the buying process as described by the seller would appear to be accurate in terms of the number of steps, with sellers listed 5-8 steps in the prospect’s buying process. However, look closer and you will find that there is widespread confusion between activities and steps.

What is a step? It is undertaken by the buyer, moves the buyer closer (cognitively or otherwise) towards a decision, or another outcome. It is a group of activities. If it was removed the decision would be in jeopardy. Activities on the other hand are the tasks required to complete a step.

3. Getting the first and the last step right is key – but as they do not always involve the salesperson that is not easy:

• The first step is not the call to a supplier, or the request for a proposal – most buying decisions start well in advance of a supplier or salesperson being involved.

• The final step is not a purchase orders – buyers are paying increased attention to supplier performance and benefits realization in what is a full-lifecycle approach. The buying continues even after the commission cheque has been cashed and the sales person has moved on to the next deal.


How Accurate Is Your Map?

Here is the test of just how accurate your map of the buying process for your customers and prospects:

1. Take one of your top 5 opportunities and list the steps that you believe the buyer is going to follow.

2. Highlight the step that the buyer is presently at.

Now how confident are you in your answers? This apparently straight-forward exercise, can be a real challenge. Don’t worry however, there are steps that you can take to ensure a more accurate view.


10 Steps To Make Your Map More Accurate

  1. Keep asking questions, continually refining your view of the buyer’s steps. However, be warned simply asking the buyer straight off to detail his/her buying process may result in a blank stare.
  2. Read between the lines of the buyer’s tender documentation or other communication.
  3. First understand the complexity of the decision – where does it fit in terms of the 4 levels of complexity.
  4. Assess the role of procurement in the organization and which of the 4 procurement styles is likely to be adopted
  5. Check if the company has a supplier portal, or procurement pages on its website. If it is public sector procurement then check out the appropriate published procedures and regulations.
  6. If the buying organization is using a procurement system then that can reveal a lot about its likely buying approach. So, check out the system vendor’s documentation.
  7. Understand how your customers typically decide – ask those who have bought from you in the past how they made the decision.
  8. Ask other suppliers to the same organization about the buyer’s form in terms of how decisions are made.
  9. Review published examples of best practice buying that can be found in your prospect’s industry publications as well as procurement magazines. Examine the text book models that are studied by all professional buyers and are applied in many organizations.
  10. Cross-reference with how your own companies buys – talk to your COO, CFO or CPO to find out how the decision should be made.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

The latest research on how buyers buy
Who makes the buying decision