Sales Process, Step 1: Introductory/Listening

A few weeks we brainstormed around the topic: “What can we (seller) actively do to push a buyer along his buyer journey?”. Fact is, that you only sell when the buyer wants to buy. You have only 2 options: wait until he made his journey on his own or with the help of someone else. I bet you want to be the one who’s holding his hand, right?   

This article is the first of a series about the buyer journey’s simulations.

 

Sales Process Buyer Journey

I put this together last week. One of my partners calls it “scientific shit” related to the sales process. I prefer to think of it as taking a bunch of unstructured stuff flying around different articles and LinkedIn posts and turning it into something resembling process.

As you can see down the far right side, the five sales process stages I have are:

  • Introductory
  • Discovery
  • Opportunity
  • Down The Funnel
  • Won

You can argue with me about the number and names of those — different people use different names, obviously — but I think the concepts are pretty sound in terms of a sales process.

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Let’s start at the beginning: the introductory stage.

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What’s the buyer state in the introductory phase?

Usually it’s crazy busy. (Remember: being busy is akin to being high; we all love the sensation.) The key question for a potential buyer in the introductory sales stage is “Why should I listen?” They feel they have no time. They feel like listening to you and your offer is probably a waste of time, and they either have another plan (on the horizon) or an existing plan (that they’re mostly happy with). Who needs you? They are unaware of the problem or need you want to talk about.

The goal of the introductory stage is to move the buyer from “crazy busy” to “curious about the deal,” which you come to understand through the basic signal of “OK, I want to hear more…”

At the next stage — discovery — your buyer’s question will be “Why do I care?” (More on that in future post.) But before they can care, they gotta listen. That’s the first hurdle. That’s before any of the real science or relationship-building even enters, honestly.

How do you make them listen?

I’d say there are five major approaches in the introductory stage. Two of them we all know well:

  • Cold calling
  • EMail prospecting

Some people think cold calling is dead. Personally I don’t. I think it still has a place, but if you want to really turbocharge your phone as a sales engine, you need to understand the role of email prospecting. That can get you in front of the right people quickly and make them want to listen. Don’t necessarily over-focus on email, but don’t under-sell it and cold call all the time either.

The other three, more marketing-based, would be:

  • Trade shows
  • Print ads/content
  • Social media

I won’t go deep into this because I don’t want to go “inside baseball” on how an introductory sales process works here; just want to sketch it out. Will say this, though: a lot of people think prospecting on social media lacks ROI, and in some cases it does. But if you put interesting stuff on LinkedIn about your business or issues tangential to your business, you make a lot of friends, and those friends turn into relationships, and those relationships turn into sales — and that’s just from the stuff that was already bouncing around in your head anyway. Put it down. When it’s out in the world, like-minded people respond. Eventually those relationships become, or lead to, “leads.”

But as you can see, there’s not a lot you can do to make someone listen to you if he is “unaware” and in “why listen” mood. No webinar, no product demo and no white paper will attract his attention. He will not even google for your keywords.

You better use your few weapons the right way: do outbound (Cold calling, Email prospecting) if you have a niche target market or a disruptive product and use social media and ads if your target market is wide.

Some more science stuff

Others have argued you need four things to get someone to listen to you: – but that clearly comes after grabbing his/her attention:

  • Authority
  • Empathy
  • Collegiality
  • Education

Visually:

Sales Process Listen Better

Quick on this: a big problem sales guys have sometimes is an over-focus on the “authority” (commanding respect) or “collegiality” (shared purpose) part. Over-focusing on authority makes you seem like a dick; over-focusing on collegiality can make you seem swarmy. Take a look at our B2B Sales Essentials.

Next up: Discovery phase!

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