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Need a better way to Guide a Sale

Have you made a huge investment in CRM but are totally frustrated with low sales rep adoption rates and InforCRMSalesFunnel-smallinaccurate sales forecasting results?  As a sales manager is it too difficult to coach salespeople effectively? It may be because off a flawed, outdated CRM funnel structure...  

Selling has dramatically changed and the 'process' focus needs to change from using a sales process about how you internally operate a sale to how the buyer really buys.  I have seen too many organizations with a sales process with steps that describe what their company expects a sales rep to do, not what it wants prospective customers to be doing.  In the old way, an opportunity can appear to be progressing quite nicely because the salesperson is doing everything the funnel describes.  

But what happens when the prospective customer's environment is different - they move much more slowly in their buying process?  Your old selling process did not take their buying steps into account, mistakes are made and forecast accuracy goes down the drain. Neither the sale rep nor the manager is measuring the success of each step by tracking buying behavior.


Identify Customer Buying Process and Next Step

Develop a sales funnel with meaningful stages that identify specific actions that customers take when they are moving forward in their buying steps.  Track in your CRM a sales process that a prospective customer has:

  • Clearly identified the list of needs and wants - their requirements.
  • Accurately understands their needs among the decision team members 
  • Considered the economic and emotional impact if they do nothing.
  • Been comparing your solution to those of your competitors
  • Gotten an executive direction to pursue solution options
  • Accurately considered possible timelines for actually getting your offering placed in use
  • Allocated funds for a buying decision
  • Established the priority of their buying criteria
  • Acknowledged to your sales rep the importance of your company's differentiations
  • Met with the decision team to review the proposal
  • Understood what resources on their side it will take to implement your solution 

To measure forward progress, follow the GTD (Getting Things Done) process from David Allen - identify the next physical action.  Identify the 'exit criteria' for each buying step. Answer the question "What specific action do I want my prospect to take at the end of this meeting/call/email....?"

Example Infor CRM modified Sales Process with Buying steps:




Help sales reps with a real world sales process in CRM matching buying cycle



Buying Cycle @ TopLine Leadership 

How then can a company create a situation where sales reps are more motivated to use their CRM system?

The key is to re-align your sales process stages and steps to the buying process.  

Kevin Davis, president of TopLine Leadership Inc. recommends that this change will help in three ways:

1. Improve forecast accuracy by forecasting on customer-do-forward actions

When the sales process is aligned with customer's buying process, each stage of the funnel identifies specific actions that customer takes when they are moving forward in their buying steps. Tracking that the prospective customer has, say, established the priority of their buying criteria or has acknowledged to your rep the importance of your company's specific differentiators is a lot more meaningful in terms of evaluating the status of a deal than knowing that your rep has completed a needs analysis.

2. Sales increase because your reps are keeping more prospects moving forward

Being able to identify when a prospect has completed one step and are moving to the next step helps all involved visualize progress. Salespeople can then consider the criteria in CRM to help them answer the important sales planning question: 'What specific action do I want my prospect to take at the end of this ...... step?"

In our crazy busy world, too many salespeople sell too fast, especially during the early stages of an opportunity. Concentrating your reps' attention on achieving the exit step criteria question will help reps slow down each meeting and help your prospective customers to complete their buying process more quickly.  Believe me, prospects will appreciate it.

3. Improve sales managers' visibility in the funnel so reps receive better coaching

A great benefit is that you will notice sooner if a deal slows down or falters by tracking deals in CRM based on customer progress and not just the sales rep activities.  Managers love the fact that they have a chance to get involved sooner and coach the rep how to get the deal back on track or stop sooner chasing a loosing opportunity. 

Better for the rep because now they have benefited from your Infor CRM  or Act! contact management. They will see much greater value in keeping their records up to date.


Benefits Summary:

  • Get more impact in both CRM and sales coaching from knowledge of the customer and your people
  • More accurate Sales forecasts because you know where your prospective customers are in their buying process.
  • A rep's overly optimistic and subjective opinion is replaced with far more objective evidence of buyer behavior.
  • More effective sales coaching sessions with a focus on developing rep's skills in moving customers through their buying process.
  • Sales reps become more engaging while sounding and looking more professional


This blog was inspired by Kevin Davis, President of TopLine Leadership Inc. a leading sales and sales management training company.  His company shows companies how to dramatically increase top line revenue growth by implementing a consistent sales process based on a deep understanding on how customers buy.  Recommended book:  Slow Down, Sell Faster.

Related articles:

One Simple tip for Drastically Redefining Your Sales Pipeline in CRM

Focus on Sales Effectiveness in CRM (best of list)

Gaining increase User engagement and adoption of CRM,,,,,

Creating effective Sales Processes with  Buying Processes....

Making Your Business Work Smarter with CRM...

Topics:   CRM user adoption Make your business work smarter Business success with CRM Sales Productivity Improvements

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