By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® – The Sales Training Company
This article is part of the “It Is What It Is” (IIWII) series; read last week’s article here.
Most every organization has established milestones. In fact it is one of the first steps in implementing CRM software. Milestones map out the steps in selling cycles, but in my opinion there are often issues in defining them in a way that they are customer-centric:
1. Milestones should reflect the steps to be taken. Often organizations merely define the steps for major opportunities. In doing so, they fail to realize there are many different types of sales:
a. Large Accounts
b. National Accounts
c. New accounts
The effort and deliverables will vary greatly dependent upon the size and complexity of a sale. In recognizing one size does not fit all, begin by defining milestones for large opportunities, but “water down” the steps as opportunities decrease in size and complexity.
2. Rather than define the steps you want sellers to take in selling opportunities, consider integrating steps that your buyers will want to take as they attempt to reach buying decisions. Examples would be proof for buyers, a detailed cost vs. benefit, calls to establish implementation/activation activities, getting on an approved vendor list, etc. The fact is that people and organizations prefer to buy rather than be sold. Milestones should reflect this.
3. Whenever possible, base the achievement of milestones on measurable actions rather subjective seller decisions. Better yet, make some measurable buyer actions the basis for achieving milestones. Some examples would be gaining access to specific titles, getting buyer agreement on the business outcomes they are trying to achieve, gaining buyer approval of a written cost benefit, providing a written implementation plan, for large opportunities having calls that involve members of your management team, etc.
4. As milestones are defined and evolve, consider what type of buying experience is being provided to the buying committee. Beyond trying to define what steps must be made to close sales, consider looking at it from a buyer’s perspective in providing everything they need to make an informed buying decision.
Defining just inward looking milestones (what a vendor needs to qualify and move opportunities forward) are likely to institutionalize an attempt to control buyers rather than empower them to make buying decisions. The ultimate result of integrating selling and buying steps should be a superior buying experience.