By: Don Gray

I have been an advocate for years that what governs our selling is not our sales process but rather the customer’s buying process. Dan Bernoske wrote in SmartBrief Online a few years ago “How B2B Social Sellers Align With Their Buyers”. He offers some good advice, however, based on my experience, would change a few critical points.

Dan suggests that social selling is what gets a rep in the door, but, once in front of the prospect, they must align themselves with the prospect’s buying process. He presents a fundamental eight-stage customer buying process and discusses the importance of aligning selling activities with each step of that process. If you are misaligned, then you risk putting off the buyer and losing the opportunity.

Where I differ in Dan’s approach lies first with the buying process. I look at the buying process as six steps, not eight:

  1. Problem Identification – do “I” (the customer) even have a problem that needs to be solved?
  2. Business Impact – if I have a problem, what is it costing my business, department, or me?
  3. Gain Financial Commitment – if the problem needs solving, I need to get funding, but from where?
  4. Evaluate alternatives – build the process for evaluating and selecting a solution
  5. Conduct the evaluation – utilize your process to evaluate your choices
  6. Select solution and buy – select the solution approach that will give you the desired business return and solve the problem

Dan ignores the discovery that must be present in each buying stage. I work with my clients to help them define the most critical information we want the sales rep to discover as a part of their sales activities. Knowing what to discover and when is critical. Each buying stage offers its own unique activities that, if the sales rep is successful, will move that buyer along the buying process, allowing the selling activities to take place.

The article stresses the importance of listening. I would add one caveat to Dan’s stance: how well you listen and how much good information you get is completely dependent on the discovery questions you bring to each meeting with your prospect.

My last point of difference is learning how to lose early. With a focus on the buying process and a good discovery approach, you can determine quickly whether the buyer is serious about solving a business problem or if they are just looking for additional information. Help your sales reps learn how to sell to the prospect’s buying process and you will improve your sales growth.


About Don Gray

Don Gray is the Founder and President of Sales Engineering Group, a sales performance consultancy. Don has worked with a variety of small, medium, and large B2B organizations to help them develop their distinct value messaging, identify how customers buy their solutions, and skill their sales teams to drive predictable sales results. You can find him leading the monthly Sales & Marketing Shared Interest Groups.