When the time comes to put a sales process in place, CRMs often rely on a laid-out process that only requires slight customisation. The process is very linear, straightforward to follow, and tends to look a bit like this:
Lead – Discovery – Evaluation – Technical Go/No Go – Proposal – Negotiation – Close
You can tweak it and improve it, but, as it is, it will remain a sales approach. It will remain very methodological, starting with a lead and ending with a contract. This process can work fine at the beginning of your story with a prospect, but even in this instance, it is, unfortunately, quite rare that each phase would be detailed enough to guide the team with a customer-centric approach.
Bert/Mr Dawes Sr: “Winds in the east, there’s a mist coming in, like something is brewing, about to begin.”
In this new decade, more than ever, the standard for many industries is a subscription and renewal model. Even in a tacit renewal situation, your customer has a choice to renew or not renew after his or her initial engagement, typically after 12 months.
Mary Poppins: “That’s a pie-crust promise; easily made, easily broken!”
The risk of churn is why I recommend putting in place a cycle (with overlapping of essential roles), rather than a linear process. Something like this:
Lead & Discovery
The Sales Development Representative (SDR) and Account Executive should team up for any prospecting and outbound activity:
Benefits for the company:
- The Account Executive will bring segmentation expertise:
- why are we targeting these accounts in priority?
- What business strategies, in the prospect’s annual report, align with our value proposal?
- What could we do to solve its problems?
- The SDR, on board with this messaging, will uncover critical and decisive information from the prospect’s Operations Department. Unlike in many companies, the SDR should help prepare manager-level meetings and attend these meetings to leverage the information in hunting for more stakeholders in the account, thus growing the opportunity.
Benefits for the customer:
- Complete alignment in the outbound messaging
- Feel special and not part of mass mailing
- Will be open to share with other experts where they believe they need improvement
Customer Cycle: An onboarding and cruising phase usually precedes the prospect’s becoming a fully-fledged customer. And thus, this new phase in the cycle should be worked from then on as a Trio: SDR-Account Executive-Customer Success.
Mrs Banks: “As a matter of fact, since you hired Mary Poppins, the most extraordinary things seem to have come over the household.”
Mr Banks: “Is that so?”
Mrs Banks: “Take Ellen, for instance. She hasn’t broken a dish all morning.”Mr Banks: “Really? Well, that is extraordinary.”
Evaluation – Technical Go/No Go
When you arrive at this part of the customer cycle, the SDR and Account Executive will have come to understand the problems they can solve. Ideally, the prospect will have shared a clear outline of why it’s acting now and the potential business impact on both sides.
During this phase, you want to see the Account Executive working closely with a presales engineer through workshops, to identify use cases and potential technical and security roadblocks, to prepare for an executive presentation.
Customer Cycle: If this is an existing customer, the working pair will become a trio, with a member of customer success staff bringing proof points from other existing projects and key leading indicators.
Mary Poppins: “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun, and the job’s a game!”
The proposal is a verbal agreement, incorporating the use cases, technical validation and (ideally) vendor of choice of the executives.
One person usually leads it: the Account Executive, sometimes supported by his or her direct manager. This is, in my humble opinion, a mistake. It is crucial, even for a ‘new logo’, to show a united front at the moment of the proposal.