In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail across the ocean blue with the goal of finding riches in the East Indies. However, though he had a clear goal, he didn’t have a map, so he fell well short of his intended destination, landing in the Caribbean islands instead. (Despite what many believe, he didn’t discover continental North America or even set foot there.)

Too many sellers approach deals like Columbus: they have a clear goal—closing the deal—but they bumble through the sales process without ever charting a course to reach that goal. Without aligning their course to their target—the buyer—they veer off in directions that lead them away from their goal. They forget that their selling process isn’t the only journey with which they should be concerned. There’s a separate, yet vitally important, process occurring at the same time: the buying process. When these processes aren’t aligned, the seller can easily get lost along the way.

To avoid wandering off course, sellers need to recognize that today’s buyers are in the captain’s chair. In the past, sellers charted the course and mapped the buyer’s decision-making process to their actions. However, buyers are more informed than ever before, meaning they need less guidance from sellers and are in greater control of their own direction.

That means sellers have to learn to follow a different path if they want to close deals.

A New Path Forward

Today, sellers need to follow their buyers’ lead; they must align their sales tactics to the way in which their buyers want to solve their problems. As customers consider a purchase, they evaluate the opportunity, research possible solutions, compare prospective sellers, narrow the field and then choose a winner to make a deal with.

At every stage, sellers must track their buyers’ place along this decision-making path, ensuring that their team has the tools and resources they need to move the buyer along each step while anticipating and proactively resolving any potential challenges or obstacles.

To check for alignment, ask questions such as these:

  • What are you doing to help your customer make the decision they need to make at this point in the buying process?
  • Does your customer have all the necessary information to make this next decision?
  • How are you helping the buyer move through each stage of the buying process?
  • What stage will your buyer enter next, and how can you pave the way for that transition?

Ensuring that you’re moving in tandem with your buyer—and keeping the buyer’s needs at the forefront of your attention—will help you both arrive at your end goal of winning the business. Coordinating your efforts with the buyer’s stage may also help you reach your destination more quickly. Sellers who align their sales conversation to the buyer’s path—those who best understand their customer’s needs and tailor their approach to building the greatest value by uncovering unrecognized problems, unseen opportunities or unanticipated solutions—can shorten lengthy sales cycles and ignite urgency to act in their buyers.

Alignment: A Winning Proposition

The more closely aligned buyers and sellers are at each stage of the purchasing path, the stronger their results in terms of win rates and quota attainment, according to the 4th Annual Sales Enablement Study.

The study found that organizations that failed to consider their customers’ path achieved a quota attainment of only 44.9 percent. By contrast, sellers who aligned their processes most closely with their customers’ path saw 58.5 percent attainment—a gain of 13.6 percent.

And organizations that aligned their sales enablement functions—content, training, coaching and tools—with their buyers’ path experienced even greater success. Those organizations saw win rates that were 11.5 points higher than those without that alignment.

How can your organization attain similar success and reach its intended destination?

By finding ways to coordinate your sales approach with your buyer’s unique journey. If you keep each customer’s needs at the center of every interaction, you can ensure alignment at all critical touchpoints. This will enable you to evolve from a mere vendor or supplier into your buyer’s go-to partner and trusted advisor—which will help you both find the solutions you’ve been searching for.

Contact us to learn more about how Miller Heiman Group can help.

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