Wednesday, January 05, 2011

It is counterintuitive but it works


As a person who believed that the velocity with which a lead converts to a deal is not considered enough, I was skeptical whether the book Slow Down, Sell Faster! by Kevin Davis would work for me. This skepticism did not last long. Once I understood that the title of the book recommends that the rhythm of selling should fit to how customers want to buy, I felt comfortable. I am of the belief that sales velocity should be measured by how fast milestones in the buyer’s journey are reached, not how fast sales activities are carried out. My comfort with the contents of the book continued to increase the further I read it.

In the first part of the book, Davis suggest an eight step circular buying process model providing guidance for sellers, what to do and whom to access within the customer organization to help the customer navigate through his/her journey of buying. I appreciate that he does not promote this model as a one-size-fits-all approach to success. To the contrary, he makes it perfectly clear that his model is focused on “buy-learning” where potential customers do not yet have all the necessary information to make a buying decision, compared to “buy-knowing” where buyers can make a decision quickly because they already know as much as they need to make a decision.

To make the model actionable for sellers, Davis assigns a metaphor of real professionals to each of the eight phases. These metaphors describe the ideal behavior of a sales person to help the buyer move through the respective phase. Here is an illustration of the concept: The first phase in the buying process is labeled “Change.” The sales role best suited to facilitate the buying process at this stage is “Student,” someone who is learning about changes affecting a potential customer. In the following “Discontent” phase, the appropriate sales role is that of a “Doctor,” a person who diagnoses the cause of the discontent, and so on.

-Davis’s model includes two phases after the customer’s buying decision, reflecting his belief that the purpose of selling is not closing a deal but opening a relationship

These sales roles metaphors illustrate well what a successful seller needs to do in the different phases of the buying process. However there is a danger of confusion if your company’s job description uses some of these same labels in different ways.

The remaining chapters of the first part of the book deal with the major aspect that make a deal complex: the fact that there are several people involved in the buying decision, each having different roles. As Davis’s book is based on seminars he teaches, it is understandable that specific jargon is used to describe the various roles in the buying team. I particularly liked the concept of the power broker. I am less sure about the role of the ROI authority, the person who can make funds available and is the ultimate decider. I am sure the role exists and is crucial, I am just not so sure about the label.

The buying team roles are then mapped to where and how they are most likely involved in the eight step buying process model, thus giving the sales person guidance when best to speak to whom. Combining the roles of the buying team and the buying process makes it very clear why “calling high” is not as sure a recipe for success as many sales experts want to make us believe.

The second part of the book then describes the sales roles of “Student,” “Doctor,” etc., in detail. With real-life examples the model is brought to life. In those examples, there are some details where old salesmanship shines through. But this does not in any way diminish the value of the concepts which are leading edge thinking of how to approach selling in the 21st century.

With the third part of the book, Davis demonstrates his expertise on how a sales team can be introduced to the new thinking he is suggesting. Sales managers play a crucial role in such initiatives. The book also covers the aspect how managers can use the eight sales roles as a very effective basis for coaching their people and thus make sure that the concepts are applied to greater sales success.

Davis is obviously someone who carried a bag in the field. However, unlike many others, he is able to conceptualize his experiences to make them comprehensible to others. The book is definitely not of the category “this is what I did and I see no reason why you should not be successful doing the same.” Instead it provides a very good framework for sales organizations wanting to remain successful in this new era, where customers have much more power than salespeople have been used to.

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