I recently watched an interview with Tibor Shanto, a Toronto based B2B sales expert, discussing whether sales is art or science. Shanto was making the case that while not purely science, sales most definitely needs to be rooted in...
I recently watched an interview with Tibor Shanto, a Toronto based B2B sales expert, discussing whether sales is art or science. Shanto was making the case that while not purely science, sales most definitely needs to be rooted in science, in the form of a defined, vibrant, validated and adhered to process.
I caught up with Shanto, principal at Renbor Sales Solutions to discuss how process can improve sales and enable sales people to capture opportunities they would have otherwise lost.
Tibor told me that he was a proponent of a having a process, but was leery to call it a sales process.
Over the years there has been a lot of emphasis placed on having a sales process, but in reality a sale has two parties, the buyer and the seller, so the seller needs to be aware of the buying or buyer’s process, if they are to successfully execute their own sales process. Strictly focusing on the sales process without accommodating the buyers’ process, leads to a number of issues, not the least of which is lost sales. This is a real challenge for many sales organizations and sales people.
A key overlooked benefit of a good process is that it creates alignment; alignment with other internal groups and processes, but much more importantly alignment with the buyer. Without that alignment with the buyer, you are exposed in a number of ways. Picture two ships in the night; they see each other, but continue to sail their different ways.
I wondered how do you develop a process for selling that can be executed without having to be recreated for each buyer?
According to Shanto, he developed a flexible process called EDGE. He told me to think of it as a platform on which you can build something specific to your market or environment. But as a platform it starts off with a focus on alignment, and then is tailored to specifics. The EDGE has two sides, each with four Zones:
Buyer > Explore Define requirements Game plan Execute.
Seller > Engage Discovery Gain commitment Execute.
Often sellers will be out of synch with the buyer. For example the buyer may still be exploring the need or desire to enter the market, and will have met with the seller, and the seller now believes they are engaged, and move to Discovery before the buyer is ready to start defining requirements. This happens because the seller has been involved much longer than the buyer; they identified the company, the internal players, done their research, been to LinkedIn, made the call, and got the appointment. They are ready to move on, the buyer is just getting started. Where it becomes more dangerous is when the seller gets ahead of a buyer still squarely in the Defining requirements Zone, and the seller is trying to close because he has moved to Gaining a commitment. This is where buyers get scared off, and opportunities are lost for no other reason than misalignment. By the way, the same can happen when the seller falls behind the buyer, who then finds another seller in the same Zone they are in.
I asked Shanto how the EDGE process deals with the differences in buyers, and the different styles of sales representatives.
Shanto believes that the variance among organizations is in the sub-stages of each Zone. For example based on the nature of the product and market, one company may have two stages that fall under Discovery, where different product, bought by other users may require three stages in the same Zone. Even with similar companies, based on their position in the market, their outlook, there are instances where one may have more stages than the next, but those stages are still in the same Zone.
As for reps, that is an important consideration, because sales is not pure science, it does require individual creativity and skill. It is a science delivered artfully, and we do not want to limit that important element. The EDGE as a platform provides the grounding that allows sales people to be more creative and productive. Consider music, whether you want to look at Charlie Parker or Ian Anderson, they had to learn the basic notes or chord structure before they went on to improvise the way they did. Most great sales people I meet have that grounding in process that allows them to improvise that much better, both in terms of execution and results.