By Maria Geokezas, director of client services for Heinz Marketing

Maybe you’ve heard about the 3% rule? It states that at any given time 3% of your market is ready to buy (Vorsight).

I’m that 3%. I’m ready to buy. I have a need, and some urgency around it. I did some research to identify the companies that are leaders in the field and then got referrals from existing customers to specific people within each company. I sent each representative an email asking to set up some time for a product tour. This should be easy – right?

Not exactly. On the positive side, it is good to see that these sales organizations are following best practices and have an established sales process to identify, prioritize and qualify leads.

But their sales process is really built for the 40% that are “poised” to buy. This is when a systematic approach is necessary to ensure your sales force is spending their time on the people that are likely to buy.

In the case of the 3%, who are most likely to purchase something, these companies’ sales processes actually make it more difficult to buy. Let me provide a couple real-life examples.

EXAMPLE #1

Step 1: Making contact

At one company, it took 3 days for the rep to respond to my email. It took another two days until we could talk. When we finally were able to meet by phone, the rep didn’t want to talk about my immediate need for conference services. Instead, he wanted to talk about a potential partnership.

Step 2: Getting a product demo

The sales rep didn’t inquire about my timeframe, but I told him I wanted to make a decision in the next two weeks. This timeframe did not create a sense of urgency with the rep. Nor did it help to move things along more quickly. It took another week until we could see the product. I provided my specifications and asked for an estimate. I was asked about a partnership.

Step 3: Securing an estimate

It took another week to put a meeting together with 3 other people to review our specifications. Again I was asked about a partnership. And then it took 2 more days to finally get an estimate. A 1-hour long meeting was scheduled to discuss the estimate. We spent 10 minutes reviewing the estimate and then the rep wanted to spend the rest of our time together to discuss a partnership.

Honestly, if I didn’t need to present our client with the findings from our research of different conference providers, I would have abandoned this company after the first interaction. They didn’t understand or care about my timeframe and they weren’t aligned with my objectives to ensure my customer got the best possible solution for their needs.

EXAMPLE #2

Step 1: Making the connection

At another company, I was sent to a BDR or appointment setter even though I had a personal referral into the company. I told the BDR exactly what type of functionality I wanted to see and shared with him our decision-making timeline. The BDR immediately set up a 30-minute meeting with our local sales rep for two days later. I asked if 30 minutes was long enough for a product demo. He said our rep would determine if there was enough time or not. Hmmm… this made me a bit concerned and suspicious.

Step 2: Seeing how the product works

The meeting with our local sales rep did not go as expected. He wasn’t prepared to show us the product. He wanted to spend another 30 minutes discussing our goals and objectives and helping to identify our needs. When we said point blank “I’d like to see the product now, I don’t want to wait another day to set up another meeting”, he reluctantly showed us the product. Only, it wasn’t the right product. Apparently, the BDR did not communicate our needs very accurately.

Step 3: Qualifying the seller

Because this company didn’t demonstrate that they had the type of conference tools we were seeking, we decided to eliminate them from further evaluation. I sent an email thanking him for his time, but that we were looking for different functionality and would not be giving his company any further consideration. In reply, I received a message that said in fact they do have the functionality we are seeking, they just didn’t show it to us.

It’s almost like they don’t want to sell to me. They are prioritizing their sales process over actually selling something.

Through our research, a couple companies stood out – in a good way. They listened to our needs, responded appropriately and we are moving forward with them. Here’s what these companies did right:

  • At the first company, the CMO contacted me immediately upon receiving the referral from her client. She called to learn about our project, our goals and objectives. During this conversation, she immediately demonstrated her expertise in the area by offering suggestions and best practices. I saw a product demonstration during our first call and received a base estimate the next day along with all sorts of examples and resources.
  • Another company’s sales rep received my introductory email and replied while she was on the beach in Mexico with her family. She understood our sense of urgency and connected us with her boss, who arranged a phone conversation for the next day. The sales manager collected information about our goals and specifications so that when our sales rep returned from vacation, she presented us with a demo that was tailored to our needs. Two days later we had an estimate in hand.

These companies did not let their sales process control their ability to make a sale. Which type of experience can you identify with? Are you a seller who missed the immediate sales opportunity because you are locked into a rigid sales process? Or, does your sales process allow you to flex depending on the needs of your prospects?