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The Harvard Business Review website pushed for a more creative approach to B2B sales in one of their articles. The arguments are familiar: well-informed customers, changing buying behaviors, and increased pressure on prices all contribute to the demise of the traditional sales machine. The conclusion: Leaders must abandon their fixation on process compliance and embrace a flexible approach to selling driven by sales reps’ reliance on insight and judgment.

sales funnel

1. Pipeline stages

When the number of stages in your sales pipeline exceeds four or five, it usually becomes more difficult to explain the specificities of each stage. In this situation, there are two consequences:

a. Your process becomes inward-looking (focused on your internal requirements) instead of outward looking (aligned on your prospects’ challenges)
b. The number of movements in your sales pipeline (opportunities jumping stages or going back and forth between stages) increases, and the accuracy of your pipeline statistics decreases

2. Validation rules

Validation rules are crude enforcement mechanisms. They tend to generate frustration and, because of their negative impact on adoption, paradoxically decrease data quality. I think they should be left to “hard” requirements, like compliance or documentation, where their legitimacy cannot be disputed. VComply can help a company in streamlining compliance and governance requirements in the entire sales funnel chain.

3. Activity metrics

Activity metrics (e.g. number of calls, number of demos) are traditional sales management tools. Their effectiveness for complex sales has always been dubious, but in an environment that favors creative and adaptable sellers who challenge customers with disruptive insights into their business, it is reaching new lows.

VComply

4. Create a path from lead to customer

A sales funnel has a lot of steps that turn site visitors into paying customers.

You can find numerous examples of a sales funnel on the web, but every business has to develop their own to succeed. They’re meant to give you an idea of what the sales process looks like — and then let you create a funnel best suited for your company. Lay out your sales funnel and note how many steps it takes to successfully get a customer through. What milestone does a prospect have to reach to get to the next stage?

5. Understand customer buying processes

As you narrow your customer audiences, it’s important that you understand how those people shop. If you don’t, it’ll be harder for you to connect with your target demographics. And if you do, you can more easily move potential customers through the sales funnel since you know what they want at every step of the buying process.

To learn about customer buying processes, keep an eye on your analytics data. You can track who comes to your site, how many times they access your site, and how long it takes them to finally make a purchase. With enough data, you can determine the average length of a customer’s process.

Be specific with your criteria. Otherwise, you could end up spending a lot of time and money on prospects that aren’t in your target audience. Read about customer value maximization here.

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