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  • Writer's pictureNadav Efraty

Chapter 5 - The Buying Process and Decision Criteria

Having the right sales process for each different sales motion is critical. A sales organization that will try to impose an enterprise sales rigor on transactional sales will likely cause unnecessary friction with buyers that will slow deals and often kill them. On the other hand, a sales organization that sells medium to large deals and will use a transactional sales approach will often find willing champions but will rarely see those opportunities won. 

While champions may be optimistic and believe that if they want something their organizations will just acquire it, experienced sellers know that is hardly ever that fast or simple and that certain requirements, activities and approvals are seldom missed. Beyond the standard steps, there are often additional steps that tend to be required or not based on the specific situation and sales motion. 

If certain activities are very likely to happen, it will not be prudent to not anticipate and prepare for them. Furthermore, such activities are typically initiated by stakeholders that are not the champions. Sometimes the stakeholders’ motivations are pure - to learn and evaluate the new requested capabilities. In other cases they may be initiated to slow it or block the process or present other alternatives. Hence, proactively driving and controlling the sale process is critical. If the seller is not driving it, either no one is driving or the opposition is driving and in either case, the seller is far less likely to get to the right destination. 

In order to align the buying organization and control the process, it is recommended to create a deal timeline template with the typical milestones. This timeline should be reviewed with the champion and updated based on the champion’s understanding and uncovering of the buying process in his organization. The seller and champion should fill in the dates, starting from the required launch date and going back to all the preceding milestones and activities. Later, this timeline should be validated by other stakeholders. The purpose of the timeline is to reduce the chances for surprises, both for the seller and the champion, and once the buyers commit to it, drive urgency on the buyer's side. Some of the typical elements are the key meetings, key approvals, where and when is the budget approved, the POV, the final business approval, the procurement related milestones, the implementation milestones etc. 

The timeline should also be validated with the Economic buyer. If the original timeline becomes irrelevant, the timeline should be updated based on the new expectations of the parties. If there’s no way to commit to any timeline, it means there are big unknowns and risks for that deal, despite any comforting messages from the champion. 

While the internal sales stages and activities of each company tend to mirror and be aligned with the typical buying process of its buyers for every sales motion, and should contain the big milestones (e.g. first sales meeting, Economic buyer meeting, POV etc.) along with some of the internal activities that lead to those milestones, having an internal process doesn’t replace the need to build and validate a mutual buying process and timeline with the buyers. 

Decision criteria are used by buyers to align the various stakeholders and collectively define what exactly they are trying to achieve and which capabilities are required for that. Decision success criteria are often overlooked or intentionally avoided by the seller or champion who wouldn’t see the value or feel that defining it is counterproductive. Again, champions are often naïve enough to think that they will give whatever they ask for, and sellers are easily tempted to believe in that too. However, decision criteria are the “objective” way to:

  1. Lock in the seller's offering and the champion’s desires.

  2. Prevent the POV and buying decision from extending due to internal misalignments and varying confidence level of stakeholder.

  3. Eliminate the competition by putting on all the weight on the differentiated capabilities of the seller.

  4. Strengthen your position against aggressive cost cutting negotiations and bidding wars at the later stages. 

Note that without success criteria, different stakeholders may have different perspectives about the pains that they are trying to solve, but even if they all agree about the needs and pains, not locking in the seller’s differentiated capabilities means that other vendors are equally likely to win the deal. In fact, if the seller does not guide the champion or better, define the success criteria directly for the buyers, it is more likely than not that a competitor is shaping it, and your seller is blindsided, marching to a trap. Once defined, the decision criteria should be confirmed by the relevant stakeholders, and later validated by the Economic buyer. 

The Decision criteria should be designed to address the operational / tactical elements of the pains that could be cured by your offering, and that serve as the basis for a critical part of the hard business impact analysis (hard savings vs. the upside). In addition, it should be designed around operational benefits that differentiate your offering from the competition. 

Buying process

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