Some sales methodologies ask sales people to characterise their sales calls as an ‘advance’ or a ‘continuance’ which creates loads of ‘wriggle room’ for the sales person. What we should actually be recording is the stage a buyer has reached, not whether the sales person thinks this is good or not.

Your buyers progress through a series of definable stages, along the way to buying (from you or somebody else). Simplistically, they move through recognition of pain, clarity about need, understanding who the possible solution providers are, having clear options, making a choice, and buying. and somewhere along the line they might show interest in a topic (but not yet be troubled), and they perhaps recognise you as a player long before they really have an opportunity to discuss. We could debate the language, sequencing, and the granularity, but let’s accept this progression at face value for the purposes of this article.

Basically then, if I record the outcome of a meeting as an ‘advance’, then I must have moved that buyer from one of those stages to the next. But all too often, the sales person doesn’t know what stage the buyer was at, and so the notion of an ‘advance’ is arbitrary.

We need a few basic elements in place for helpful recording:

  • Code the stages in your CRM as buyer stages, not internal approval gates or seller stages. For example,
    • ‘interest established’ indicates the buyer has evidenced interest (downloaded a white paper, accepted a phone call, rung you), whereas ‘engaged’ might mean only that we have begun attempting contact;
    • ‘offer understood’ suggests the proposal has been built, presented, explained and is now understood by the buyer, whereas ‘proposal’ is often used to suggest that we are developing it or have given it to the buyer – very different;
  • Add definitions of the sort of observed behaviour you might expect to see from a buyer who has reach each stage;
  • Add internal approval gates for each stage where required;
  • Identify tactics for Sales or Marketing (or both) to execute to move a buyer to this stage;
  • Distinguish each of these (buyer stages, behaviours, gates, tactics) from each other;
  • Each time a sales person interacts with the buyer, ask them to record where the buyer is right now (based on observed behaviours).

Following this approach, an ‘advance’ or ‘continuance’ can be calculated by your CRM, not hoped for by your sales person. And if they didn’t advance or continue, then they leaked, and it’s time to put them into your recycling program and move on to the next opportunity.

You do have a recycling program, right? And it’s documented as a part of your agreed sales and marketing plan I presume?