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The value of pipeline stages & the buyer’s journey

A picture of a man checking the time with his watch
One of the most common mistakes in sales is agreeing to let the customer jump ahead of our pipeline stages and their buyer’s journey. I’ve done it, and if you work in sales, then you have probably been in this same boat a time or two. You’re working with a new customer, and they just “get it.” 

They sit you down surprisingly early in the sales processes and tell you:

“Look, I get this. I know what you offer, and it is a great fit for us! Why don’t you go ahead and write up a quote, so I can get it pushed through?”

Doesn’t it feel great when that happens? It did for me.

Until I saw the trend and realized that 9 times out of 10, this is how it all played out:

  • First off, I’m psyched. I literally get goosebumps as my adrenaline is flowing and I’m thrilled we connected so well.
  • I write up the quote as quickly as possible and send it off for a short review.
  • Then, I let everyone back at 3Sharp know that it’s time to spin up an implementation team.
  • Finally, I send off the quote and then…
  • Nothing. Silence for multiple weeks on end. No returned phone calls, no returned emails. Eventually, I’d track down the buyer. Without fail, they’d tell me that our quote was way out of whack and they went with a different solution. And so often I was left wondering ‘Where did we go wrong?

What just happened?

Obviously, we were not in sync at all. I let us both rush past critical stages in our processes. I had no clue what they needed and laxly didn’t take the time to find out.

A company can do themselves and their customer a disservice by not slowing down. In sales, when you sell ahead of your pipeline stages, your company and customer both fail to honor the buyer’s journey. Both try to jump the start, to the point where the customer has misconceptions about offered services, and you do not have a clear vision of their needs.

It is important to remember that prescription before diagnosis leads to malpractice. This holds just as well in the sales cycle as well as in the demo world. If you try to sell something or show something without first understanding your customer’s needs, you’re dramatically increasing the risk of an unsatisfied customer or a lost deal.

So, what do I do now when my customer wants to short-circuit their buyer’s journey?

1. I still get goosebumps, but not the excited kind. More of the “danger ahead” kind.

2. Do my best to slow things down. “I’d love to get you a quote. But first, I’d like to make absolutely certain that I’m completely clear on the right solution for you.”

3. Steer things back (almost always to the discovery/scope phase of our sales pipeline). “Who would be the right person to learn more about x from?”

Slowing things down may cause some frustration, but better to have a little frustration now than a big problem later.

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