The Sales Cycle: A Computer Model

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Abstract Computer Model

The idea of a computer model of the sales cycle raises a few eyebrows at our OPM sales training, and it’s understandable. Why put in the effort to model the sale when it is tough enough dealing with the real thing?  We designed the model to enable a computer to understand the critical components that drive the dynamics of the sales process.

Our sales model was based on lessons learned in years of field sales experience with a variety of products and customers in complex sales cycles. The concepts that have traditionally described the sale — lead, customer, opportunity, interaction, etc. — needed to be reframed to match the rigorous and logical “thinking” process of the computer.

After testing the model in thousands of real sales situations, we found it could be used outside of its original scope. These ideas don’t need the support of technology to succeed, although they come alive on the computer. If salespeople understand the principles behind the model and use them rigorously in their selling, they will win more sales, whether they use a computer or not.

Opportunity Portfolio Management sales training owes a lot to the computer model. We discovered issues that were not really expected. The sales process turns out to be a lot more consistent and predictable than people might think as long as the terms that describe it and the workflow underlying it are established up front, and commonly understood across the sales organization. The sales model provides a quantitative road map against which salespeople can check their progress in each sale, knowing they will then extract the greatest value out of their portfolio.

We looked at the transaction between buyer and seller and identified some near universal traits that are governed by the way people go about buying things. It’s interesting to see just how the process to purchase seems to be universal, independent of the type or worth of the product and service involved.

The process of buying involves a series of steps, each matched by a reactive move on the part of the salesperson — selling is a reaction to buying. Purchasing drives selling. The buy cycle, which is the time to make a purchase, is matched with the sales cycle, or the time to achieve a sale.

The skills of the salesperson flow in harmony with the buying process, which is governed by the push from the buyer to get their job done. Selling skills must change as the buying process naturally shifts from one phase to the next. Resisting this normal flow will most often cause issues that can disrupt the sale.

As the sale progresses, the buying process and the sales process happen through interactions between buyer and seller, by phone, in person, by written word, or whatever. No matter how the interaction occurs, if it is going to be critical to the outcome of the sale, the salesperson must plan it. A lack of strategy means a heightened risk of failure.

The sales model folds in skills, process, interactions and knowledge to make planning easier, and provides a way for the sales portfolio to always be positioned for the best results. OPM uses the model to test the situation at any point in the sale against the rules of best sales practice, and warns the salesperson if things are not right, starting from overall strategy and game plan, to the day-to-day tactics that form the backbone of execution.

So, the payoff is doubled with computational selling. The computer takes care of the underlying flow of the sales process across all sales opportunities, and also provides a solid framework of established methodology to underpin the strategy to win the sale.

Ed. Although it is not mentioned in the article, the computer model described is part of three method patents issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, so far. A fourth is expected to be issued soon. You can learn more about the specifics of the patented method here.

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