The One Thing Missing from Every Sales Process

Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash

Every sales process is missing one step.

When I’m passionately trying to make a point, I’ve been known to overstate reality to boost my argument. I use words like “millions” or “never” or “always,” especially with my wife, to win the argument or sell an idea.

This isn’t one of those times.

I have reviewed hundreds of sales processes (okay, maybe about fifty). You know, the ones with five or six arrows, boxes, or blocks, that illustrate the most efficient process to move a prospect or opportunity from “qualify” to “close.”  It’s usually nicely branded — the boxes tinted with the company color and the logo positioned just right.

These plans typically include the probability of winning the opportunity and key objectives by stage. The more robust plans will consist of criteria required to advance from stage to stage, as well as resources needed for each step. I’ve seen some sales processes that define metrics for each stage, helping the manager and seller track the productivity required to build a healthy pipeline.  

All good stuff. However, like a Kardashian in a Walmart, here’s what I have never seen: the customer’s objective defined.

I get it. There is a reason to build the seller-centric process. After all, it is for their use. But here’s the thing: It should be designed for the customer.

First and foremost, the sales process should be built around helping the customer evaluate the best way to solve their problem, and not just help the seller see the path to a signed contract. Yes, we all want to win. But the most effective way to advance the relationship and win the sale is by answering one question for every stage: Why is it in the customer’s best interest to move to the next step?

If a seller can’t answer that question, every conversation will end without a commitment from the prospect. They’ll say things like “call me if you need me,” use a self-centered pressure tactic such as “our pricing goes up at the end of the quarter, so you better act now,” or my personal favorite, “I’ll be in your area on Tuesday.”

By answering the only question that matters to the customer, sellers can quickly and effectively position the next step for each stage, and more importantly, entice the customer to always say yes. (Okay, I’m doing it again. Most of the time, the customer will say yes.)

Bottom line, when you wear the Other-Centered® lens, you see and communicate what’s important to the customer. You sit on their side of the table and bear the weight of making the right decision. You think through and develop a plan to help them assess their risks, evaluate their options, and ensure that the decision-maker is ready to answer tough questions about investing in a company they often barely know.

And when you embrace this radical mindset, two things happen: You either walk away because you know, before they do, that they need to move in another direction, or you close faster. You stop hoping and praying. You end the creative writing exercise where the gray areas are filled in by your hopes and dreams of hitting a large number.

Throughout my experience helping millions of companies build their sales processes, I’ve seen firsthand that the gravitational pull towards self is so strong that it’s difficult to represent the customer authentically. That’s why it’s time to add one more row to your process. Call it the customer objective. Answer that vital question at every stage. Review it several times. And remember to always define the customer’s objective — and this time, I’m not exaggerating.


What Next?

If you found this blog helpful and want to go deeper into the concepts we covered, you can check out our new book, UnReceptive, at

As Co-founder and CEO, Tom’s primary role is to create content that helps people live, sell, and serve more effectively. Find him on LinkedIn

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