Using Road Maps in the Sales Process

Contributed by Ann O’Neill

Of all the things we do to equip our sales teams for success, there is one tool I often find is missing – a “road map”. I’ve found it’s not enough to have a compelling solution with supporting ROI, understanding the buyer and how to engage with them, or knowing the right questions to ask to understand the customer’s needs. I believe a road map is critical to building an efficient sales process and creating outstanding customer relationships.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success”  -Henry Ford

What customers and salespeople both want and need is a road map on how to buy from you. A road map shows customers what they (and you) need to do to start benefiting from your solution.    Let’s face it – closing new business requires both parties to prepare – change existing suppliers, update their system or process, educate people, etc. The better prepared you are for what needs to be done to move forward, the better the outcome for all.

Here are some of the key elements to a customer implementation road map:

  • A step-by-step plan with as much detail as possible on who does what at each stage of the process.
  • An understanding of the people who need to be involved at each stage and how much time it will take.
  • Metrics the customer should use to measure their performance before and after implementing your solution.

This road map can have several different (and creative) forms:

  • Pre-populated project plan to present to customers early in the sales process.
  • Video showing a customer going through all the steps to implement the solution with “getting started” checklist.
  • e-Brochure that shows the “path” for getting starting.
  • Talking points that are embedded in each sales discussion (e.g. “normally our customers our customers like us to first evaluate their existing CRM system as the first step”)

Here’s why the “road map” is so effective with customers:

  1. It starts the conversation with customers in a collaborative way that builds trust and transparency in the relationship.
  2. It shows that you have an in-depth understanding of their needs and business.
  3. It allows you to control the opening discussion around time frame for implementing your solution.
  4. It establishes the mechanism for measuring the results of implementation.
  5. It gives you a ready, professional and effective answer to the “what’s next” question.

If you have a road map, great, considering introducing it sooner in the sales process. If you don’t, consider your optimal customer scenario and start building it out.  Showing customers the way to implementing your solution is one of the most effective sales techniques I have employed.

Ann O’Neill is an interim VP of Sales.  Ann works with services and technology companies to create sales teams that produce repeatable results. She has held executive-level sales positions at MarketTools, Cambridge Technology Partners and RR Donnelley & Sons.  Ann holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson School and a BA in Mathematics.

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