Defining Your Startup's Sales Process from the Customer’s Point of View

“When you don’t think about the entirety of your customer experience, you short change yourself from the opportunity to engage with your customer.” - Jason Ulaszek

A few Fridays ago, Jason Ulaszek led the JuntoClass on Brand Engineering - or at least that is what we used to call the class. Jason began the morning by sharing the following slide.

Jason's first slide from the JuntoClass on Brand Engineering

Jason's first slide from the JuntoClass on Brand Engineering

He stressed that a customer’s experience of engaging with a company is their brand in living form. Being intentional and strategic about every step of a customer’s experience is not simply brand engineering and UX/UI, but business engineering. To optimize growth, startup leaders must learn to empathize with customers and re-engineer each business process through their eyes.

Jason Ulaszek leading the JuntoClass on Brand Engineering.

Jason Ulaszek leading the JuntoClass on Brand Engineering.

To make his point, Jason led the JuntoApprentices through an exercise of mapping their current sales process from their customer's point of view. The activity was eye-opening, and one that virtually any startup can follow. Here is a summary of the exercise.

1. Define the Stages In the Customer’s Words 

The first step was to write out each of the stages in the company’s sales process but by using the customer’s words. A step that once was named “Express Interest” turned into “What is this tool I keep hearing about?” and “Decide to buy” turned into “Yes, I totally dig this and need to try it.” Jason also had the companies include periods of waiting or reflection as separate stages, like “Waiting for the proposal” or “Reflecting on initial meeting”.

2. LIST TOOLS & TECHNOLOGY USED

Below each step, the JuntoApprentices listed the the tools, technology and resources used during each stage of the sales process, again from the customer's perspective. Examples included slide decks, a conference phone line, the company’s website, etc. Listing these items allowed the JuntoApprentices to analyze all the tools that influenced each stage. Does the company website confuse customers? Is the slide deck easy to understand without a company representative there to explain it?

 

Melissa Footlick writing out the stages of TopstepTrader's sales process.

Melissa Footlick writing out the stages of TopstepTrader's sales process.

3. Map the Customer’s Emotions

Above each stage, the companies mapped the thoughts and emotions a customer is likely to experience during each point of engagement. Jason urged everyone to reflect on how they would feel in the same situation; empathy and brutal honesty were key. Walking around the room, a variety of words and phrases were peppered above the engagement stages: “intrigued and excited”, “impatient and frustrated”, “I can’t wait to tell my team about this!”, and “anxious and nervous”.

4. Highlight Points of Uncertainty

Next, Jason had the companies highlight the places where they were unsure exactly what was happening or what the customer was feeling. The JuntoApprentices were asking themselves: Does our slide deck answer the questions they have at this point? When a prospective customer reaches out to a former customer with questions, do they respond promptly? Do we know what happens when the initial point of contact goes back to tell their team about our product?

5. Compare to Stages as Defined by the Company

In this step, the JuntoApprentices reflected on the sales process that their company had been using prior to this exercise. They overlaid their pipeline stages above the new customer-centric ones. Almost every company remarked on important moments of the customer’s journey that had been completely missing from their prior sales stages.

Two of the JuntoApprentice companies discussing their sales process from the customer's point of view.

Two of the JuntoApprentice companies discussing their sales process from the customer's point of view.

6. List Changes to Make

After a morning full of several “aha! moments”, the last step was to for each company to craft a list of changes to make going forward. Jason questioned, “What can be done to avoid moments of stalling or loss of momentum?” and “What can be done to shed more light on ‘unknowns’?” The Apprentices reported on plans to turn engagement points with negative emotions to neutral or positive; change their pipeline stages to reflect the customer’s true steps of engagement; take slide decks that likely confused consumers, and consolidate and clarify the message; and take control of the process of getting customer references to eliminate uncertainty in the responsiveness and overall experience.

 

By going through this exercise, the companies gained a new awareness of the customer’s experience, an understanding of how each moment of engagement influenced the growth of the company, and a list of changes to implement to better align their sales process with customers’ success.