Sales Process v. Buying Process

I enjoy very few things as much as a “Great Semantic Debate” like this one:

Should we be talking about a “Sales Process” or a “Buying Process?”

Both phrases mean essentially the same thing. They refer to the series of actions that are required in order for a purchasing decision to be made. One (sales process) addresses the actions taken by a salesperson. The other (buying process) looks at the actions taken by a prospect or customer.

A google image search for process shows just how common these things are.

The term “sales process” has been around for a long time. It’s convenient, common, and well-used. The phrase “buying process,” on the other hand, is a bit newer. Its’ proponents tell us that it’s better because it places the focus where it belongs: On your prospect. Plus, they say, 57% of the buying process is complete before a prospect is willing to communicate with a salesperson.

In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what we call it…as long as attention is on the right spot: The customer.

It’s surprising just how often prospects and customers take a back seat to other things among sales teams. Sometimes things like . . .

  • Ego: “I’m going to win this deal because I’m the best.”
  • Income: “I’m going to win this deal because I want more money.”
  • Product: “I’m going to win this deal because my product is the best.”
  • Quota: “I’m going to win this deal because I’ve got to hit my quota.”
  • Survival: “I’m going to win this deal because I’ve got to pay my bills.”

. . . get more attention.

And misaligned focus like that doesn’t particularly change whether you talk about a sales process or a buying process. In either case, your sales team’s focus should instead be on the same thing: Customer Needs and Wants.

What do you think? Which is a better phrase?


Jeb Brooks

About Jeb Brooks

Jeb Brooks is President & CEO of the The Brooks Group, one of the world’s Top Ten Sales Training Firms as ranked by Selling Power Magazine. He is a sought-after commentator on topics related to sales, sales management, and adult learning, having appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Money, Fortune, and CNN. Jeb is the author of four books and numerous articles.

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  1. Sean McPheat says:

    I always remember an old mentor of mine saying:

    “Sean, it doesn’t matter what you think you’re selling that counts only what the prospect thinks they are buying”

    We as sales people need to align the way that we sell to how our buyers buy.

    In my work I see a lot of sales processes and to be honest most of them are created. Very few are aligned AFTER a great deal of research and analysis is made to understand how their buyer buys.

    Is your sales process aligned to what your buyer needs at each stage of their buying cycle? Or do you “push” communications or for updates in pre-determined times/stages of your sales process irrespective of where the prospect is in their buying cycle.

    Aligning your sales process to the prospects buying process not only makes sense but you start as you mean to go on and that’s on the prospects needs and wants – the #1 rule in selling!


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