You most likely remember the Mayhem GPS commercial.
"I'm your GPS. Turn right up ahead. You never update me. So now, I just have to
wing it. I meant, turn left up ahead. Recalculating. TURN RIGHT NOW!" followed by a colossal wreck involving multiple vehicles.
Maps are integral to the sales methodology and processes used to reach the desired business result. Maps show us what exists, as well as the relationships between a place and the world around it. They explain how a part fits into a bigger picture. They also represent ideas and a form of reality, demonstrate boundaries, depict characteristics, and visualize other intangibles such as history and relationships.
The Map is Only a Tool
However, like other real world maps, map apps, and GPS, these maps are tools that must be used correctly.
How many times have you entered an address into your GPS only to be told the location you are seeking doesn't exist? Or worse, if you live somewhere like I do where city lines run jagged and down the middle of a street, you may think the address is in one city, but it is in another.
Then to add to the mayhem, there is an identical address in that other town. It only seemed logical to accept the perceived data you were being offered as accurate with the information you were given in response to the questions you had asked.
The Map is Not Reality
The problem with maps, map apps, or GPS is they do not reflect reality. Maps exist to show us something about the world. They reflect perceptions of the world.
They frequently lack real time data, and if updates are not done, or if the wrong information is entered into the GPS system, you may very well find yourself at the wrong location after several wrong turns. Bad data in, equals bad data out.
It's the same in sales. Things can change quickly: Contacts within an organization change, priorities change, new information is released, or an alternative appears. If you don't have solid processes and a planned methodology to use them correctly, you may look up too late to find yourself running into obstacles and objections that could have been avoided.
The Map is Not the Territory
Your sales process may be a well-designed map full of visual symbols representing solutions, oriented north to a closed deal representative of your territory, but if it doesn't align with your buyer's map of their territory, confusion will develop.
Just as no one will ever be able to see the entire earth at any given moment in time, sales must have a process that will look beyond what is readily available for view.
It's the sales person's duty to understand the buyer's perceptions of their territory, discover what is and isn't represented in the buyer's map, comprehend the reality behind that map, what expectations the buyer has of how the map will perform, and how it has performed for them in the past.
What You Don't Know Can Hurt You
"Maps are essential. Planning a journey without a map is like building a house without drawings." -- Mark Jenkins
CRMs, like maps, are tools that drive the sales process. Tools are wonderful assets, but without established processes and methodologies and an organizational commitment to use them, tools quickly lose their value in the sales process.
Sellers have a moral obligation to assist their buyers in locating the best solution for today as well as the best preventive proactive solutions for tomorrow. Your buyer is asking you to make changes to their map.
Do you know exactly what your buyer perceives to be their problem? Do you know why they feel that is a problem? Do you know how it became a problem? Is that mountain on their map really a mountain or is it a volcano?
Distinguishing between the map and the territory, and getting rid of misaligned maps allows us to find real solutions.
Ed McAdoo is a Guest Author for AXIOM. He is a 20 year veteran of the CRM and Sales Enablement industry with experience in a variety of highly successful private and public companies. Ed has worked with CRM systems from Siebel, Oracle, PeopleSoft and Salesforce.com.