Axios HR increased its conversion rate by 65% through a diagnostic-oriented sales process and by implementing software that improved consistency, efficiency, and collaboration. The results were highlighted in Blythe Kazmierczak’s session, “Tips on Improving Sales Efficiency to Win More Deals,” at PrismHR LIVE 2018. In it, Kazmierczak—EVP, HR Solutions at Axios HR—discussed the framework her sales team uses to have more strategic conversations and win more deals.
A Consistent, Consultative Approach to Complex Deals
So what is diagnostic selling? According to Jeff Thull who introduced the concept in his book, Mastering the Complex Sale, the role of the salesperson is to “help a buyer diagnose their problem and design, evaluate, and implement a solution that provides a high level of value to their customers. It requires taking on the mindset of a physician and advising the customer, and it really is a deeper, more complex process than most salespeople are accustomed to.”
In diagnostic selling, the ultimate goal is not to get a signed contract. In his article, The End of Solution-Based Selling, Thull says, “The goal is a high-quality decision based on an honest, thorough and rational evaluation of the correlation between the customer’s problem and the seller’s solution. That decision may well indicate your solution is not the best fit.”
Axios HR uses a four-stage sales process based on Thull’s “Prime Process” model: Discover, Diagnose, Design, and Deliver.
This four-stage sales process based on Thull’s “Prime Process” model: Discover, Diagnose, Design, and Deliver.
The Discover phase resembles a traditional qualification stage but is much more comprehensive. More than just identifying a company that meets the requirements of a prospect, sales need to understand their business, make informed assumptions on the symptoms they are challenged with, and gauge the prospect’s willingness to actually make a change.
In the Diagnose phase, conversations with prospects resemble more of a doctor-patient conversation than a sales presentation. Axios HR develops a personalized “HR Diagnostic Report” around the 5 Cs: Cost, Compliance, Care, Competitive and Culture.
“At a high level you’re managing across these five areas as an employer. We do a diagnostic in each to show symptoms around things that might be an issue,” explained Kazmierczak. “When we think about our solutions, there are so many things we could do. The diagnostic helps us have a strategic conversation about their business, where they want to be, and where they think opportunities are.”
For example, in Culture, the team will take a look at average staff tenure—an indicator of retention—and diversity, and then get feedback from the prospect on how well they stack up against an industry benchmark. In Competitive, indicators such as “attrition” and “time to fill” help kick off a conversation about employees the prospect has lost, how it impacted their business, and any challenges in filling open positions. Did an employee leave because of an issue with their manager, culture, job design, or something else?
Many traditional sales presentations lead with the solution. In the Design phase, the input from the diagnostic conversations informs the ideal solution for the prospect. This is a more collaborative approach, and in some cases the best alternative at the time may not be a service your company offers. What is paramount is getting to the right solution together rather than attempting to find a fit for your solution.
The Deliver phase doesn’t end with a signed contract—or even the implementation of the product. Closing a deal is one milestone in a long-term process of building a relationship and ensuring the client’s success using the solution.
Improved Visibility and Collaboration with Sales Management Software
With 500 local SMB clients and three divisions within the organization, Axios HR was running into issues with salespeople running into each other.
“A staffing person was just [with a prospect], and two hours later somebody else was cold calling. So we needed a common sales tool that would allow everybody to see what was going from a sales activity perspective,” said Kazmierczak.
Axios HR uses two types of sales management software which integrate with each other: Salesforce during the front end of the sales process (i.e., Discover and Diagnose phases) and PrismHR Pulse to streamline the proposal and underwriting activities.
“The input we receive during the Diagnose phase is summarized into a proposal that is also generated in Pulse. So it’s really been helpful to get the sales team to stop using pet documents and follow a common process,” said Kazmierczak. “When I do my deal checks with the sales team I can get a better sense of whether they’re actually finding out what the client really wants.”
Investing in technology to help support Axios HR’s sales process has helped improve visibility and collaboration. It has also eased the burden of sales training while accelerating how quickly new team members can start contributing.
“The thought process around putting [the technology] in place was being able to onboard someone and not have it take three years for them to be productive, which was kind of our track record with the old process,” said Kazmierczak. “Part of the business case was to be more consistent, but also have a more structured process in onboarding and getting new salespeople up to speed faster.”