The Sales Process, Vital Steps to Success
Like its first cousin, ‘The Marketing Process‘ in its field, ‘The Sales Process’ is a way of locating yourself on your path to sales success.
The Sales Process consists of six steps, helping you to keep focused on how you find and then progress prospects and existing customers through the sales funnel. It’s important to recognise at which step of the Sales Process different clients and prospects are. Knowing how long it typically takes to progress a client from unknown prospect to a buyer, with whom you need to do some post-purchase follow-up, is vital to your sales activity. Depending on the complexity of your sector, these steps may overlap to varying degrees, or indeed several may take place at the same time.
Step One is Prospecting. Here, we do the groundwork to identify potential future customers, based on our targeting, product offer, positioning, competitive strength, etc.
Step Two is Information Gathering. Here, we carry out research in order to learn as much as we can about this business with which we haven’t yet worked. This might include finding out what we can about their current supplier or alternative products/services they are using today, who the decision makers and influencers are, etc. Make first contact and ask about their needs, etc. Request a meeting.
Step Three is Presenting. Demonstrate, present, sample or taste your product or service (depending on your business). Get in front of the prospect and show them what you’ve got. Keep asking questions.
One of the most common mistakes a salesperson makes through steps 2 and 3 is to talk too much. After all, we often feel more comfortable talking than listening. But listening is the key! By asking questions, we learn things. Furthermore, don’t speak while presenting your product. If your buyer is touching, tasting, or using your product, they won’t hear you!
Step Four is Negotiating a sale. Remember not to agree to anything, until you’re agreeing to everything.
Avoid agreeing to (for example) a price, without understanding fully the terms of sale. Discuss all aspects, e.g. price, who is meeting the delivery costs, minimum order quantities, credit terms, training costs where applicable, etc., before making an agreement. In negotiating, price is not the only factor. The buyer does not have all the power.
Step Five of the sales process is Closing. After all, that’s the point, no?
Watch out for buying signals. They will come and you need to be alert to take advantage. Consider different ways of closing the sale, including a once-off special offer, time limited offers, quantity-related offers, sensible comparisons with what others have done, the good-old “would you like the red one or the blue?” argument, demonstration of concrete benefits accruing, etc. And be alert to The Value of No.
Finally, Step Six is Following up, ongoing relationship building and delivery of quality customer care.
We all know the adage that people buy from people they like. Providing quality customer care is an essential pillar of this. When the sale is made, pick up the phone and ask how your customer is getting on. They’ll appreciate it.
The Sales Process and You
Do you know at what stage your various prospects are right now in your sales funnel? Do you understand how long it might take for you to close a sale? Are you ensuring that you follow up, rather than make a sale and move on? Apply The Sales Process to your thoughts and actions and watch your customer relationships improve and deepen.