The sales process consists of the systematic steps we take to move a potential prospect or an existing customer from the early stages to a closed deal. It’s about developing a relationship with the customer as we ask questions, share information and provide value.
Now I am not an expert but I have been researching effective sales processes and systems as part of my own development. For some clients generating and sustaining sales through a customer cycle is a priority. Plus it complements the need to deliver Lead Generation for small business. This is an area fraught with misconceptions, assumptions but in reality plays to my own strengths – valuing people and managing the customer relationship.
Process is different from a sales methodology. While the process is a high-level overview of the steps to be completed in a sale, the methodology guides the approach we may wish to take in executing these steps. There are a variety of sales methodologies we can use including solution selling, network selling, consultative selling, and inbound selling.
sales & Leads
The initial stage is reviewing your existing customers and identifying the new potential customers. Research online or dive into existing databases, networks and platforms. This step should really be ongoing – always lookout for new prospects. Tap into your own networks, attend events, join new networks and groups. Make sure they are aware of your services and your offer, don’t be afraid to ask them to share your details across their networks. Social media platforms like LinkedIn thrive on this approach.
Don’t assume that your potential customer can automatically link features to benefits—the job is to make sure the connection becomes clear. Make sure customers can see the benefit from services; in other words, always think of services in terms of the “so what?”. This step prepares us to talk to customers by focusing on both services and features of your offer or the product.
You may wish to segment your existing customers at some stage. We could categorize leads into these segments, so we know which marketing tactics are most effective for each customer.
Now that you know who to target, you need to connect. Timing is imperative and sensitive when making initial contact. Follow up quickly and clearly means customers are more likely to convert. Find a balance between persistence and consistency—always make at several call attempts. Send an email as part of this connection process, explain you will be in touch, why and confirm a time when you are planning to speak to them. This way they have a clear indicator of who you are and why you want to talk to them.
Consider the best way to connect. Phone is effective but can for some be intrusive, especially if they don’t know you. Social media can be a bit different but sensitivity is needed. Connect on LinkedIn or try a retweet to raise your profile with the potential lead. This initial contact helps determine whether a lead is qualified. We often meet potential leads at events so the follow-up call helps us
- Discover if the prospect has the necessary budget and is willing to spend time with you to consider your offer.
- Will it be useful? Do they have a need?
- What is the decision process going to look like? Who else needs to be involved in the purchasing process?
Asking these questions get us the information we need but also show our knowledge and expertise. This phase is about listening, capturing the information and not talking to much.
This approach works the same for our existing customers and its essential as part of our business relationship management. Checking-in with customers should be undertaken every six months or as a minimum annually. Scheduling regular catch ups with existing customers ensures we are capturing feedback, discussing future options and exploring This is an opportunity to ensure everything is working okay with the product, capture feedback, discuss future opportunities, priorities and plans for the future?
Lastly, but importantly, this conversation allows us to ask can we help you in other ways? Are you aware of our other products? Retaining current customers costs six to seven times less than acquiring new ones, and increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increases profits by 25-95%
This step of the sales process is also called the needs assessment. To truly provide value, you need to fully understand the prospect’s needs, wants, and desires and how your product can solve them. Apparently its quoted that 70% of people make purchasing decisions to solve problems, yet only 13% of customers believe a salesperson can understand their needs. Research your customer, their company, and the competition. The best way to do so is to ask the prospect more questions. You’re gathering information necessary and identify potential issues to provide a customized experience throughout the rest of the sales process. Here are just a few examples to help you get started.
- Tell me what are your short-term and long-term goals?
- What do you like best about your suppliers? And the least?
- What do you like best about your current approach or existing system? Would you like anything to change?
- Do you struggle with? What are your challenges?
- What is your success criteria?
This stage of the sales process consists of a formal presentation or demo of your product or service. Remember to sell value, the benefit as well as practical features. Demonstrate your knowledge of the organization, address their needs and outline why your product provides solutions. Make sure your presentation reflects the prospect’s perspective rather than your own, and make it interactive, tailored to the buyer(s) needs.
Ensure that customer service and support is clarified. If you use visuals make sure they are simple and clear to understand, they need to make sense. When I work with a new client I normally prepare a short proposal that demonstrates my understanding of their company, the challenge that needs to be resolved and make some initial recommendations for improvement, including KPIs. It doesn’t need to be 30 pages but enough to be tangible so they can see what you can do and your professional approach.
Your prospect may have some concerns and questions. Keep in mind that objections can be a good omen—a prospect wouldn’t be trying to work out potential challenges if they weren’t at least considering buying. Make sure all your prospect’s questions are resolved and try to ensure you can pre-empt these types of queries.
Once you have met with the client, discussed the proposal, provided your demo and presentation make sure you have agreed the next steps. Ensure you have debated costs and negotiated costs. Don’t avoid the terms or financial element be clear about potential budgets and your rates. Being upfront provides reassurance to customers. There are infinite ways to close your business but you need to have confidence and intelligence to gauge your approach.
After securing the working relationship make the effort to stay in touch with the customer—you may see rewards down the line. Update them regularly, ask for honest feedback and request areas for improvement. Listen and action.
There are many ways to continue the conversation, sending newsletters and product updates or engaging on social media are basic. In maintaining the customer relationship, we can set the stage for repeat buying as new products are developed. As part of your ongoing account management adjust the communication method to their preferred choice not yours. Record and capture conversations and actions as part of the process. Add detail and confirm in writing – always.
Thinking about sales as a process can help you
manage the sales process more effectively – it becomes less scary
learn which practices work for you and your sector
increase your impact, productivity and profits
build stronger relationships with your clients
increase the chances of up-selling and repeat business
Lastly observe what works well for you in terms of previous sales. Add some metrics to help grow your business and develop your goals.
Always update and review your process, adapt to continue to improve processes.