Though every business is different, their sales processes all seem to gravitate to one specific progression. I think of it as a continuum that starts with a sales development process and ends with revenue generation. And it’s true for new business acquisition as well as expansion of existing business. The typical sales process in the simplest terms goes something like this:
Do target audience research.
Create awareness and generate leads.
Make contact, arrange a meeting, and/or conduct a presentation.
Submit a proposal and win the business.
But in most cases, that’s not enough. There should be more to a sales process. Most successful ones are carried out with two underlying goals in mind; establishing credibility and then building trust.
Once those two bases are covered, revenue gets generated. And while those objectives provide the backbone for an effective sales process, there are some other interrelated and supporting components that need to work to see solid results.
By way of example, here’s a relatively standard sales process.
This is the stage where qualitative, quantitative, demographic, and psychographic research are analysed to gain insight into prospect behaviour and buying patterns. It’s where prospect identification, confirmation, and lead generation come in.
Inbound marketing, social media, and content marketing efforts help generate qualified leads, greatly reduce cold calling, and shorten the sales cycle considerably.
Let’s say our business publishes a popular blog. It publishes an educational article which features a call to action that links to a webinar offer.
A prospect reads the article, clicks on the call to action, and provides their contact information in exchange for access to the webinar.
Our sales person takes that information and sets up a discovery call with this contact. On the call, the sales person asks relevant, thoughtful questions to get valuable insight into whether this prospect is a good fit in terms of problems, budget, and other key traits.
Let’s say our salesperson asks all the right questions and gets the answers they need. Now, the prospect is a qualified lead, and they can move on through the sales process.
This sales process stage encompasses a variety of diverse sales skills, such as meeting preparation, creating interest, anticipating and overcoming objections, presenting, consulting, audience engagement techniques, closing gestures, follow-up, and more ….. a lot more.
And preparation isn’t just a one-time thing; it’s ongoing. Some of the other preparation components encompass understanding the competitive landscape and challenges faced by your prospects, confirming that your products and services will address those challenges and do it in a cost-effective, needs-based manner, and establishing quantifiable value.
If you can’t do all of these things, you’re not truly prepared.
During the approach stage, you apply the knowledge you’ve gathered during the previous steps to start framing more substantial interactions. It’s where you make your first contact after the lead is qualified. That could happen over the phone, through a face-to-face meeting, via video chat, or through some other particularly immediate route.
In this stage, you use your company-specific insight and general sales acumen to intrigue your prospect. You create enough curiosity to warrant a more thorough presentation. There are multiple methods you can use in this stage. Three of the most prominent are the premium approach, the question approach, and the product approach.
With the premium approach, you offer a prospect some sort of promotional item or gift. That could be anything from a gift card to something specific to your company or industry.
The question approach involves less schmoozing and more critical thinking. It’s where you ask a question, or a series of questions that get your prospect to critically evaluate their current pain points.
Finally, the product approach involves offering a prospect a sample or free trial of your product or service to give them a picture of what the product looks like.
Assuming you’ve done all your homework in the first two stages of the process, you may be fortunate enough to book a meeting. The stage following the meeting and/or presentation will be determined by how well you have nailed down the prior two steps and how well you perform your demo — and yes, it is a performance.
So you better know what you’re talking about and rehearse it to the point that you could do it in your sleep while still seeming “spontaneous.” It’s an art form. It’s also an important part of building credibility and establishing trust.
Once you’ve made it past the first three stages successfully, you might have earned the opportunity to present a proposal. This is where your agreed-upon client needs-based analysis and quantified value benefits need to be clearly laid out and justified. If they aren’t, don’t even bother submitting a proposal.
Really, this stage is about obligation. If you’re fortunate enough to be awarded the business, which can sometimes come down to timing and luck, it becomes your obligation to make certain you’ll deliver on what you proposed and what the client agreed to.
Here, the onus of excellent service and performance shifts partially from the sales person to the product itself.
An integral part of the process is keeping both internal and external contacts involved and in the loop. Use your CRM system; that’s what it’s for. But above all, make sure you keep the client updated and do it regularly. If you did well, tell them. If you encountered an issue, tell them about it and explain how it was corrected. They’ll respect you in both instances.
This is an often-overlooked and under utilised stage of the process, despite containing hidden revenue-generating opportunities. How do I know? Because I’ve seen it happen … and not happen. By neglecting to reinforce value, organisations miss opportunities to justify the client’s decision, often making them lose out on referrals and upsell business.
Now, there’s no guarantee your sales process will be totally in keeping with the steps listed above. Yours could differ based on factors like sales style, training, and experience. Still, the sequence detailed in this article can serve as an effective reference point for virtually any company looking to put an effective sales process together.
If you need help developing or enhancing your own sales process, then get in touch
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