It has become vital that we all understand the sales process and how it works because sales today is more than “I can help you.” Sales are the life of every company, without which, the end is definitely nigh.
The seven-step sales process outlined in business textbooks is a good start, especially since 40% of sales teams don’t have a playbook—and a playbook or sales strategy makes you 33% more likely to close sales at a higher rate. The seven-step sales process is only a good start, though, because you need to customize it to your particular business—and, more importantly, to your target customers as you move them through the sales funnel.
What Is A Sales Process?
A sales process is a repeatable sequence of stages, each including a set of actions that your sales reps perform to convert a potential customer from a lead to a paying customer. It acts as a roadmap to keep your team members on track so they always know what to do next without hesitation – as defined by Sales Pipelines and Marketing Firm, Act365.
Each step in a sales process may consist of several separate selling activities, but there are aspects of the process that cut across.
An effective sales process is:
- Customer-centric – Buyers are more empowered, better informed, and have wider options than in the past. Businesses ought to respect that.
- Clearly defined – To be effective, each stage and element in your sales process must be well understood by all stakeholders.
- Replicable – Every rep should be able to replicate all the steps in the sales process without confusion.
- Predictable – The flow and expected outcomes in your sales process should follow a predictable pattern.
- Goal-oriented – A sales process focuses on improving your ability to meet specific objectives (e.g., drive revenue growth, achieve process efficiencies, etc).
- Measurable – All the activities in your sales process should be quantifiable, so you can measure success and improve.
- Adaptable. A sales process must be flexible enough to accommodate changing business climates, tech integrations, or changes in your sales operations.
A good sales process also aligns with your ideal buyer’s purchasing journey, instead of focusing on what the seller needs.
The stages of the 7 step sales process are:
- Prospecting and Initial Contact
- Needs Assessment
- Sales Pitch or Product Demo/Presentation
- Proposal and Handling Objections
- Following Up, Repeat Business & Referrals
Let’s take a closer at the 7-step sales process: Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-Up.
This is the backbone of the sales process. Customers/clients will determine success in the end. It is prudent to identify potential customers and determine whether they have a need for your product or service and whether they can afford what you offer.
Prospecting is all about determining the sales leads. There are various ways for your company to prospect such as through marketing methods, networking at live events or trade shows as well as on social media, purchased lists, cold calling, and referrals.
With the information gathered on the clients, the sales team or sales representative gets into hibernation working on a strategy to approach/meet the potential clients with. During this time, salespeople are researching the market and collecting all relevant information regarding your product or service, with respect to particular clients.
Now you’ve got the attention of a potential customer. Great! But you still need to do some discovery to determine if they actually need what you’re selling. If they do, you need to decide if your company is the best fit for them.
This stage enables sales professionals to create tailored solutions that increase the likelihood of closing a deal.
Active listening, empathy, note-taking, trust-building, and following up are great skills to deploy in this stage.
There are three common approach methods.
- Premium approach: Presenting your potential client with a gift at the beginning of your interaction.
- Question approach: Asking a question to get the prospect interested.
- Product approach: Giving the prospect a sample or a free trial to review and evaluate your service.
Here, you are going for all the pressure plates of the client because you already made out the problem that needs solving. You actively point out how your service or product will solve said problem.
The presentation module sounds like a limitation to PowerPoint but ideally, an environment that will give you the luxury of best outlining the goodness in your product/service is the best. You should actively listen to your customer’s needs and then act and react accordingly.
5. Proposal and Handling Objections
Rejection and objections are common in sales. Any salesperson who lacks grit and the ability to roll with the punches will soon be out of the game.
Perhaps the most underrated of the seven steps of a sales process is handling objections. This is where you listen to your prospect’s concerns and address them. It’s also where many unsuccessful salespeople drop out of the process—44% of salespeople abandoning pursuit after one rejection, 22% after two rejections, 14% after three, and 12% after four, even though 80% of sales require at least five follow-ups to convert. Successfully handling objections and alleviating concerns separates good salespeople from bad and great from good.
Here, you are judging your client towards making the purchase, or they will be stopping the process altogether.
Depending on your business, you might try one of these three closing strategies.
- Alternative choice close: Assuming the sale and offering the prospect a choice, where both options close the sale—for example, “Will you be paying the whole fee upfront or in installments?” or “Will that be cash or charge?”
- Extra inducement close: Offering something extra to get the prospect to close, such as a free month of service or a discount
- Standing room only close: Creating urgency by expressing that time is of the essence—for example, “The price will be going up after this month” or “We only have six spots left”
7. Follow-up, Repeat Business & Referrals
A smooth sale makes a good final impression about you and your presentation in general. A happy customer is an easy target for future products or services on top of being the best referral you can ever get. Also, maintaining relationships is key.
The sales process will differ for every company one way or another. Some companies sell their products right in the store, while others need to sit potential clients out of the stores to make the sales. The sales process works best when it is assimilated into the model of the company.
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