The sales process can generally be divided into seven separate activities – and this applies no matter what product or service you’re selling. Let’s discuss each step in the cycle so that you can evaluate the health of your own sales process.
The first step in the cycle is prospecting. Whether you’re receiving leads or you’re out there finding them on your own, or a combination of both, this step creates the basis for your entire process. The problem is that if your prospecting is off, you may bring people through your sales process that are completely unsuited for your product or service offering. So instead of prospecting, consider this step the act of finding the right buyers – not just buyers, but the people who are the correct fit.
How do you prospect? Do you have a profile of buyer characteristics or needs? Have you created a composite of your most successful buyers in order to determine who fits the product or service? Or are you blindly locating your prospects in the hopes that someone will find the product or service useful? If you try a methodical approach to prospecting, an approach that defines your target audience, you’ll find that prospecting is easy and effective. Take a moment to consider how you find the right buyers.
Next, you must make the original contact with the prospective client. If your first contact takes on the tone of the proverbial “bull in a china shop”, then your carefully laid first step of finding the right buyers is useless. Do you charge in and insist that the prospect is perfect for the product, or do you approach it from a problem and benefit standpoint? For example, you can research your right buyer, determine what their problems are, and simply make contact with them to explain how your product or service can help them solve the problem. You can go into further detail when you embark upon a sales presentation. The original contact with the prospective client should be a soft approach that introduces them to the idea that the solution is within reach – and that you are there to help them obtain that solution.
Third in the process is qualification. You’ve taken the time to identify the prospect as a potential right buyer, but here you must go into a much deeper analysis of their issues and problems. Your organization may have a detailed qualification “checklist” or process, which you should always use in order to avoid wasting time. If your organization doesn’t have a specific qualification process, you can develop one. What specific prospect characteristics make them a good fit for the product or service? Of course the qualification step is two pronged – you have data and characteristics to compare your prospect, but you also have to turn that data into an appropriate questionnaire. Spend some time with the prospect to find the answers. If the answer is positive, you’re well on the way. But if it’s negative, think about how the prospect will regard you – they will know that you had a genuine interest in their business and their success. And when they discover that a friend, colleague, or another organizational leader truly needs your offering, they’ll refer you right away.
Fourth, your sales presentation must go into deep detail about the benefits of the product or service. Don’t spend time talking about features when you’ve got the audience. Spend time explaining how your offering can solve problems, make life easier, save money, or create efficiency for the prospect. Your presentation should “paint a picture” of the prospect once he, she, or they have purchased your solution. Your presentation should make the prospect wonder why they haven’t thought of this before.
After your presentation, you’ll have to deal with concerns and objections. How are you handling this now? Believe it or not, some sales people bristle when a prospect objects to certain product benefits or features. And another shocking fact is that salespeople may promise that certain problems won’t occur when they actually will. The best approach to handling concerns is honesty followed by a work-around or a method of dealing with the objection. If you’re not sure, say so. If you need to get another opinion, tell the prospect that you will address the issue with the right person. If you’re taking the time to get the facts, your prospect will thank you in the future.
Closing the sale is simply asking for the business. And the success of closing may be based on how you approach it. It’s not a hard approach, but one that says that you would be happy to have the prospect as a client. It’s an approach that says you will be with them as they start out with their new product or service. And it’s an approach that recaps all of the benefits the prospect can gain right away. Don’t stop once the presentation is made. Are you closing the sale or leaving it to chance?
The final step of your process is asking for referrals. This step is not based on what you say, but when you say it. Analyze your most successful clients to determine when they are most open to being asked for referrals. Do they obtain immediate benefits from your product or service, or do they need to use it for a while before they are comfortable? Examine your product or service and its clients to determine when you ask for referrals. And when it’s time, be direct and ask if anyone else they know could use the same benefits they now have.
So how does your sales process stack up? Look at each step in the cycle, make adjustments to your own methods, and enjoy success.