How To Define Your Sales Process In A Jargon Free Way

By Victoria


Sales Process Strategic Sales

Regardless of the size of your business or the type of product or service you are selling, everyone follows the same basic sales process.

Or do they?

You might not have sat down and thought about it as a “process” but I’m sure you have your own way of selling and “opening doors”. It might be a networking event you attend, you might have a “list” you use to contact potential customers or maybe you are lucky enough to have a dedicated sales team selling your product or service.

But what ever you do it isn’t just one simple step. No doubt you do a series of activities and usually these will be done in a certain order. You mightn’t have thought about it as a specific process - especially when you are juggling so many balls in the air running a business!

Yes every business is different. But the key thing is most follow a series of logical steps or processes in order to win business and generate revenue. The key difference is that some businesses do this in a very haphazard way without thinking about it whilst others spend time defining the best way to increase sales. And guess what? Those businesses who follow a set system or process will sell more.

Once you’ve nailed your “sales process” you are well on your way to increasing sales, as you can clearly see what’s working and what isn’t and where you need to do things differently, in order to win new business.

Let’s start off with the true definition of a “Sales Process”.

Definition of a Sales Process

“In simple terms, a sales process is a systematic approach involving a series of steps that enables a sales force to close more deals, increase margins and make more sales through referrals”.

The typical sales process goes something like this:

  1. Do your target audience research
  2. Create awareness and generate leads
  3. Make contact, arrange a meeting, and/or conduct a presentation
  4. Submit a proposal and win the business
  5. Rinse and Repeat

But a successful sales process needs two additional things. You need to establish credibility with the customer you are trying to sell to and you need to build trust. Sales is all about “helping” and you need to understand what the customers problem is before you can show how your product or service can really help them.

Think about it like a date! You need to show interest, listen to what they are saying and make sure your selling efforts are in sync with their buying signals and stages.

So here are the key stages you need to consider.

Stages of a successful Sales Process

1.  Prospect = Look for New Customers

So this is when the fun starts. You need to be able to clearly identify the type of buyer you are looking for - what sector are they in, size of company, location etc. The stronger your leads are, the more likely you are at being able to convert them into sales and that after all is what this process is all about. It’s all about quality rather than quantity so getting a clear focus on the “likely” type of customer is the best place to start. Once you have a clear view on your target market you can then reach out to them. Getting your sales strategy clearly identified is crucial to success.

2. Connect = Say Hi

So you have your “prospect” and now you need to move to the next level and engage with them either by email, telephone call or meeting face-face. You only get one chance to make an impression and this is a performance after all. Preparation is key! Before you make that all important call or have that first meeting, you need to have done your research. You need an understanding of your competition and the types of product or service they might be offering as a solution. You also need to be able to talk confidently about your company and its products/services and to be able to answer questions about your customer base and the types of customers you sell to. Imagine that you only have this one opportunity to engage with the customer and think about the key messages you need to get across, without bombarding the customer with a lot of technical jargon. If you can't do all of these things, you're not truly prepared.

3. Qualify = Is It Worth Spending Time?

This is a crucial stage as not all prospects/leads develop into good strong opportunities. No matter how good the initial opportunity it may be that when you talk or meet with the customer, they present you with new information which changes your view on the opportunity. Don’t be afraid to walk away from opportunities which don’t seem a good fit for your business. Rather this is a bold but wise move. You are better making that decision in the initial telephone call or meeting, when you have spent limited time and effort, rather than investing many additional hours submitting a proposal - only to then walk away from the opportunity. The key to a successful sales process is to get the sales cycle moving as quickly as possible. Sifting the prospects out early on which won’t close and generate you new business is a vital sales skill.

4. Identify Pains & Needs = What’s Hurting Them?

Selling is no longer about bombarding your potential buyer with a host of features and benefits and crossing your fingers. Instead you need to think about how you can help the buyer solve a problem or how your product/service can significantly improve their business. So this means asking lots of questions and listening to what they have to say. Try to uncover their burning issues and discover what it is they are looking to change/improve/implement before you start to talk about the service you can deliver for them and the benefits it will bring. The more you can uncover about the challenges the customer currently faces, the better you can tailor your solution to solving their issues. Investing time at this stage is vital as it will help you identify if it is an opportunity worth progressing with.

5. Present = How Can You Help?

Once you’ve made it past the first four stages successfully, you hopefully get an opportunity to present a proposal. If you’ve done your homework and listened intently you will know what issues you need to address and what it the number one priority for the customer. Your proposal needs to be succinct yet cover the key elements and detail how your product/service can help the customer. Yes you need to state the features and benefits of what you are offering but this should be after you have clearly spelt out how you are helping them. Remember it is much easier to justify investment when you can see how the purchase will significantly improve something. Even more important is being able to show how the results can be measured. Sound easy? If only this was the case. Presenting your proposal is relatively straight forward. It’s what you do afterwards that will determine how successful you are.

6. Handle Objections = What’s Stopping them from buying?

So you’ve listened to what they have had to say, have thought about how you can help and have submitted your solution. Fantastic! If only it were that easy….. No matter how good a grasp you think you have on the customer’s needs and issues, most customers will always have objections preventing them from making that “immediate purchase decision”. It could be something as simple as a timing issue - they do want the solution but aren’t ready to implement immediately. Or it could be do do with costs. They think your solution is the perfect answer for them but the cost is significantly higher than other proposals they have received. Or in fact it could be they are nervous on how to take the proposal to the next level. Whatever their concerns, your job is to find out what queries they have and what is preventing them from “buying”. It’s not that they don’t want to purchase form you - in many cases they have already mentally bought from you. Rather they need reassurance that they are making the right decision. Your job is to engage with the customer and build their trust, addressing all their questions, so that they have all the information they need to make an informed decision.

7. Close = Win The Sale

By this stage you have done your research, listened to the customer to find out their key challenges, submitted a proposal on how your solution can help and followed up with the customer to see if they have any concerns or questions. So now you can sit back and wait for the email or phone call to confirm you have won the business. If only it was that easy! This is the stage where too many businesses fail miserably. They pat themselves on the back that they have submitted a really good proposal, wait for the customer order and move on to the next lead/opportunity. Follow up is crucial. Just because you had a good positive meeting with the customer and addressed all their concerns doesn’t mean the business is yours. You need to agree next actions with the customer and follow up with them if you haven’t heard back from them. Don’t be scared to ask for the business. The worst they can say is no and then you can fiend out what is still preventing them from purchasing.

8. Deliver Product/Service = Upsell/Cross-Sell New Business

It’s this stage which is all too often over-looked. Okay so you’ve won the business. Fantastic! Now to move on to search for new opportunities. But what about the customers you are already selling to? Your existing customer base is the best “prospect” list you will ever have but many businesses totally overlook it. These customers are already your fans and don’t need any introductory meeting to explain who you are. But chances are there are other products/services you offer which they may now be interested in. Follow up with your customer and develop the account. Focus on keeping them informed about new developments and keep engaged with them to get their feedback and thoughts. The opportunity for generating new business from current customers is immense!

Summary Of How To Build Your Sales Process

So there you have it. Eight easy to follow stages on how you can implement a successful sales process for your business. Think about your business - what steps do you go through? Tailor the list to fit your business. You may have extra steps such as a demonstration or less. Identify what steps are key to your business and look at how you could change things in order to progress through each stage as quickly as possible.

The names of each stage might be different for you but the approach will be the same - a specific set of actions you follow to win a new sale. By doing this you have the basis of your sales process mapped out. Each step of your Sales process may have its own methodology but that’s for another day!

Importantly you need to define your approach for your business otherwise people will do their own thing. Provided you can document a clear “sales process” for your product/service you are then well prepared to  establish credibility, gain trust and most importantly generate revenue.

I’d love to hear from you if you need help with defining your “sales process” or if you already have a process in place but would like to see how it could be improved. Get In Touch...

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Victoria Enlighten IC


Victoria is commercial director of Enlighten IC and following a successful career in sales working for the likes of DELL Computers, she joined the firm to head up the sales and training division. Victoria sees it as her mission to ensure as many leads as are humanly possible convert into new clients

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