If you ask enough people, they will tell you that sales and the act of selling is actually more of an art form. These days, one cannot simply jump on the hood of a car, bullhorn in hand and yelling out features and benefits to passers-by hoping for a bit and a sale. Sales, nowadays, require a good deal of careful planning and thoughtful execution.
For newbies or experienced salespeople alike, sales requires a sensible kind of thinking, a certain amount of determination mixed in with streetsmart because, in sales, there are good days and bad days and if you’re in the industry, you should be able to take defeat in stride. There are times when it is essential to come back to the drawing board, review the sales tactics and make adjustments accordingly. The most helpful of all, however, is the 7 step sales process.
A sales process is your roadmap to success, the summit of the mountain, the top of the podium – a closed sale! These steps are the basics of sales and should be the template for every sales plan in the company for better sales performance. They should always be used as a basis for any sales initiative that is being carried out to ensure its success.
Of course, you can always go rogue, if you feel confident enough but these 7 steps or variations of the same, have been around for ages as part of sales process automation of various companies. Although they might not have been in black and white, the concept of these 7 steps has been used for a long time and has been proven to be helpful in successfully converting prospects to actual sales.
Carrying out a sales initiative or strategy without a clear and outlined sales process means the difference between a failed and successful sales attempt. Because a sales process creates for your team a kind of standardized, templated approach, the absence of one may lead to inconsistencies in the selling practices of different people in your team. You need for all of your customers to have the same awesome experience with your company, whoever they talk to and you can only get this kind of consistent result with a sales process.
The 7 step sales process can seem like a lot of work but it’s actually a short sale process once you’ve gotten used to it. Your customers can enjoy consistently pleasant experiences with your team and your team can bask in one successful sales conversion after another. Outlines sales process stages help protect the integrity of your team’s sales techniques and strategies as well as your brand image in the long run.
Now, we take a look at the 7 step sales process and explain each one in great detail.
From the name itself, the prospecting stage is where your team collects a number and collates a list of potential customers for the business. This is also the stage in the sales funnel process where you and your team figure out if your prospective customers have a need for your product and/or services along with whether or not they can afford it.
Once you have a list of prospects, it’s important to make sure that you have all the necessary details and then storing them in a reliable but highly protected storage facility like a cloud or common folder which anyone in your sales team can update and access anytime. The prospecting stage can otherwise be defined as the lead and demand generation stage.
The second stage in the sales process is one where you line up all your ducks in a row, so to speak, in preparation for approaching your prospect and making a case for your product and/or service. This is where you do additional research on your prospect to make sure that everything in your pitch is aligned with their needs and priorities.
This is also where you take a closer look at your proposal or presentation to make sure it fits what your prospects are looking for. It’s also best to plan what you’re going to say along with your delivery. This does not mean writing a script because reading off a script might make you sound like a robot but it’s best to have an outline of your talking points as well as your possible rebuttals, if needed.
The stage where you make your first impression, the approach stage establishes your line of communication, connection, and rapport with the prospective customer. This is where you introduce yourself, state your purpose and build trust with rapport and empathy. The approach stage of the selling cycle is where you allow the customer to warm up to you by making small talk, asking questions, and explaining in general terms who you are and what your business is.
There are also 3 types of approaches that you can take at this stage:
Premium – Gifting your prospective customer with something a little more upscale than what they’ve come to expect. Not necessarily the product or service that you’re selling exactly, but something from the market like a grazing plate, a bottle of wine, or tickets to a show. Doing this at the beginning of the interaction sets the tone for the whole conversation that should follow.
Question – Asking a question, or questions, to “hook” your prospect. These questions are better being open-ended questions so your prospect will be encouraged to talk more, giving you openings to illustrate why your product or service will be beneficial to them. You can also ask questions to get them interested and invested in your product/service.
Product – Offering a sample of your product or a free trial of your service for a defined period of time. This gives them the chance to actually try your product or service on for size, to further prove if they need it or that it fits with their lifestyle. After the trial period or the sample runs out, you can ask them to turn in a review or evaluation of your product or service.
This is the stage in the 7 step sales process where you use everything you’ve learned in your research and approach to seal the deal and close the sale, making your prospective customer a bonafide customer. At this stage, you’ll present your product or service; highlight its features and benefits in accordance with your prospect’s needs and priorities as well as their budget.
Keep in mind that at this stage, your prospect is also conducting their own research on your product/service. They’re trawling the Internet for similar products, comparing prices along with the features and benefits.
You probably think Presentation is the most important out of all the stages but they all are equally important. However, the most crucial in being a tipping point between a sale and a dead lead is handling objections. Some salespeople simply fold after receiving one objection while others have more than one rebuttal, aggravating the potential customer instead. To overcome objections successfully, you need to do the following:
Don’t shy away from rejections. Not everything that looks like a loss is actually one. Remember to give your prospect a little bit of breathing space. No one likes impulsive buys and it’s never a good thing when a customer walks away from a deal feeling as though they’ve been cajoled into it. So, you feel like your prospect needs it, give them time to mull things over and schedule a follow-up meeting in a day or two where they can make their final decision.
This is what it all comes down to: the make it or break it stage – the Closing! This is where you get the final buy-in and make the prospect an actual customer. This is where you and the customer will come to an agreement as to the terms and conditions of the sale as well as the features and benefits of your product/service in relation to their needs and complete the transaction. There are 3 closing strategies that you can employ:
“Will it be cash or card?”
“Would you like to pay in installments or whole upfront?”
“Do you require a card or special packaging?”
“The price is set to increase next month.”
“We have a lot of prospects and there are a few looking to close in a few days.”
“The offer will expire in three days.”
“The discount is only available for 24 hours.”
It’s true that the sale is the ultimate goal of the selling cycle but you can sweeten the deal and enrich the customer experience by giving them a little something extra in the process of closing the sale.
After the sale is finalized and completed, it’s time to move on to the new one, correct? Not really. More than anything, it’s where the work really begins because that’s when the customer’s experience and relationship with your company truly begins. The follow-up stage of the sales process is important in ensuring customer satisfaction, creating loyal customers, and looking for prospective customers.
The follow-up can be something as simple as an email asking how everything is going, in relation to your product and/or service, checking if there are any flaws or issues as well as making sure that the product or service they received is being used properly. Doing the follow-up properly will not only assure your customer that they’ve made the right choice in signing up with or purchasing from your company.
The 7 step sales process can look like a lot of work when it’s all laid out in black and white but it is actually a short sales process when put into practice. You’re just dividing the work that needs to be done into stages, making each one easier to focus and plan on. You might not know it but you already have a sales funnel process being used.
Look at your current sales process and map out the various stages so you can see which ones are working and which ones you can improve on. Your company will be enjoying better sales performance in no time at all!