Sales System: Process (episode 4)
Sales Process can take many different forms and will certainly need to be tuned to your company, your product, your business objectives. No matter what, however, it is the mechanics of your Sales System. Sales process can be viewed as the series of actions and events that you and your team follow to close a sale(s) with your customer including the criteria for advancing the customer to the next actions. Depending on your product and your company, your sales process might involve other team members such as product marketing for everything except the close, or it may depend 100% on the sales team. As you work through the details of your Sales System you must include an assessment of the roles feeding your sales process.
Sometimes called funnel management, or pipeline advancement the sales process is a sequence of stages:
Prospect: You may start by prospecting for a lead, to do this you first establish the likely places, where leads might be found and begin your search there. Having identified where your leads might be found you then must identify what initial criteria you will use to determine what is a potential lead and what is not. Sorting potential leads from those without potential according to the initial criteria takes you to the next task which is to contact and qualify the leads.
Qualify: This is where you begin to contact and qualify to learn about the leads with potential. Here you are looking to identify those who most likely fit your target customer profile, the strategic segments your company is pursuing, the financial status of your desired customer, etc. Once again you will be measuring these customers against an established set of criteria to determine if they should advance to the next stage.
Research: By now you have a smaller number of qualified customers at hand and you are beginning to set your strategy for further engagement with them. The research you are focussed on here is to learn who the key stakeholders are, what their interests are, what buying process is in place, what key objectives does their company have, when do they make buying decisions, what are their pain points. Any information that you can gather which will give you the ability to speak to the customer on topic and using language that will resonate with them and use that to prepare your pitch.
Pitch: This could be called proposal or presentation, the effect is the same, this is your moment to plead your case, show off your product/service and ask the customer to consider buying something. Armed with the information gathered in your research, you make an impassioned presentation about your offering speaking to the concerns, and agenda needs of the stakeholders while using language that they will hear. During the presentation you are gathering the needs of your next phase, you are listening and watching closely for expressed and hidden objections, validating your understanding of their buying process, and confirming their buying decision criteria.
Overcome Objections: working through any objections expressed or hidden is an effort to tip the scales and cause the buying decision. No matter if they are product functionality, cost, timing, personal, or otherwise, each objection must be swept out of the way to clear the decks for a buying decision.
Close: Closing and trial-closing are not as much a stage in the sales process as they are an inflection point. In the famous words delivered by Alec Baldwin we must follow the ABCs of selling: A- Always B-Be C-Closing. After-all no matter what process we apply, and what names we give them this is all about closing business and gaining revenue.
Follow-up: This is a critical element of the sales process for many reasons, top of the list is that your best customers are repeat customers, one’s who are satisfied and who don’t need to be re-convinced. It takes far longer to go through all the steps here with a new customer than one with whom you’ve already done business. Velocity is achieved by removing friction, your existing customer is a low friction customer, ripe for upselling, cross selling, advocacy requests, referrals etc. Most important though is to stay close to them, following up so they know you care about the outcome and their success and so you can identify the best time to move them back into your sales process for additional opportunities.
It doesn’t matter what you call these stages in your company, you may weigh their value differently, but all of these stages should exist somewhere in your process. You cannot skip them, you can optimize them, or automate them, but not skip them. You must: Prospect, Qualify, Research, Pitch, Overcome Objections, CLOSE, & Follow-up. The velocity of this process has the single largest influence on your ability to increase sales.