A sales process is a series of steps that aim to get your prospective customer to buy, and then to rebuy. It gives sellers a framework for their activity. Each of these steps involves interactions – sometimes one, sometimes many, and can take different forms, and involve different messages. A good sales process helps someone to sell at the most effective speed with the correct messaging and leads to the best outcomes.

What is a sales process and do you need one?

The idea is to move them through the buying process, keeping as many potential buyers along the way as possible.

They move along the stages like this:

  1. Prospect step

    These are your newbies, maybe a list of potential buyers sourced from LinkedIn, members of an association, attendees at an event etc. Also, don’t forget to include any referred contacts from existing clients. Prospecting is vital. Without it, you are unlikely to make enough sales, and are unlikely to keep a steady flow of clients. Prospecting should form part of the daily work of a salesperson, or at least weekly, but it needs to be there, or your leads will dry up and therefore your sales.

  2. Connection step

    This is usually a discovery call or initial chat. This is where you find out if they’re likely to move on (or be able to move on) to the next step. You should aim, at this step, to find out their pain points, priorities, etc. and see if there’s a fit. It’s not really the time to be spouting your spiel at them. Connect, and discover.

  3. Research/evaluation step

    At this stage you are delving deeper into the company and what their needs are, you develop an understanding of how their company works and know you are talking with the correct decision makers or stakeholders in the decision. You will gain a deeper understanding of how you can help and qualify the lead. You should be developing a good rapport by this stage.

  4. Presentation step

    You offer and discuss solutions to their previously discovered pain points, problems and unique issues. Whatever you are offering should match. They are listening to you and considering how you can help. It is still a two-way conversation, not just a ”here you go” presentation. It can involve others, for example more technical staff if demonstrations are needed or technical ideas need to be discussed.

  5. Closing step

    Again, a two-way process. This isn’t something you just present them with, you have discussed what they need and answered any questions. You are leading them to sign on the dotted line but maybe are negotiating prices, contract length, etc. You’re more into the detail. A deal is not closed yet... But it’s close. Sometimes your prospect can move from the closing step back up to research/evaluation. This is because more has come to light about their pain points, or perhaps not enough discovery was done. That’s fine, but keep moving them along towards the Closing step.

Then.. Deal done!

Now – what happens at each of these steps?

Why is a sales process important?

Without a sales process you are guessing at what to do next and can’t see where you are leaking leads. With practice and experience, you can set up a sales process that works for YOUR business aims and YOUR clients.

For example, if you meet a potential client, and then email them the information sheet you have lovingly prepared and leave them to respond, you aren’t likely to convert that lead to a sale. They will remain at Connection stage. However, if you add to this process by calling the prospect, maybe leaving a message, then another email, and perhaps mailing something, then calling again, you are more likely to get hold of them and move them through to the Research/Evaluation step. Don’t fear pushiness here, these steps and interactions aren’t all done at speed, they are timed and developed to give the prospect the best buying experience with you. However, you shouldn’t just leave a process to chance.

Having a map of your sales process shows you how much effort/time/expense you need to put into the average prospect to get a sale. This helps you plan your sales cycle, prevents revenue peaks and troughs and enables you to plan how much time and effort you need to put in, as well as learning the best ways to approach the clients at each stage.

You probably have a loose sales process already. It may look like this:

  1. Prospect is identified (through the website/social media/networking event).
  2. Discussion to see if it is a qualified lead.
  3. Email the prospect information the next day.
  4. Email them a few days later to see if they got your first email.
  5. Then... nothing.

Have a think about what you are doing currently. Map it out and then have a look at it from a customer’s point of view. Is your initial email answering their particular issues? Do you even know their particular issues or are you just looking at telling them what you do/offer? Does the content of this email address their problems and give enough information, or too much information? Does it have a call to action / special offer/ extra help or information they might use?

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