Selling and the sales process have earned an undeservedly bad name. When selling isn’t done with sensitivity and customer satisfaction as its ultimate goal, it’s easy to see why this happened. And with many sales reps earning much of their remuneration through commissions, the temptation to push the sale no matter what is great. It’s also counter-productive. Short-term gains for the company followed by long-term dissatisfaction for the client aren’t hallmarks of a good business.
But, when done correctly, sales teams can identify people who will actually benefit from what they have to sell, make them aware of the solutions they have to offer, and clinch a deal in which the customer is even more satisfied with the purchase than the company is about gaining a new customer.
Achieving this high-road result requires sales processes that lead ideal customers through the sales funnel, giving them time to understand why and how their purchase will benefit them and allowing them to make a decision they’ll never regret. That’s the governing principle: but what does a sales process really consist of? Your questions are answered in this quick introduction to the sales process.
Sales Process Stages
The details may differ, but the stages of the sales process remain the same. It all begins with research. Who are you selling to? What are the pain points that your product is designed to resolve? Where are the best places to make contact with these people and what matters most to them? Understanding your market, defining the personas who will be most attracted to your product, knowing why they want it, and discovering where to find them, are the first basic steps of a sales process.
The next stage is prospecting: the strategies you apply to get the conversation between your business and its prospective clients started. They’re people who genuinely want to hear from you about your products – and some of them might just turn into customers. While some people see it as a numbers game, effective prospecting narrows your sales efforts down to the “right” customers rather than “more” customers. This allows you to deploy your resources where they’re most likely to have the desired effect: making a sale.
Now that you know who is interested, it’s your sales team’s job to transform interest into excitement and a general idea that your business has something good to offer into the purchase of specific products. But selling isn’t the culmination of the sales process. There’s more work to be done!
Delighted customers are among your business’s most valuable assets. Having spent time and resources in winning them over, keeping them as ardent supporters of your business ensures future sales to them and their network of contacts. Relationship-building is the final phase of the sales process and is often overlooked, ignoring it is costlier than you may realise.
How to Create a Sales Process
Consider each of the four stages of the sales process, and formulate steps that are specific to your business and the ideal customers you hope to serve. Remember the Pareto or 80:20 principle. You get 80 percent of your business for 20 percent of your effort. What if you focus your efforts on the 20 percent of customers that account for 80 percent of your revenue? It may sound like an arcane formula, but it works in practice.
If your sales process targets everyone, you aren’t selling effectively to anyone. If you focus on ideal customers, you’ll probably pull in a few outliers along the way. And since you’ll spend far less effort winning over the “right” customers, you’ll get better returns from the resources you do expend in the process.
Many businesses use their research to create ideal customer personas. These are fictitious characters with real needs that represent the type of people most likely to buy your products. Lead generation from a pool of people that includes your ideal customers is the next of the sales process steps to navigate.
But not every lead is a relevant lead, so lead qualification follows. A qualified lead is a hot prospect. Your product or service neatly matches their requirements and showing people like this how you can make their lives pleasanter or easier should leave you with an excellent chance of getting sales.
By the time you get down to the real business of selling, you’re facing a receptive audience. If you can convert them, delivering on your promises is all it takes to gain satisfied clients. Finally, now that you’ve put so much work into forming a business relationship, it’s up to you to build on it, and the methods you use should reinforce the satisfaction your customers feel when they purchase products that improve their lives in one way or another.
Consider how all of this applies to your business, formulate the steps you’ll take to achieve the desired results, and you have a sales process.
Common Sales Process Mistakes
Poor Lead Qualification and Thinking It’s All About You
Even with the best intentions, it’s possible to get the sales process completely wrong. Consider the impact of poor lead qualification. If you’ve identified the wrong people to sell to, it’s no surprise that you aren’t getting sales. And, although you might think your company is great, it’s your customers that make it that way, so telling them how awesome you are isn’t going to win you any points. Think about how you can serve them instead.
Talking Without Listening and Adapting
Many people will tell you that selling is all about the pitch, but while it matters, “talking at” people isn’t the same as actually communicating. For good communication, you need to listen too. And since listening helps you to know your customers better, failing to adapt your messaging to their needs is another point in the sales process where you might just lose sales instead of gaining them.
Thinking The Benefits You Offer Are Obvious
Another common mistake is assuming that the features of your product offer such clear benefits that you needn’t explain them. Some things need to be said to be properly understood, and with that understanding in your customers’ minds, the value perception rises, making pricing less of an issue. Your customers have unfulfilled needs or “pain points” and the ways in which you can address them are much more important than anything else your products can do or that you can say.
Trying to Rush the Sale
Being too pushy or too hasty are huge mistakes. Give people time to process information. Allow them an opportunity to consider their purchase properly. Help them if they need help, but never push them to make quick decisions. If you do, they’re more likely to walk away than they are to take the plunge, and once you’ve lost them, they’re gone forever.
Waiting for Inbound Sales
Reaching out to qualified leads can be better than waiting for them to get in touch with you, so never underestimate the value of outbound sales. “Proactive” and “pushy” are two different things! What’s stopping your red-hot lead from following through? It’s up to you to find out whether they just need a little more information and encouragement.
There’s No Substitute for Talking to People
At some point in your sales process, two-way communication is a must. That’s especially true if your customers see the purchase as a big step to take. A few of them may get in touch with you, but many prospective customers send out strong signals showing they’re ready to purchase and yet fail to follow through. Do you know why? Maybe it’s time to ask!
Outbound sales and retention are specialities in their own right and, like other areas of your business, they require skilled personnel and purpose-built tech to guide them. While sales keep your business afloat and fund its growth, your core skill is likely to lie elsewhere. At RSVP, on the other hand, sales and relationship building are our specialities. Need help with developing and improving your sales process? We have the people, the skills, and the technologies you need. Isn’t it time we joined forces? Contact us today!