The 3 phases of the sales process
There is a lot of confusion over exactly what a sales process is and how this fits into prospecting, networking, marketing, meeting with a prospective customer along with creating and presenting proposals.
All of these activities are part of an overarching sales process and can lead to a sale but each activity has a very different objective.
The entire sales process happens in this order.
1. The lead generation phase
In order to grow your business, you first have to generate a lead. A lead can be a cold lead meaning, you have no idea if the prospect wants to do business you or even has an interest in what you sell. A lead can also be a warm lead meaning, the prospect has indicated they have some interest in doing business with you.
Lead generation can come from many sources. Here are a few examples.
- Marketing campaigns
- Social media
- Personal selling
- Cold calling
- Email marketing
- Your website
- Referral business
Without generating leads, you have no one to sell to.
The objective for generating leads is not to sell anything – yes I did say that, it’s not to sell anything. It’s to start a conversation with a prospect or get an appointment either in person, over the phone or on-line.
Advertising is one way to generate a lead but it’s important to remember an advertisement shouldn’t be designed to sell your products or services, it should be designed to create interest and desire with a strong call to action. That call to action is asking the prospect to do something, either visit your website, visit your place of business, call you, email you, NOT to sell what you have to offer.
When you shout at your prospective customer… buy me, buy me, buy me, you push them away. Would you ask someone to marry you on a first date? No of course not. That’s where so many people go wrong, they don’t understand, prospecting and lead generation is all about getting to the second date.
As you would with any new relationship, you want to find out if you are suited or a match. You want to qualify them to find out if they are interested in you and you are interested in them.
Qualifying your prospect
Not all leads are quality leads and not all leads will fit into the time frame you wish they would buy from you.
Let’s say you generated a good lead. They are interested in what you have to sell but they just aren’t in the market yet. Perhaps they don’t have the budget or they aren’t the decision maker. A prospect like this could take a long time to fall through the sales funnel and come out at the other end as a customer.
Whereas another lead might be interested in what you have to offer and they go through the sales funnel very quickly and end up as a customer. Still others will drop out along the way. It might not be due to anything you said or did. It might simply be you aren’t a good fit.
Because leads move through the sales funnel at different rates, and some don’t even make it all the way through, it’s important to keep the top of your sales pipeline full. As the lead works its way down through the funnel, you get to qualify them as a prospect you can do business with – you get to have a second date. In some cases, a lead doesn’t suit you or you don’t suit them and they go elsewhere.
Once you have a qualified lead, you then get to work your magic where you take them through the buying and selling cycle which is like dating. You want to find out more about them which leads us to the next phase of the sales process.
2. The sales meeting phase
The second phase of the sales process is to have a conversation with your prospect. This could happen over the phone, via Skype, email or even face to face. Now you are at a point where you start the sales meeting process.
Let’s say you went on a blind date and you met someone for the first time. You would introduce yourself, find something in common before you would both relax into the date. It’s the same with sales. Your objective when you meet or talk to a new prospect is to quickly build trust and rapport.
You introduce yourself, build rapport then ask the magic question, “What is your perception of my company and the products and services we sell?” The reason you ask this question is, if they have heard negative things about you, your company and what you sell, there is no point pitching your products and services this early in the sales meeting. You must clear up this misunderstanding or objection first and build credibility. Of course if they haven’t heard about you, you can launch into your elevator pitch (which is about 30 – 60 seconds long). An elevator pitch is not a full blown sales pitch.
Once your prospect is more relaxed and feels at ease, then and only then, can you move into the buying and selling cycle which is part of the second phase of the sales process. This is when you get to ask sales interview questions to find out more about the prospects needs.
The buying and selling cycle
The buying and selling cycle forms part of the 10 step meeting process of the overarching sales process.
Going back to that blind date, you’ve made the introductions and made a decision that you would like to get to know them better. You might even suggest going for dinner. The next obvious question you would ask your blind date is, what kind of food they like. You wouldn’t want to take them to a place where they would hate the food. That wouldn’t go down very well. During dinner you would ask lots of questions to find out more about them, what their background is and their likes and dislikes.
It’s the same with sales. You don’t know if your prospect is in the market to buy or even if they are the decision maker. Your objective in meeting or talking to the prospect is to find out what their problems and opportunities are and you do this through effective questioning techniques. You are looking to find out their WHY. What are their needs? What is their target goal? What are they looking to achieve? Once you find out the prospects WHY, this is the clue as to how your products or services can benefit them. Do not pitch your products or services before this point in the meeting. If you do, the prospect will raise many objections.
This is where the Bi-Sell-Cycle™ is so effective. It allows you drive the buying and selling cycle so that you stay on track throughout the conversation or meeting.
Your objective in having that conversation with the prospect and going through the buying and selling cycle, is to come away with a way forward. That is to either:
- Close the sale
- Set up another meeting
- Prepare a proposal
- Give a presentation
- Send them some more information
At the end of this first conversation, you may or may not be in a position to close the sale. You can only close the sale if the prospect is the decision maker, they are in the market to buy now and, your products and services will benefit them in some way. The benefit to the prospect is your products and services will help resolve a problem they have or help them realize an opportunity. People don’t buy your products and services, they buy what your products and services will do for them.
If the prospect isn’t in a position to buy at the end of your first conversation, you may have to have another conversation with them. You might need to prepare a proposal or quote. They may ask you to send them some more information but, this is fraught with danger, it may be their way of saying no without giving offense. If this is the case, then you haven’t found out their WHY which is their dominant buying motive.
End with a way forward
At the end of the first conversation or meeting, you need to make sure you have a way forward.
- If you are going to set up another meeting, make the appointment on the spot.
- If you are going to prepare a proposal, set a time at the end of the meeting when you will get back to them to present it.
- If you are going to give a formal presentation, make sure you set a time and date where all the decisions makers will be present.
Do not wait until after the meeting has concluded to come away with the next step or you will lose momentum.
If you find there is no way forward, ask the prospect if they would mind if you stay in touch with them and add them to your mailing list. Things change over time and you may have another opportunity to meet with them again or have another conversation in the future.
If they interested in what you have to offer but the timing is wrong, then 100% you must stay in touch on a regular basis. By regular, once every 90 days at a minimum.
3. The follow up phase
Now you are entering into the follow up phase of the entire sales process.
The follow up stage of the sales process is one of the most important phases and one that many people don’t do so well. Sometimes it can take up to 6 or 7 follow up contacts to conclude a sale. Never give up.
If you are going to prepare a proposal, it’s important that your proposal follows the buying and selling cycle and meeting process. The reason for this is you don’t always have control over who will read your proposal. You may have to rely on a person whom have never met to make a decision on whether to buy from you purely based on what’s in your proposal.
If you do prepare a proposal, it is always best to present the proposal in person where you can gauge the prospects reaction. If not, then present it over the phone or through screen sharing technology. This allows you to answer any questions they may have or handle any objections they might raise.
At this point you will be looking to close the sale.
Regardless of whether you present a proposal or not, stay in touch with your prospect and whatever you do, follow up and do what you say you will.
On a Final Note
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