In our last post, we talked about creating a selling strategy for your business. We explained why it’s important and how you can go about it. That post took a broad perspective on the primary purpose of any business – selling its products and services. Now, however, it’s time to take a closer, more intimate perspective of the same critical business component of selling. This means studying the sales process at an up close and personal level.
At this point, you’re probably thinking why you need to bother with all this “needless” complexity. After all, you know your industry, you know your product, and you know your business. You don’t need all these various perspectives to make your business work.
The thing is that you’re very much right. You don’t need to know both the small sales process perspective and the big selling strategy perspective to make your business work. What you need them for is to make your business flourish and reach its true potential.
Why Understanding the Sales Process Is Important
All the spiritual gurus in the world will tell you that to truly master something, you need to look at it from afar as well as imagine it from the inside. Despite the fact that it is actually couched in all this spiritual mumbo-jumbo, in principle, the concept is very sound.
Imagine a situation where you create a selling strategy for your business with defined objectives, milestones, and steps. You could have the best selling strategy in the world but its benefits won’t translate for your business if it isn’t implemented properly at the ground level. In other words, if your sales personnel don’t do the simple things right, then the selling strategy would be a complete waste.
Therefore, it can be said that you need to understand how a sales process should be so that you can prepare your sales personnel to truly implement your selling strategy. An effective sales process can be broken down into various components or steps. The following are the stages of a typical sales process.
Knowing and Understanding the Product
Knowing the product means knowing everything about it including things like manufacturing process, potential uses, salient features, innovative applications etc. This isn’t easily done because sales people usually don’t have any technical expertise.
In fact, most sales people try to sell products and services that they themselves have never used in their lives. In many instances, it’s even possible that the sales person would never even consider using the product or service he is selling.
On the flip side, you have highly technical people, who understand every intricacy of their product, trying to pitch their products to laymen. This can also be a huge problem because these individuals essentially know too much about their product. Effectively, they focus on the product as opposed to its value to the customer.
What these two types of sales people show is that a balance must be maintained when it comes to knowing the product step of the sales process. Not knowing the product, thus, is detrimental to the sale, while knowing too much about it is only good if the information is used wisely.
Generating and Identifying Appropriate Leads
The word ‘appropriate’ here is important because a business can’t start selling its products and services to any and every person out there.
Since the market is huge, every business needs to identify those individuals or businesses where the chances of the sales process closing are the highest.
With respect to prospecting, every business has to pick out a target audience. Within this target audience, the business then has to segment individuals in different groups so as to change their sales pitch to suit the specific needs of each group.
For instance, a business selling baby food will primarily target new parents. The business can segment that group further into couples, single mothers, and even fathers. Similarly, age, income group, social status, and even lifestyle can be used to segment the audience.
Prospecting can be done in any number of ways. Websites can generate leads; cold calls on telephone number databanks purchased from third parties can be used; and even personal networking skills can be leveraged.
What is important, however, is to drill down as much as possible during prospecting because a half the battle of the sales process is finding an individual who knows he needs something.
Engaging and Interacting With Potential Customers
Once you’ve identified which leads are more likely to convert into customers, you can think about approaching them. The approach is easily the most important part of any sales process because this is where you communicate, interact, and influence potential customers.
The vast majority of sales processes hit a wall in the approach stage. The sales process could fail at this stage for a number of reasons ranging from poor prospecting to even lacking interpersonal skills of the sales professional.
The latter, however, is the most common reason i.e. the sales professional fails to connect with the potential customer at a level where he could build a relationship with him and possibly influence his thinking.
This depends entirely on how perceptive and communicative the sale professional really is. The trick is to seem like a helpful and well-mannered salesperson concerned more about the potential customer than his sales targets. This could be the difference between a potential customer’s guard getting up and him becoming receptive.
Analysing and Assessing Needs
So, how does a sales person seem helpful within the sales process? The answer is through needs assessment. The primary task after getting through the initial greetings is to assess and analyse the needs of the potential customer. This is what you want your sales personnel to understand the most about the entire sales process.
The reason for this is that you can’t sell anything to potential customers unless you understand their needs fully. Your product or service should solve a problem for your potential customer for him to become interested in it. The foundation of the needs assessment stage of the sales process is nothing but asking questions. The only way a sales professional can know what a customer needs is by asking them in a simple manner.
Delivering the Sales Pitch and Closing the Sales Process
The sales pitch is where your sales professional will explain to the potential customer how your product or service will solve his problems and meet his needs. Unfortunately, research has shown that about 80 percent of sales processes fail at the sales pitch stage.
Delivering the sales pitch can also be seen as the closing stage of the entire sales process. This makes the sales pitch incredibly important. The sales pitch is where your sales personnel will highlight all the features of your product or service. This is where he will list the benefits of buying your product or using your service.
Creating and delivering a sales pitch is more like an art than science. There is no defined strategy or set rule for creating a good sales pitch because every sales pitch should ideally be custom made for the specific customer it is being delivered to.
Generic sales pitches rarely have the right impact on a potential customer. In fact, they usually end up making the customer wary of the sales professional and the offering in question resulting in a lost conversion.
Moreover, even if your sales professionals only have one product or service to sell, at different stages of the sales process, they’ll be selling different things. For instance, at the point of first contact, they may be selling the brand, the reputation of the business, or even a meeting.
Therefore, it’s important for your sales professionals to know what they’re selling at a particular moment within the entire sales process.
These were the primary stages of a sales process. You could easily break any of these stages down further to get more specific stages. However, the essence of the sales process will remain the same which means that you can use these stages to train your sales staff as well as to supplement your selling strategy.