We’ll begin with an overview of the entire sales process. As there are quite a few steps involved, this will help you orient yourself. Then we’ll examine each step in detail, allowing you to develop a first class, comprehensive Sales System for your business.
Engage the Prospect (Contact/Introduction/Warm-up) — If you meet your prospects face-to-face, begin with a smile. Remember that purchase decisions are primarily emotional decisions; so be sure to set the stage by displaying the appropriate emotional message. Your personality should show through and enthusiasm must never be falsified, but if you greet your prospect in a foul mood, you will soon put them in a foul mood as well.
Qualify the Prospect (if necessary) — Hopefully, your marketing systems have already done this to some degree, but some measure of qualification will likely be necessary here as well. There is little point in trying to help someone make a purchase if they lack the wherewithal or if they have little need for it. What questions must you ask your prospects in order to identify them as qualified leads?
Introduce your Market Position — Here you will repeat the emotional message of your market position. Why does your business stand out from the crowd? Your goal here is to remind your prospects of the emotionally based reasons they have come to you. Your USP and Mission Statement can often fit in here nicely.
At Wardell, for example, we remind people that our goal is to help them achieve their entrepreneurial dreams (our Mission) by pointing the way to a better future (our USP). We may alter the wording slightly depending on the circumstances, but the general message is always the same. We want people to understand that they can count on us to get them where they want to go, as long as they are willing to take the necessary steps.
If you have a formal presentation that describes your business or your products and services, now is the time to present it.
Determine your prospect's needs (Needs Analysis) — Since the purpose of sales is to help your prospects make the right purchases, you need a process that will facilitate this goal. Your Needs Analysis is essentially a series of questions you can ask your prospects that will help you zone in on their true needs. Remember, your prospects are not looking for your products or services, they are looking for solutions to their needs. So it is only logical that you have a method of identifying those needs.
Offer your solutions — The next step in the Sales Process is to offer solutions to your prospects’ needs. As their needs become clear through the Needs Analysis process, identify and explain the product features that will solve or help to solve their problems. This can be done during or after the Needs Analysis.
There may be rare instances when your solutions have nothing to do with your business. Perhaps you realize that your prospect would be better served by your competitor’s lower quality, less expensive product, for example. It may seem illogical to send potential customers to your competition, especially if they are not in the habit of returning the favour, but in reality, you are not doing your competition a favour, you are doing your prospect a favour. Your competition may make the sale, but if you play your cards right, you will make the customer.
Conduct a Test Close — Once you have shown your prospects that your products and services can satisfy their needs, it is often a good idea to find out where they stand. Ask your prospects, “If we can do what we have promised, can we do business together?” You can ask this question any way you like of course, but if their answer is anything other than yes, you have either not fully satisfied, or incorrectly identified, their needs. In this case, you will want to revisit your Needs Analysis to get to the root of the problem.
Describe and/or demonstrate your Product or Service — This is the “test drive” phase. Review your product or service with your prospect in appropriate detail, emphasizing the features that best satisfy their needs. For example, if you were selling a Cadillac to a prospect who was primarily interested in reliable, safe transportation for his family, it may be better to emphasize the quality of the vehicle, its safety features, and its warranty, more so than the power of its engine or the prestige of its name.
Ask for Questions — Before committing to the purchase, your prospects will likely have some additional questions. Of course you will likely be answering questions all the way through the process, but ask if they have any additional questions here as well. Your goal is to make them as certain as possible about their purchase before finally asking for the business.
Handle objections (This may fit in more than one place) — While it is absolutely essential that you never push your prospect into a sale, it is equally essential that you give them every opportunity to make a purchase when it is in their best interest. When a prospect comes up with an objection such as “let me think about it,” it is often a sign that they still have unanswered questions. Get to the bottom your prospect’s objectives as quickly as possible; otherwise they may lose the sale.
Close the Sale — Done right, this final step should be the natural conclusion to your sales process. If your Sales System is focused on helping your prospects get what they need, and if you have what they need, then you should make a sale as well as a customer. If you don’t have what they need, you can still make a customer who will be back when they need what you have.
In either case it is a much better outcome than making a sale to someone who doesn’t need it. They’ll eventually realize it and their trust in you will disappear.
These stages may vary slightly for your business and some may be combined, but they are all still important, no matter how fleeting some of them might be. Go through your current sales system and identify as many of the above stages as possible. Then, as you redesign or upgrade your sales system, try to find a way to introduce all of them into it. Remember, your primary goal is not to make a sale. Your primary goal is to make a lifelong customer.