7 Steps for Mastering the Sales Process

8 min read
May 16, 2016
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Sales process

Sometimes when people think about sales, they imagine it’s like in Wolf of Wall Street. An aggressive person who will do whatever it takes to get a sale. Let me calm you down. You don’t have to be like a Wolf to make sales. In fact, you should be the opposite. Most environments, including SaaS, is nothing like selling stocks.

A sales process is mainly about creating relationships with potential customers. It’s about asking questions, educating and providing value for them.

What are the 7 steps in the sales process?

1. Prospecting

Prospecting is online research in which you want to find new prospects. You can also search an existing database for contacts. The key to success at this stage is knowing where to dig and what to look for. To do that you should create profiles for existing customers. It’s all to make the contact with a customer more convenient in the future.

Imagine you have a company that sells laptops. You may have identified the following major market segments: corporations, universities or even individual buyers. But have you fully profiled each of these in order to adjust marketing tactics appropriately?

A formal email, informing about a seminar might work well for a CEO of a bank corporation, but it won’t be effective for a SaaS Startup. That’s why it’s good to know what the ideal customer for each market segment looks like.

2. Grabbing attention - the approach

This is the step where you begin to build a relationship with a prospect. A good approach is essential to succeed in sales because it will either identify you as an annoying salesperson or as an obliging person with something valuable to offer.

The biggest issue most salespeople are facing in this stage is not grabbing the attention of a prospect. The thing is, the average attention span of a buyer is 7 seconds.

That’s the crucial information for all of the salespeople and marketers because most of the time people don’t pay attention. In result they don’t understand the product fully even though you explained it to them. Mostly because there’s a lot of distractions these days. For example, when you talk to them over the phone, they start imaging their vacations or reading something on the Internet (or is it just me?).

So, your job as a salesman is to retain their attention. Attract. Read the Sales Skills Every Salesperson Should Master.

3. Asking questions – connect

Is there a better way to get somebody’s attention if not by asking questions about their needs? Unfortunately, that’s the part when most of the salespeople get things wrong. They are oh-so-excited that somebody is interested in their product, so they think: “Let’s be more aggressive, let’s sell to this person!!” That’s not how it works.

This is the time when you ask more questions to see if there’s a mutual fit. Here’s how this conversation can look like, if you sell laptops:

Salesperson: “Michael, you’re interested in a laptop. We have a company called X. So what kind of laptop are you interested in?”

Prospect: ”I was thinking I want a laptop for gaming”

Salesperson: ’Cool, what kind of games do you play? Mario or very heavy duty games like Call of Duty?”

Prospect: “Call of duty”

Salesperson: “Ok, so this computer requires a powerful graphic card.” (As a salesman you’re trying to understand the problem). Here’s the question: how much money do you have to purchase a laptop?

Prospect: I have 3 thousands dollars.

Salesperson: That’s interesting because the laptop you’re interested in is available for 4 thousand dollars. Do you think you can manage to roll up your budget to buy that laptop?

Prospect: You know what, if the laptop is worth it might be.

What I wanted to show you with this conversation is that as a salesperson you need to discover customer needs. After that you can establish if a customer and your company have a mutual fit, so you can say: “He has a need that I can meet.”

4. Do some research

When you decide that you and a prospect have a mutual fit, you can make more research about their company (if they’re not an individual buyer). You do that to get to know more about the prospect and see how you can better meet their needs. And sometimes offer them something before they know they want it.

Besides that, it’s always good to make a market research about your competition to find out what better can you offer.

You can ask the prospect: “Can you tell me what other laptops have you been looking for?” The customer might tell you “You know, company Y and Z.”

This way you can understand the prospect and you can try to give more value in terms of why are you better than the competitors.

For example, if you think this would be valuable, you can offer a backlit keyboard. It’s something that your competition doesn’t have. Here’s how this conversation can look like:

Salesperson: “Do you work a lot? I already know that you’re a gamer, so you probably come back from work and you play a lot on your bed maybe?”

Prospect: “Yeah, you’re right”

Salesperson: “That means you probably would be interested in the backlit keyboard. We have it. You don’t have to pay extra for it.”

So, you hit the prospect from different areas, trying to understand what they’re looking for.

The bottom line here is to connect all their information customers provide with your research and establish what’s in there for them. You can point out the additional benefits they will have using your product.

5. Presentation of your product

During the presentation of your product, it’s the easiest to get caught up in a monologue of all the great features your product provides. It’s really bad. Let me tell you why.

Not only customers usually don’t connect the features with the benefits but they probably don’t remember much from what you’ve told them. Recall the average attention span – it’s 7 seconds. That’s why you need to use the beneficial language when talking about your product. People will listen to you once you visualize their life becoming better and easier with your product.

Here’s how it can look like in case of the laptop sale:

Salesperson: “Ok, so this is the laptop. Would you like me to show you how Call of Duty runs on it? (you know that’s why the person wants to buy a laptop, so you’re presenting them how they will make use of it).

Prospect: “Yeah, that would be great.”

Salesperson: “Voila”

Prospect: “Wow, it’s amazing, phenomenal experience, graphics are great.”

Boom! I guess you got a sale.

It’s obviously a positive and short scenario, but you get the idea. When you have that human touch, address their needs, and show them the exact value that they’re looking for, they will buy from you. It’s all about making a decision.

6. Closing the deal

No matter how excited is a customer, almost always you have to ask the question to close the sale. There’s no magic technique to do it if you ask me. But obviously you can use some tricks.

You can hurry up sales and give a prospect a discount that can be used only the same day. You can sum up everything you said to help them visualize what they’ll get. You should always show empathy to their problem and solution to it.

I guess closing sentences like: “You like this model, you have use for it, it’s not too expensive... Will that be cash or charge?” is a little aggressive. But the truth is, sooner or later you will have to do something to close the deal.

As a salesperson you need to feel this moment. Sometimes you can be a little more aggressive, sometimes you should give the prospect some space to make a decision.

Apart from that, always make sure that all the customers’ questions have been answered. That’s how you increase their confidence. You can also add something that will make them feel more comfortable with the purchase: “I have full trust in my product, so I’m going to tell you that what you are experiencing now is just a minor insecurity. Even if something should happen, our service guarantee is liable for 2 to 3 years.”

7. Follow up

Besides educating prospects as much as you can during the sales process, it’s good to stay in touch with them after you close the deal. A good follow up will double your closing ratio.

Send newsletters, articles and updates about your product to your customers. Engage in the conversations on social media with them. Keep the relationships going. In the future, when they want to buy a laptop, let’s say for their daughter, they will come to you. That’s called retaining customers’ attention. It’s about keeping them interested.

Note: Follow up conversations are best handled by the salesperson who started the relationship. It’s good to keep all the notes about a customer and history of contact in one place.

The sales process steps

As you see, there’s no magic technique in sales. It’s all about asking questions, educating prospects and keeping on providing value. Besides, when you close a sale, that’s not the end. There are always more sales to be made.

Being able to keep relationships going and make new ones is your biggest asset. Keep that in mind and maybe you will earn like a wolf of Wall Street but keep the nice temper at the same time.

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