One of the main reasons a lot of people enjoy working in sales is for the freedom that the profession allows. Being charismatic, passionate, and enthusiastic is a considerable part of the job description.
With that being said, working as a salesperson also involves technical skills, as well as understanding a handful of selling methods and techniques.
One of the most fundamental processes that every business person needs to follow, in order to see a consistent success rate in sales, is the sales process.
A sales process is the sequence of actions that helps salespeople find their customer base, make their product presentation, and ultimately, close deals.
This guide will introduce you to the seven stages of the sales process and how you can effectively put it to motion for your own business.
Read along, to learn:
- What Is the Sales Process?
- Why Is the Sales Process Important?
- The 7 Steps of the Sales Process
- How to Use a CRM for Sales Process Automation
What Is the Sales Process?
The sales process refers to the step-by-step, logical actions a salesperson takes, to eventually lead potential customers towards buying a product or service.
The sales process is generally made up of 7 steps.
At each of these steps, the salesperson tries to push leads and potential customers further down the sales funnel.
Some of the tools that salespeople use to convince potential customers to make a purchase are advertising, promotional offers, cold calling/emailing, content marketing, and more.
Now, it’s important to understand that what makes a sales process a process is documentation.
If your salespeople all have different ways of closing deals and nurturing leads, then it will be hard to document each employee’s knowledge. And once those employees leave the firm, their knowledge and expertise leaves with them.
Additionally, not having a documented sales process makes training new employees harder, and therefore scaling your sales efforts even harder.
Documenting your sales process isn’t hard. You can use three methods: pen & paper (the traditional way), flowcharts, or dedicated sales software (CRM).
Why Is the Sales Process Important?
Ability to Scale Sales
Businesses with a predefined sales process see 18% more revenue growth than those without one. That’s because, without a process in place, deals are simply marked as a win or loss, and there’s hardly any measurable data to show which specific actions are working or failing.
Whereas continuously keeping track of your sales on a customer management system (CRM), provides you with a lot of valuable insights, that can be analyzed to identify improvement possibilities.
For instance, you can easily understand at which point in time your deals are getting stuck or slipping away, just by looking at the data reports of your sales process.
These reports can then be further analyzed and reviewed, to identify the root problem, brainstorm solutions, and adjust the necessary improvements.
If you want more tips on how to increase your business’ sales, check out our full guide on small business sales.
Predict Future Sales
A repeatable sales process makes it simpler to predict your future results.
You can get insights on your average win rate, focus on prospects and leads proven to deliver more business, forecast how long each stage of the process will take, and overall go through the process faster and more efficiently.
Faster Employee Training
Having a standardized sales process makes the training of sales representatives a fast and simple process, as you can show them almost exactly what actions to take in various sales situations.
As a small business owner, this can take a lot of weight off your shoulders, and give you extra time to focus on other business operations.
The 7 Steps of the Sales Process
When talking about the sales process, keep in mind that there are countless variations of the process in terms of the number of steps and nomenclature of these steps.
The strategy behind it, however, remains the same, and businesses adapt to it according to their specific products and services.
In this guide, we will be breaking down the process into 7 steps, which include planning and preparing for a sales presentation, the presentation itself, closing the sale, and following up to ensure customer satisfaction.
1. Prospecting For Leads
Prospecting is the process of identifying potential customers and buyers. It’s the very first step in the sales process because, in order to market something, you must first have a fitting audience for it.
An important part of prospecting is creating an ideal customer profile (ICP) that you’ll be selling to. An ICP basically contains descriptive information about your target audience, such as their demographics, interests, behavioral traits, personal background, how you’ll reach out to them, and more.
Once you’ve got your ICP figured out, you can look for potential prospects and leads.
Now, it’s important to note the differences between a prospect and a lead, as the terms shouldn’t be confused.
Leads are the names and identities of the individuals, businesses, and other potential buyers who have expressed interest in one of your goods and services. This interest can be seen as them visiting your company website, subscribing to your blog, signing up for a free trial, commenting on social media, and so on.
Once a lead has been qualified and aligns with your target audience and buyer persona, they can then be considered a prospect. We will talk more about how this qualification is done as we go along, as it is a crucial part of the third step in the sales process.
2. Contacting Prospects
After you’ve found your group of leads, it’s time to make the first contact. The goal of this contact is to hopefully set up a more formal meeting, in the near future.
The communication channel you decide to contact them through depends largely on what stage of their buyer journey they’re in.
So, say for instance your lead is navigating through your website for help, and looking at the related FAQ section. At this point, your potential customer might not be looking to make a purchase just yet. That’s why in this scenario, it would be best for you to reach out to them via email, rather than trying to set up a face-to-face meeting.
But if your lead has submitted a query, or is requesting a product demonstration, that’s a clear indicator that it’s time to step it up and maybe give them a phone call.
After choosing a communication channel, pay close attention to the way you present yourself and the product in this interaction.
Tailor the key benefits of your good or service for each prospect, and try to express a sincere desire to solve their problem, and satisfy their needs. If you’re sending a message or email of any kind, use clear, descriptive language, proper punctuation, be concise, and end it with a friendly closing note.
3. Qualifying Leads
After you’ve had your handful of sales calls, and some of your leads are interested in learning more, it’s time to dig into research and decide which of these buyers qualify as prospects.
Now, there are multiple ways you can go about this, but as a start, try to focus your analysis around answering these three main questions:
- Does the prospect have enough money to buy?
- Does the prospect have the authority to buy?
- Does the prospect have the desire to buy?
A simple way to remember these qualifying questions is to think of the word MAD, which stands for Money, Authority, and Desire. So, when in doubt, remember to focus on people that are MAD.
Want to learn more about how to effectively qualify leads and easily sift through the unqualified ones? Then, head over to our guide on understanding the sales funnel.
Now, it’s finally time for your presentation, also known as your sales pitch. The presentation is a continuation of the initial contact, and its main goal is to provide the prospect with as much valuable information as possible and persuade them into buying.
Presentation approaches vary and are usually customized to the unique interests of each prospect.
With that being said, regardless of the method of presentation, it’s important you always touch upon the following topics:
- Your product. Fully discuss its features, advantages, and benefits.
- Your marketing plan. If you’re presenting for a wholesaler or retail company, suggest ways on how they can resell your product. For end consumers, talk about how they can use it.
- Your business proposition. This is the value of your product to its cost. Try thinking of the answer to the question “What’s in it for the customer?”
Another key part of the presentation you need to pay attention to is body language. Just as you’re studying your prospect for any buying signals, they are carefully watching your movements and mannerism and looking for sincerity. And yes, this applies to online presentations via Zoom or Hangouts too.
Smile, make eye contact, keep a confident posture, and try to radiate only green signals to show the customer that you’re prepared and that you care.
5. Address Objections
The road to success is always under construction. That’s why you shouldn’t be discouraged if your prospect has some resistance or objections regarding the product or the terms of your offer.
Here are some helpful tips you can use, to handle objections properly:
- Plan beforehand, by considering any reasons the prospect wouldn’t be interested or benefit from your product. Figure out ways to overcome these disadvantages, and structure your presentation in a way that minimizes the possibility of them arising in the conversation.
- Listen all the way through, and show sincere interest when they’re speaking. One big mistake salespeople make is leaping on an objection before the prospect even has the chance to finish their thought.
- Keep it friendly, and don’t take the objection to heart. Attempt to respond in a way that’s respectful to avoid appearing hostile.
- Be realistic. No product is without a fault or drawback. Acknowledge hopeless disadvantages when they’re brought up, and move forward with the conversation by putting the focus on the major benefits of your product.
6. Closing the Sale
A big part of closing a sale is knowing how to read buying signals.
A buying signal can be anything that hints prospects are being convinced to purchase your product. If they relax and become friendlier, ask questions about your return policies or payment terms, or pull out an order form, it may be time to move towards the close.
A second, really important part of the closing process is the closing technique you use to ask the buyer for the order.
One of the most effective closings is called the alternative-choice close. With this approach, you don’t give prospects the option of buying or not buying, but rather you just ask how many, or which item they would prefer. Take, for example, a salesperson who asks: “Which would you like - the red or the blue necktie to go with your suit?”.
Another closing technique is the assumptive close, which assumes the prospect will buy. It can be made with statements such as “I’ll have this shipped to you in a week”.
For more effective sales techniques that lead to a fast close, head over to our guide on sales strategies.
As a business owner, you work hours, days, weeks, and sometimes even months to convince prospects into becoming customers. To prevent the sales process from ending with just one sale, it’s important that you follow-up and make sure your customers are satisfied.
Here are some practical actions you can take that go a long way in maintaining great customer relationships:
- Keep your word. If, for example, during the closing process you promised to offer an early payment discount, make sure to include that discount when sending the invoice. Failing to do so can destroy the relationship in an instant.
- Respond to complaints. Nothing shows that you value customers like being responsive, and listening to their needs. If a customer is dissatisfied with your service for an honest reason, such as being delivered the wrong size, color, or quantity, always compensate them.
- Be appreciative. Send personalized holiday or special occasion cards, annual birthday emails, mail clippings that may interest them, so that they are aware of your appreciation.
How to Use a CRM for Sales Process Automation
A very big part of the sales process can be automated with the help of CRM (customer relationship management) software, like Deskera.
Deskera CRM equips your business with an intuitive platform that gives you full visibility across all stages of your sales process.
Through the Deals dashboard, you can split up your leads by status, and be aware of which stage any given prospect is, in real-time. You can also add notes, documents, and email conversations to these stages, and mark them as won or lost once the process is over.
The software then uses the data stored to automatically generate reports and provide you with valuable insights into how your sales process is going. View loss and won statistics, monitor your sales team’s progress, keep track of upcoming activities, and more, in one dashboard.
The best part?
Deskera CRM is integrated with both payroll and accounting software so that you can get a complete 3-in-1 enterprise tool, and take full control of your small business management, through one platform.
Take control of your workday, and start automating with Deskera, for just $149 a year.
Give the software a try right away, by signing up for our free trial. No credit card details necessary.
Understanding how the sales process works is one of the most important steps to becoming a successful business owner. Not only does the process help you generate more revenue and locate improvement possibilities, but it also paves the way for healthy, long-term relationships with customers.
Here are some of the key takeaways of our guide, you should always keep in mind when putting your business’ sales process into motion:
- The very first step of the sales process is prospecting, and it includes searching for potential leads to reach out to.
- The second step involves making the first contact with these leads, to hopefully set up a more formal meeting, in the near future.
- After some contact, you have to qualify leads into prospects by looking for customers that have MAD (money, authority, desire).
- Once you’ve qualified the right prospects, it’s time to make your sales pitch, where you describe your product, marketing plan, and business proposition. Some objections may arise during or at the end of the presentation, so remember to listen to these all the way through, and always respond respectfully.
- If everything else is done right, closing the sale comes naturally. Try to look for buying signals, and then, ask the buyer for their order.
- The sales process doesn’t end with the sale. You have to follow-up and make sure your customers are satisfied, so that the customers continue to purchase from your business.
- Almost every step of the sales process can be automated by using CRM software like Deskera.