The Meaning of a Sales Process
In your business, do you know what causes sales inquiries to come in? Is there a repeatable process to achieve this?
A sales process is a systematic approach involving a series of steps that enables a sales force to close more deals, increase margins and make more sales through referrals.
The ‘series of steps’ are customer-centric and help the sales force of a company to retain customers and increase sales volume as well as revenues. In sales, random acts can be used occasionally, but a systematic and well-defined best practices approach can ensure predictable results.
The men and women who make up the sales force are given clear instructions on what they have to do. If they carry out what they have been taught, they grow and so does the company. The systems are reliable. They have been developed and refined.
Each phase of the operation is defined and measured. Then daily / weekly / monthly, the numbers are examined and any anomalies are analysed.
This disciplined organisation contrasts strongly with the way many small businessmen handle the sales part of the job. Here, the usual method of task prioritisation might be described as reactive or urgent, sometimes called firefighting. In this model, there is little structure, sales are not predictable, the volume of orders varies for no obvious reason.
The main parts of a structured sales process:
First there is the stage which brings the companies’ products to the attention of its market. A sales-led business knows exactly what it has to do to generate inquiries and then turn them into orders.
Typically in the sort of company I was referring to above, the company spends little of its own money on this. Instead it shows the sales people how they can generate prospects and customers themselves.
Since the company is saving on lead generation and marketing costs, it is in a position to pay large commissions. This has a powerful effect, because it induces very high motivation in many of the sales people which is a main reason why such companies achieve strong sales results.
The methods used to generate prospects are, cold calling, leaflet dropping, direct mail, small ads in newspapers and referrals, from existing customers. These methods are effective and cost little or nothing.
Another important part of the sales process is the presentation. This is taught by an experienced manager and practiced by the salespeople until they perform it with skill. So is the pitch, the words, which are used in the presentation. They are carefully learned along with closing techniques and ways to deal with any objections the customer has.
Strong sales management also plays a role. Usually the people in this position have a very strong sales record and a no-nonsense attitude. They are under a lot of pressure to maintain high sales figures, because their pay is structured with big incentives for good performance and penalties if the numbers drop.
Overall what you can say about using a sales process is that it is a professional, almost industrialised, way of making money. Many of the vagaries of business have been eliminated by using a systematic approach. With a clearly identified sales process you have more control. The measurements of sales activity quickly show which cause leads to what effect and you can intervene to make appropriate adjustments. It is far more likely to work than the boss simply urging the sales staff to ‘Try harder’ in an unstructured sales situation.
The characteristics of sales-led businesses:
Their highest priority is obtaining orders.
They have a clear idea of who their customers are.
They know what their customers’ reasons are for buying from them.
They operate a sales process.
Stages of the Sales Process
Selecting the target market
Identifying a pool of prospects
Communicating a sales message to those people
Setting up meetings with good leads
Progressing these to completed sales
Maintaining contact with customers to be certain of customer satisfaction
Obtaining additional business and referrals from these customers
Feeding back information to their own companies to make improvements possible
Measuring sales activity so that problems can be identified and corrected early.
Effective Sales Process
Any ordinary sales process may produce the desired results in normal times. But an effective sales process has elasticity to accommodate extra ordinary situations.
Is your company prepared to meet a sudden spike in demand for your products or services?
Does your sales process have the elasticity to deal with fluctuations in customer buying trends?
Is your customer database current and up-to-date?
Does your sales process take in to account the change in buyer tastes and preferences?
Effective sales processes stand the rigors of changing times and market conditions and produce the best possible results in most circumstances. An effective sales process produces sales results with unerring precision as a manufacturing unit produces finished products. An effective sales process manufactures customer. It’s a ‘customer manufacturing system’.
Just as a manufacturing unit uses raw materials, strategy, technology, and manpower to produce finished goods, a sales process can be viewed as an integrated method where manpower refers to the sales force, the product or service is the raw material, strategy refers to sales plans and methods, and technology refers to the latest communication and sales technologies.
Building relationship with your clients
Having a good relationship with your clients is critical if you want to have a successful business. It all begins with laying a strong foundation. You’ll need to have best practices firmly in place so that when a new client says “Yes I want to work with you” you’ll have everything in place that you need to get off to a great start.
Taking time to establish the groundwork will give you a strong foundation, which will help your business stand out. Not only will a new client continue to use your services, they will refer others to you as well. The following tips will help you to develop a strong relationship with your clients right from day one:
- Put everything in writing. It’s important to have a written contract. That way you both are in agreement about the details of the partnership. Be sure to provide your client with a copy of your policies and procedures, detailing how you operate your business. This should include your hours of operation, fee structure, billing schedule and other policies.
- You’ll want to summarise the items you and your new client have discussed and include this summary along with the contract you send the client to sign. This will let your new client know that you have a good understanding of what the expectations are including deadlines and any special or specific tasks the project involves. It will help things to run smoothly from the beginning and avoid problems down the road.
- Having this information at your fingertips will allow you to serve your clients better and more efficiently. Do not start working on any projects until you have a signed agreement and payment in hand. Doing so will show your new client that you really value his or her business and are ready to start working.
- From the very beginning, it’s important to establish good communication with your clients. Tell them up front what your communication plan is. Be clear about your accessibility, how often the two of you will talk, your turnaround time for responding to emails and how each of you prefers to communicate. Strong communication is the backbone of any successful relationship, so you’ll want to be proactive about staying in regular communication with your clients. This also includes taking meticulous notes during your conversations with the client. Pay attention to what’s being said (and what’s not said) and ask the necessary questions to get clarification. You’ll want to have all of the necessary details in your notes so that you can refer to them once you start the requested task or project.
- Further to this, make sure you understand exactly when work is to be completed. One thing you ALWAYS want to do is to meet deadlines and avoid excuses. Although unexpected delays will come up, make it a good practice to meet all deadlines. Meeting deadlines and excellent client service is critical in building a good relationship with your new client. If you find yourself in a situation where you see that you aren’t going to meet a deadline, advise your client of this right away. Be honest about the situation and present solutions that will solve the problem. DON’T wait until the deadline has passed and then tell the client you weren’t able to complete the job. Being forthright about the matter will increase the trust and respect your client has for you.
- Give your clients more than they ask for by having a policy of under promising and over delivering. If they need something by a certain date and time always try to get the task completed before that time. If you can take some extra time to make certain a presentation is even better than they asked for or expected that’s even better. Do not over promise by setting unrealistic deadlines for yourself.
- Make it a point to back up your work on a consistent basis. Your clients are depending on you to protect their work so make certain that it is protected. Back up to an outside source as well as to an external hard drive in your office. In addition, have the habit of proofreading all of your work and then reproofing it by reading it at a later time to avoid mistakes. You want to deliver high quality services at all time.