A number of years ago, a colleague of mine asked me to document my sales process. I had no idea what he meant.
When I sat down and asked myself what steps I carried out in order to make a sale, I was able to determine exactly what I did that worked.
I was able to flesh out our very first formalized standard operating procedure for sales, which has helped me to transform the business I do and make me a more effective member of the team.
- Step 1: Prospecting. This is a little misleading, because it implies that I go out and hunt for customers. It’s usually the other way around — for whatever reason, be it through word-of-mouth, marketing, a trade show booth — someone has found out about us, and I need to learn what problem they want to solve.
- Step 2: Learning. For me to draw out from them what challenge they hope we can help them tackle, I ask them questions. I do this indirectly, so I can get an idea of who they are and how I can best serve them. Little details make a big difference, and the prospect realizes that I don’t view them as a source of revenue, but as a human being with needs to fulfill. At this stage in the process, I don’t rush to make a sale, even though it might be tempting.
- Step 3: Form a relationship. Once I know them and have an idea of what their challenges are, I am now able to tell them about the company, our relationships with vendors, and our product offerings. Many salespeople make the mistake of skipping Step 2 and going right to this one. Then they add insult to injury by moving too fast and offering to send a quote. You’re still not ready for that during this stage.
- Step 4: Now that the prospect trusts you and you know them better, and you have told them about your company and products, you can now discuss specifics and work to “seal the deal.” But you need to formalize this by booking a day and time to talk to them after you have sent a quote. Don’t leave this to chance, hoping to catch them on a day when they’re free and hoping they’ve had time to look at the quote. Get yourself onto their schedule, and them onto yours. This gives them something to look forward to.
We literally ring the bell in my office when we make a sale, but that’s when other work begins so we can fulfill our promises and provide the best service possible. See my next column for insights on that.