My five step sales process is a simple how to of sales that will help you get started if you are a beginner and get back to the basics if you are a pro (it should go without saying that it is always a good idea to revisit the fundamentals from time to time!). This article should be studied with my related articles about cold calling and the sales process in general. While the basics of sales and marketing are relatively simple and straightforward, there is no end to the amount of theory and different models that you can put into practise in order to create an approach that works for you.
Let's say that you have a product or service and the necessary organization in order to begin selling - what next? The five step sales process starts with a strategic outlook and then gets you to focus in on the specific tactics that will produce sales. All in all you will be looking at the following points: i) Your Customer, ii) Your Message, iii) Your Offer, iv) Objections and v) Your Close. The following sections talk about each of these aspects in greater details in order to give you everything you need to create a sales plan from scratch or polish up on your pitch and process if you need to tweak things for better results. Good selling!
You may think to yourself, “I have a product so let's start selling!” Unfortunately, the days are gone when having a good product or service was enough to guarantee your success. People will no longer beat a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap. Today it is the other way around and everything begins and ends with your customer. If possible, you should design your product with the customer in mind as opposed to create a “great” product and then look for buyers. If nothing else, ask yourself how much you really know your customer. Do you have a picture of your ideal customer and their likes, dislikes, personality and lifestyle? The five step sales process starts with knowing your customer like you know your best friend.
There are many reasons you should know your customer intimately, least of which is that it will help you increase your sales! The truth is that looking at it from just a business perspective is not the right way of going about it. Rather, if you are passionate about your product or service then how can you not be passionate about it's users? When you create this passion it will come across in everything you do and say and create a magic that no amount of sales and marketing technique can duplicate. At the core of this magic is your intimate relationship with your customer. At the risk of sounding corny, if you love and serve them they will love you back, increase your business through word-of-mouth and remain loyal to you.
The second part of my five step sales process is what you are actually going to say - communicate! - to your customer. This is often seen as the starting point of sales and marketing but like I have pointed out above, your customer comes first and therefore your message can only be created once you really know your customer. It stands to reason if you think about it: how can you know what to say if you do not know who you are going to be saying it to first? It stands to follow as well that the more you know your customer the better you can tailor your message specifically for them and therefore the better it will be received.
Make your message “you”-centric and do not just talk about how great your product or service is! Remember that your product or service is only valuable to the extent that it solves problems for your customer, answers to their needs and enhances their life. This is why you should not talk about features or benefits during the five step sales process without first connecting them with customer needs. Sales and Marketing for “You” is about using the word “you” in your message because “you” is your customer. Think about them and talk to them just like you would to a good friend in real life. As well, do not deliver your message like a script but rather have a conversation with your customer.
Your conversation during the five step sales process should follow a format I call ”ask / tell / ask” which means that you first ask your customer what is important to them and what they are looking for. Only then do you tell them how your product or service matches what they are looking for. Then, ask them if they agree and understand so that you can move onto the next step with them. Remember that unless your customer is engaged and agrees with what you are saying your sales pitch is of absolutely no value and will run like a background advertisement in their mind. Therefore, make sure that your message is delivered through a dialogue and not as a monologue mixing the right amount of personality and professionalism.
While your generic message will always be about solving customer problems, fulfilling their needs and making their life better you should also have a specific offer that you use in 1 on 1 sales conversations with each specific customer. Ideally, as part of my five step sales process you want to create an offer that a customer sees as a compelling reason to buy from you as opposed to a competitor over and above your built in product, service and business differentiators. Your offer will be specific to your business, personalized for your customer and should be irresistible for anyone who fits the characteristics of your ideal customer so much so that if someone does not express an interest after meeting these criteria and understanding your message it should surprise you!
A perfect offer is also one that makes your customer feel special such as, “I have a few left over from another box that I can give you at a great price!” Of course, it is hard to duplicate this effect for each and every customer because by definition a “special” offer should be just that and not something you offer to everyone. That being said, there is no harm in having a standard offer for all customers that creates urgency because it is for a limited time. You have no doubt seen plenty of this kind of advertising and the reason it abounds is because it works. The same techniques that work in TV and magazine ads and in store windows work in a sales setting as well. Try it yourself by telling your customers that you have a special offer this today or this week or this month and see what happens.
Objections are a part of most sales and that is why I include this section in my five step sales process. Once you have gotten to know your customer and have delivered your message as well as proposed your offer, it is likely that your customer will present you with one or more objections. The first thing to keep in mind is that this is human nature and to be expected. Believe it or not, they have done a study where they handed out free money on the street and people were still sceptical and backed away or otherwise hesitated instead of just grabbing it! A second thing to keep in mind is that a customer may subconsciously testing you with an objection to see how you will handle it and if you will overcome it and "persuade" them to buy.
The best way to overcome objections is to know them beforehand so that you are not surprised when they come up. Just as every product, service and business has a specific sales process that can be followed scientifically to produce results, so you will find that objections repeat themselves and that you should quickly become familiar with the majority of them which will be the most common. Don't act surprised or alarmed and keep your cool. You might smile or chuckle as if at the customers' naivety but keep this cardinal rule in mind: do not argue with them! Rather, learn to agree and empathize with what they are saying and then gently guide them to overcome the objection through questioning and reasoning and simply stating that their concern will not be a problem. Use the L.A.M.A. technique to overcome objections!
There is a lot more than can be said about overcoming objections and I plan to write more on this subject at a future date. For now, I want to wrap up my five step sales process by talking about another crucial aspect of sales which is closing. The importance of closing to sales is just like ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky's famous saying, “if you don't shoot, you can't score” (I think it was him who said that in any case!). There are two key points to keep in mind about closing: firstly, it does not just apply to asking for a sales but at every step of your sales process; secondly, as a result, you should follow the sales mantra of “always be closing” (ABC) from the beginning to the end of your conversation with a customer.
Remember that a close is most always a question but it does not have to be something vague like, “how does that sound?” Rather, you should simply ask the customer if they want to proceed to the next step in your sales process: “Do you want to see a product demo now?” “Shall we set the appointment for next week?” “Do you want to pay by cash or credit card?” The beauty of ABC is that your close becomes part of the process and part of the conversation and not a death-defying act of courage followed by a momentous silence! You should assume the close based on the fact that if the customer is in agreement with everything you have been saying so far then they will also agree with the next logical step in your sales process, whatever that is. A close might be implied by questions like “What is your phone number?” to fill out an order form.
Do you have insights, strategies or a story about sales and marketing to share with other readers? Perhaps you have implemented a new strategy that is working really well or have insights into how the Internet is changing the sales and marketing landscape! Send in your thoughts in as much detail as you like to create a page in this section.