Sales Process Management

Sales Process Management is crucial to succeeding in business. After all, if you cannot make a sales and create customers, you cannot stay in business. Sales is often reduced to a "Five Step Sales Process" but in fact there are three perspectives on steps in the Sales Process within sales and marketing, The Buyer's Journey, The Seller's Journey and The Marketer's Journey.

This section covers each of these aspects of Sales Process Management and provides guidance on manging the overall process for successful selling. Whether or not you memorize and internalize the textbook theory behind Sales Process Management, you will find that even a general understanding of the concepts that follow invaluable in helping you lead customers down the path to sales.

sales process management

As you read about The Buyer's Journey, The Seller's Journey and The Marketer's Journey, think of them as parallel perspectives of Sales Process Management. The end result of each is the same: a sale. What differs is approaching the steps in the Sales Process from the point of view of the customer, the seller and, finally, the marketer. General advice on guiding the overall process follows at the end of the section.

Get help with Sales Process Management for your business or share your expertise and experiences!

The Five Step Sales Process
Selling Techniques: Opening
Selling Techniques: Qualifying
Selling Techniques: Presenting
Selling Techniques: Overcoming Objections
Sales and Marketing for “You”
Cold Calling
Sales Process Management Consultant

Sales Process Management: General Guidance

Understanding the steps in the sales process from the Customer, Seller and Marketer's perspective as outlined below will be invaluable in helping you execute successful sales and marketing programs. Bear in mind, however, that Sales Processes vary just like individual sales vary. Your products, services and customers will define your optimal Sales Process.

The following points apply to Sales Process Management as a whole and help cultivate the correct mindset for guiding customers throughout the process and achieving sales. The basic premise of sales and marketing is simple: create value and then create customers. Once you have established that your solution can, in fact, help a customer immeasurably then the rest of the Sales Process is largely removing obstacles.

(1) Use Common Sense

Don't get bogged down in theory when interacting with customers to make sales. The name of the game is to uncover problems, address issues and keep moving. Don't lose the "human touch" and definitely do not ignore the customer's requests for clarification or the need to get "off course" once in a while. Milestones in the Sales Process are for guidance and not to impose a forced formality on the proceeds. Remember, it is the customer's discussion.

(2) Keep It Simple

Sales can get incredibly complex, especially with large transactions. As such, a cardinal rule is to Keep It Simple and focus on clarity. Make sure the customer is happy at every step of the way and has fully absorbed the discussion to date. A big part of your role in completing the steps in the Sales Process is providing clarification as you gently educate the customer on your solution and pave the way for next steps.

(3) Stay Focused On Value

Throughout the steps in the Sales Process you should continue to revisit the question: Why should this customer buy from me? Key benefits and value statements as well as continued clarification on how your solution is unique in the market place is necessary to keep the momentum going. Paint the "big picture" of how the customer is going to benefit from your solution and continue to come back to that until it is accomplished.

(4) Keep Moving Foward

While you will often be forced to go off on a tangent or delay next steps in the Sales Process, remember to keep the process moving forward. Your agenda is solving the customer's problem and throughout the process you should clarify expectations and touch on next steps. An ideal sale consists of a series of definable steps and whether you are looking at the steps in the Sales Process from the Buyer, Seller or Marketer's point of view you should endeavor to progress the discussion with each meeting.

The Buyer's Journey: The First Five Step Sales Process

Like everything else in sales and marketing, Sales Process Management begins with the customer. The Buyer's Journey is used to describe stages of the process that customers go through in making a purchase. The steps in The Buyer's Journey may seem like common sense but studying them will nevertheless help you guide your customers down the path to successful sales while overcoming obstacles in the sales process.

(1) Identify Need: When does a customer makes a decision to buy? The answer is that customer's decide to buy after identifying a need that your solution can meet. In the business world a customer need is usually a pain such as high costs and inefficiencies that your solution can help the with. On the other hand, much of consumer purchasing is motivated by desire which may or may not be based on a specific pain. Part of your job in sales and marketing may be making a customer aware of a latent need.

(2) Determine Requirements: The next step in the Buyer's Journey within Sales Process Management is defining the actual solution to the customer's need. Depending on the magnitude of the customer problem, determining requirements can be as simple as an intuition on the customer's part. On the other hand, it will often be your job to help the customer analyze needs and draw up requirements based on your knowledge and experience. Helping customers in this way builds trust and solidifies your role as an expert.

(3) Evaluation: Once a list of requirements is complete, customers will proceed to the next logical step in the process which is evaluating solutions. Once again, this step will vary in complexity based on the size of the problem (and eventual sale). Sales Process Management encompasses two kinds of evaluation at this point, (i) evaluation amongst competing solutions and (ii) evaluation your solution against specific requirements.

(4) Negotiation: For most buyers, purchasing means bargaining. Customers intuitively tend to "put up their guard" when discussing price and will appreciate a frank and honest approach. In general, always discuss price in terms of value but more importantly, treat customers as you would like to be treated yourself.

If your prices are fixed, so be it. If, on the other hand you have some flexibility in pricing and enjoy the bargaining process then some give-and-take is up to you. Are there non-monetary incentives you can offer for a purchase? Sometimes a customer only needs a gentle nudge and to feel validate. There is no right or wrong in negotiating other than be yourself and be fair.

(5) Purchase There is a truism in sales and marketing that, "no one likes to be sold to, but everyone likes to buy". Once customers have decided to purchase, they are your friend and on your side. Their reservations have been put aside and they have decided to give you any benefit of the doubt along with their money. Congratulate them and make them feel good about overcoming their natural reluctance to buy.

Purchasing may be a process in and of itself with larger transactions but nevertheless at this stage within Sales Process Management you can almost do no wrong. Make the most of the purchasing stage to solidify your relationship, continue to serve and lay a strong foundation for future business. The Purchasing stage is discussed further within the Marketer's Journey below.

The Seller's Journey: The Second Five Step Sales Process

The Seller's Journey withing Sales Process Management is simply redefining the steps in the Sales Process from the Seller's perspective. As your work to guide your customers through the Buyer's Journey, your internal Sales Operations will be geared around completing your own Seller's Journey. The cardinal rule in sales and marketing is to keep the process moving forward. As such, you should continue to ask customers about their process while continuing to set expectations around fulfilling yours.

(1) Prospecting: The first step in the Sales Process is finding potential customers. The first three steps of the Seller's Journey - Prospecting, Building Rapport and Presenting - are covered in detail in the Qualified Sales Lead and related sections on Cold Calling in The Sales Lead Center. Suffice it to say that your long term business success depends on an ongoing program of finding and nurturing sales prospects. Prospecting for new customers is something every successful salesperson devotes time to regularly.

(2) Building Rapport: Central to Sales Process Management is establishing trust and building an ongoing relationship with customers. Once your customer has established a need for your solution and you have provided a valuable buying proposition then how much they like and respect you may become the deciding factor in whether or not you succeed in making a sale.

You will not "click" with every single customer and you do not have to be best friends with customers in order to do business. You also do not have to become super-charismatic or "turn on the charm" to sell. What is most important is taking every opportunity to serve them with integrity and passion and earning their professional respect throughout the sales process.

(3) Qualifying: Just as with Building Rapport, you must continue to gathering information about customer needs and requirements throughout the Sales Process in order to succeed. Initial qualification serves to "bridge the gap" for both the customer and yourself by determining that your solution can indeed potentially solve a problem of theirs or provide an invaluable benefit.

Both the customer and yourself will have various criteria such as cost and technical considerations by which to judge the feasibility of a partnership. Once you are both engaged in the Sales Process, ongoing qualification serves to keep the project on track with regards to changing scope, new concerns and issues that will invariably arise.

(4) Presenting: The "meat and bones" of Sales Process Management according to most people are the final two stages of the Seller's Journey. Selling is typically seen as "making a pitch" and "closing the deal" and even salespeople are sometimes too eager to "cut to the chase" and dedicate most of their time and focus on these two steps of the overall Sales Process. Bear in mind, however, that Presenting and Closing are easy and only possible if set in place by Prospecting, Building Rapport and Qualifying.

By the time in the Sales Process that you are delivering a Sales Presentation you should already have established a relationship with a qualified customer who has the Vision, Budget, Authority, Need and Timeframe to make a purchase. All you need to do now is execute with excellence and follow through to close the deal. See the See the Sales Presentation section for more guidance on Presenting.

(5) Closing: Many books have been writing about "magic secret techniques" to win deals and closing is often seen as a powerful trait that salespeople must have in order to succeed. Newcomers to sales and marketing are often in awe of sales "closers" who are seen to be embodiments of matchless psychology and stupefying charm. Unfortunately, none of this is true.

Closing is not a separate technique, simply part of the process you have already set in place. The key to closing is to close without closing just like you should sell without selling. Remember that no one likes to be sold to and that if you make "closing" an event, the customer will naturally put up resistance.

Closing is simply that point at which you have already agreed to a sale by answering all of the customers needs, concerns and objections and soliciting their approval throughout the Sales Process. Closing is simply the outcome of the following question you use throughout Sales Process Management in working with the customer: "If I do such and such, will you agree to such and such?"

An example of Closing within Sales Process Management is: "If we can demonstrate your overhead will decrease by 15-25%, will you be prepared to move ahead?" Then, do what you say and proceed on the assumption that the customer will do the same. There is no fancy waving of the wand to get a sale simply because Closing is simply following up on what you have already discussed.

The Marketer's Journey: The Third Five Step Sales Process

The Marketer's Journey ties The Buyer's Journey and The Seller's Journey together within Sales Process Management. The key from the Marketer's perspective is to understand the buyer's stage and communicate accordingly. As such the stages within the Marketer's Journey are stages in the customer's thought process but from the Marketer's perspective.

The most important outcome of analyzing the various stages of the Marketer's Journey is being able to respond to whatever step in the Sales Process the customer is at with appropriate information and messaging. The result is having key messages that are incorporated into sales collateral and pitches starting with uninformed customers right up to the point where they are ready to buy.

(1) Unaware: This segment of people represents the world at large and specifically that slice of the population that comprise your target audience. How do you reach out to the Unaware buyer? The answer is with a personalized message that directly addresses their needs.

Sales and marketing efforts at the Unaware stage are more general and high level so as to reach the widest group. Beware of information overload by saying too much. Pique the customer's curiosity and provide information and answers accordingly as they become more engaged in the Sales Process.

(2) Aware: Most potential customers do not know your exist and so getting them to that point is the first milestone in Sales Process Management. In your interactions with prospects, the Qualification process will divide them into two camps, those who are ready to engage in the Sales Process and those who are not.

Each of the VBANT criteria within the qualification process may be a reason that the customer is not a good fit, at least now now. Whatever the case, your sales and marketing efforts at this point are drilling down into greater detail with regards to your solution's benefits and ideal customer scenarios where customers learn about what kinds of specific problems you can solve for them.

(3) Interested: One of the first things that comes to a customer's mind once they are engaged in the Sales Process is price. The focus within Sales Process Management should always be on value, not price and specifically quantifying value through ROI Analysis, Business Cases and the like. If a customer asks about Price, this is an indicated of interest and should be expanded into a discussion around value which you can quantify and then demonstrate.

At the Interested stage in the discussion, provide customers facts and figures that will lead them further down the path to a sale. If they are interested in lowering costs, show them by how much. If they want to increase operational output, calculate that for them based on their current environment. Whatever benefit you provide or problem you are solving, quantify for the Interested customer exactly how and why purchasing your solution makes business sense and meets their needs.

(4) Evaluating: You've made the case and so the next customer question to tackle within Sales Process Management is, "prove it". This is where you provide evidence through case studies, documented successes, reference calls, industry analyst reports and the like. The Interested and Evaluating phase may overlap just like any other adjacent steps in the Sales Process. In any case, your task here is to simply build on the groundwork you have already laid.

The ideal sales cycle consists of a series of known, demonstrable steps that you lead a customer down with their tacit permission at every stage. Just like in the discussion on Closing, the process follows a logical discussion through to it's very end. "If our presentation looks good, we'll talk about ROI numbers..." "If the ROI numbers look good, we'll set up a call with other customers..." "Once that is done, we'll help you build a Business Case document for your management..." and so on.

(5) Purchase: The transaction may be a process in and of itself with large purchasing often involving a host of personnel and resources at both ends such as the Purchasing Department and Legal Department. That being said, the Purchasing stage is where you should focus on accomplishing two important objectives: (a) put in place everything the customer needs to succeed with the solution and lay the foundation for ongoing business.

In the first instance make sure the customer has whatever supporting documentation and resources they need in order to implement the solution. Put them in touch with whoever they need to by way of Customer Support, User Groups and so on to ensure that there is a warm hand-off. You may have to play a role in providing ongoing service and support and that is okay as long as the customer is on the road to becoming self-sufficient with the solution.

In the meantime, are there future related transactions such as service calls or upgrades the customer should be aware of? Are there any customer offers they are eligible for that they may be interested in? Purchasing your solution is the customer's commitment to a partnership with you and as such keeping them informed of relevant developments is not only good business but good service.

Get help with Sales Process Management for your business or share your expertise and experiences!

The Five Step Sales Process
Selling Techniques: Opening
Selling Techniques: Qualifying
Selling Techniques: Presenting
Selling Techniques: Overcoming Objections
Sales and Marketing for “You”
Cold Calling
Sales Process Management Consultant

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Sales Process Management x 3 
I like how you talk about 3 kinds of sales process management and not just one or two. Most articles on this topic discuss things from either a sales or …

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Hello Toronto uncle, I've been thinking for the past few days about sales and thought to reach out to you for your expertise. Here's my dilemma: …

Re: emotion & sales dilemma Not rated yet
Hi Irene, What it boils down to is the following simple formula: 1) Ask 2) Tell 3) Ask What you are trying to do is find out what your customer's …

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Hello Toronto uncle, I've been thinking for the past few days about sales and thought to reach out to you for your expertise. Here's my dilemma: …

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