Simply put, a sales process defines the steps in a sale that are proven to work so that this success can be consistently replicated. Think steps in a pipeline or a yes/no flowchart. Some might also include cadence as a part of this process which will, among other areas, define the frequency of selling steps. For example, how many calls should you make to this one prospect and on what schedule?
In simple terms, 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.
Speaking of referrals, we all love them but, how many of us are really adept at securing them? There is a process to accomplish this just as there is one to generate more sales from existing accounts.
My sales process used to look something like this …
- Find – We made cold calls, searched for warm calls, prayed for referrals and introductions, and monitored trigger events that might indicate an opportunity.
- Meet – Discuss customer needs, always in person, in order to determine if we have a potential match and, therefore, a basis for doing business.
- Qualify – Do they have the money, the authority, and a recognized need or issue that they wish to resolve? Are they the M.A.N.? Some refer to this as BANT which is an acronym for Budget, Authority, Need and Timing Regardless. without these, you got bupkis.
- Present the solution – It’s show time! Be careful to tailor your presentation to identified needs and to those needs only. Use your eyes and ears to gauge customer reaction. Hint … the bird is the universal sign of rejection.
- Propose and Close – Having achieved customer agreement that your proposed solution meets both their needs and their budget, it’s ink time.
- Sold! – Now your work really starts!
- Follow-up – Beware of buyer remorse. Reinforce their decision to place their trust in you and prove that they made a wise decision in doing so by ensuring that all goes smoothly. This is where referrals and repeat business are born.
Make it social!
Now let’s look at this socially. Note that the social sales process includes many steps that are found in the traditional model because … your goal should always be to augment traditional selling activities with social selling strategies and tactics.
- Define – Understand and document what your best prospect looks like. This is often referred to as a Target Buyer or Customer Persona. This includes customer demographics as well as buying behaviors.
- Target and Identify – Now that you know what your prospect looks like, deploy social tools and search on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter … wherever your clients are found. Your first step is to identify suspects.
- Engage – Warm ‘em up with progressive and personalized social taps and touches. For example: a Twitter mention, followed by a private Twitter direct message, and culminating with a personalized LinkedIn connection request. This is the beginning of relationship-building and no one wants to be seen as being a “Jimmy”. Everybody knows Jimmy the Salesperson. “Hi! My name is Jimmy! What you got to gimme?”
- Research – It is important to identify any commonalities that might prove to be useful and particularly for building rapport. Any and all of their social profiles will quickly provide you with many of these clues. You will also have an opportunity to discover people who may be a part of the decision making team. Say “hello” to your new best friend … LinkedIn search.
- Qualify – Proper research is a pre-qualification step. Your goal is to increase your understanding of your prospect, their company, and of their needs. Once you have identified a potential prospect, you must qualify them. This goes back to the traditional principles of M.A.N..
- Prepare – Assuming that you have accomplished the preceding steps correctly, you should be able to properly prepare for your presentation. Now, a lot of seasoned salespeople have a tendency to wing it since we have been doing this so long that … it’s second nature. It’s also stupid. There is no worse feeling in the world than to look back at a lost sale and say “If only I had …”
- Present – Social selling provides so many new opportunities to present and many of these are based on today’s enhanced technologies. This is particularly true when you are dealing with out of the area prospects. You no longer have to fly to a meeting or count on the USPS. Skype, sales enablement, and presentation tools … the new world of selling is digital.
- Close – I have always believed that the close is the natural culmination to the sale. This is only true providing that you have done everything else that leads up to that point correctly. If you have not, the loss of the sale will likely be the culmination to this opportunity. Assuming that you have earned the right to ask for their business, ask for it!
- Perform – While your ability to communicate effectively is critical in all stages of the sales process, it may be even more important after the initial sale has been made. Price is soon forgotten once the check has been cut. What happens immediately after that, and years down the road, will be permanently ingrained into their memories. Don’t let those be scars.
- Nurture and Expand– Thus begins the after-the-sale process and it includes ensuring long-term customer satisfaction. This is where you will earn future business as well as referrals.
Your goal now should be to create more touch points within, and outside of, the organization and reinforce those that you already have. You are leveraging a job well done. Not only will this lead to additional and new opportunities, you will also be protecting yourself from unexpected changes such as shifts in personnel and/or responsibilities.
Now, your steps might look entirely differently. That’s o.k.. This is your sales process and not mine. All I care about is that you start thinking about it. Talk to your team and define the steps that everyone will agree is the process that yields the optimum results.
A properly defined social sales process has another stunning benefit in that it serves as a blueprint for proven success for your new hires. It will allow them to hit the ground running, in the right direction, and producing at a much higher level than those … without a clearly defined sales process. Beats throwing them to the wolves with a product catalog neatly tucked away under their sweaty little arms.