I’ve been leading sales organisations for the whole of my career and even though all organisations are different in their needs and approaches, there are some best practices that it is advisable to adhere to. I’ll set these out in this article.
Now more than ever, businesses need to maintain a healthy and profitable pipeline and to convert opportunities quickly and effectively - this is beneficial to both sides of a transaction.
These are what I’ve learned from my 30-year sales career and the steps I deliver in training sessions.
Step 1 - Value-Proposition
This is literally what you do and whom you do it for - i.e. how you make money. Your sales “messages” are also in here.
Value-Proposition is vital. There’s no point in spending any marketing budget on ads/lead generation etc until you’ve got your Value-Proposition bang on. Who exactly is your key/core customer?
A question you might ask - do my customers understand what my sales message is?
Step 2 - Go to Market Strategy
This is literally how are you going to take your products and services to market; directly to end-user customers, indirectly via distribution/agents or as a white label provider. Or will you partner with other elements of your business ecosystem or value-chain?
Question: Do all the touchpoints of your business - social media, website, conference presence etc - demonstrate consistent brand values and messages? Could you be confusing your customers?
Step 3 - Lead Generation
The #1 complaint that salespeople will make is that there aren’t enough leads to go around (have you seen Glengarry Glen Ross… the "good" leads?). So, it’s vital that you generate the right kind of leads for your sales team. Remember that a lead, if unqualified, is simply an opportunity to waste lots of your time for little or no return. Therefore, generating the right kind of leads is vital and can only be done when your value-proposition is crystal clear. What is the most productive source of high-quality leads for your business?
Step 4 - Solution or Deal Qualification
As its name suggests, this phase suggests you’re talking to a potential customer about an opportunity and you need to "qualify" exactly what the customer wants to buy and whether that’s something that your company is capable of delivering or wants to sell that prospect. Remember that a “no” here is much more productive than a "no" further along the sales process. If there’s one thing worse than no business, it’s bad business (where might you have heard that before?)
Also remember, a ‘no’ in this case could also mean that the customer does not have the right information yet.
Step 5 - Pursuit Strategy
Many people will not have heard of this activity before. Usually reserved for large or "strategic" (not necessarily large) deals, a pursuit strategy means that you agree that in order to sell your product or service to a particular organisation, you are going to have to talk to a number of different people. You may also have to deliver different sales messages to those people and at different times too, depending on the business needs or job functions of those people.
All this means that when the customer is ready to make a buying decision, you will have spoken to all the right people about the right things at the right time to secure the right decision for your company – i.e. you'll win that piece of business.
Step 6 – Negotiate
The customer agrees that yours is the product or service they want to buy and all you need to do now is to draw up the contracts right?
If only it was that simple; companies these days need to maximise their budgets and they will almost certainly want to negotiate and you will need significant skills to successfully manage this process and secure acceptable terms.
Step 7 - Close That Deal!
So you’ve negotiated terms and now all you need to do is get the order or sign contracts. Sometimes closing the deal is simply a natural conclusion to a productive conversation or sales campaign. But not always. Sometimes, you will need to compel the customer to sign or commit to purchasing from you and some of that will depend on how your company accepts business (e.g email, purchase order or a negotiated contract).
In this phase, you may also have to step back in to negotiate, agree to the new terms (timescales, quantities, margins, payment terms etc) before going back to close so be aware!
Step 8 - Maximise
You’ll have noticed that closing the sale is not the last step of the sales process and this may sound counterintuitive.
For me and the clients that I work with, closing the sale is the start of a new and exciting process which is building a real, mutually productive working relationship with your new client. This means making sure your client is delighted with the product or service that you’ve delivered and that they will:
I call these clients your sales champions, their value is well beyond simply the financial value of the original sale and you should always guard these relationships jealously.
So those are the steps, intuitive to many of you but I think valuable to have a refresher. I’ve seen too many deals falter due to sales teams trying to take short-cuts or jump-to-the-end type approaches. Be respectful and ensure that your deal benefits both parties by following this best practice – the results will pay dividends.