There are typically seven steps in the sales process or sales cycle. There may be slight variances, but usually professional salespeople follow a method based on these seven steps. This process works for almost anything you have to sell, whether it is a service you provide or a product you sell. There are parts of this process involved in many ordinary interactions both inside and outside the business world, too.
Here are the basic steps of the sales cycle:
1—Prospecting or finding potential buyers. This is where many people waste the most time and make the most mistakes. Everyone thinks the entire world is their prospective customer base. This is almost never true. It is much easier to prospect for the right client if you have a marketing plan which defines your target markets. There are various ways to prospect or find potential buyers, including using the phone book, networking, buying leads lists, referrals, and so on.
2—Original Contact, which may be via phone, internet, direct mail, signage, direct contact (a sales call), referral, or other methods is the introduction stage. Setting up an appointment is something you would do in this step.
3—Qualification means determining if the contact has the need for your product or service and if they can afford your product or service. Sometimes you will find no need or no means (able to pay) or sometimes one or the other. Before you move to step 4, you need to make sure you are talking to someone who both needs and can afford what you are selling. This is another step where it is easy to waste precious time, and money, so take time on qualifying your prospects.
4—Presentation is step four and this is where you tell your prospect about your product or service. Entire books and even companies exist to help you with your presentation skills! Big companies spend a lot of money training their sales staff on presenting, and even the sole proprietor should educate herself and learn these skills. The better you know your product or service and the better you know your prospect, the better you will be at presenting, but learning and practicing specific presentation skills will be a big advantage to anyone.
5—Addressing Concerns or Objections is next. Sometimes included with step four, this means being able to find out what is preventing your prospect from buying and proposing solutions to those objections or concerns.
6—Closing the Sale, or the Moneymaker. This is when you get the contract signed or a handshake or start ringing up the order—whatever signifies a deal to you. If you can skip all of the above and go straight to closing, do so. ABC means Always Be Closing and it means that closing is the goal and the previous steps are just means to get you here. If you can close after step 2, close after step 2.
7—Getting Referrals. This is the “future” moneymaker. If you did your job right and your client is happy, they can refer you to others who will be great prospects. You can save time, money and effort in sales by having a good referral program.
Again, some sales cycles differ and the steps are called by many different names. But, if you think about dating or interviewing for a job in these steps you will see how they all relate to everyday life as well. Which is why some people say that everyone is a salesperson in one way or another!
One of my favorite sales authors is Jeffrey Gitomer. His book Little Red Book of Selling: 12.5 Principles of Sales Greatness is excellent.
Another sales great (guru to many) is Zig Ziglar. I recommend everyone in business read Zig Ziglar's Secrets of Closing the Sale