A sales process is defined as a series of repeatable steps that enhances the productivity of a sales force and greatly improves the chance of sales leads becoming a sales opportunities than a customer. Implementing a sales process is one of the first steps in optimizing your sales force and effectively growing your customer base.
The purpose of a sales process is to create repeatable and predictable outcomes from sales interactions, measurable results and uniformity in approach. Implimenting a sales process is a good first step, but to make it effective the sales team must approach each interaction with the process in mind. If a sales team is ignoring the process then there might as well be none at all.
Most sales processes involve these basic main steps: Prospecting, qualifying, proposal, closing and follow-up. Depending on the business, the sales process may vary, but many are a version of the one laid out above.
One of the most important aspects of any sales process is obtaining and identifying promising sales leads. This is as least as important as than closing; after all, there is no sale if there is no lead to work from.
Lead vs opportunity
It is important to understand the difference between leads and opportunities in the sales process.
A lead is a person at a business who is looking to purchase a service or product you offer. A lead is commonly referred to as an “unqualified” sales opportunity. Each business has different qualifications steps or stages which show how likely a person is to make a purchase, or how well of a fit your products/services match the customer’s needs.
An opportunity on the other side is a qualified sales lead. in other words, an opportunity represents a potential deal that has met certain criteria previously established to measure and quantify the sales process. The criteria vary a lot from business to business, but as an exemple identifying decision makers or gathering requirements can be considered as opportunities. See the chart below.
While online interaction is a popular and useful tool in acquiring sales leads, it is much more time consuming and ultimately less effective than talking to someone on the phone. Among other things, it is nearly impossible to judge a person’s genuine interest if you can’t hear them on the other end. If they are responding to an email or LinkedIn request, it could be because they have genuine interest or they could be placating the sales staff in order to be left alone.
Sales leads are important
For this reason, cold calling and other types of phone related sales tactics are still the most effective and useful tool in your arsenal. The phone is what ultimately turns a stranger into a lead.
It is a common mistake that many in the sales industry make, but researching is something that should be done before a call is made. Sales professionals usually do the research on the prospective company before they are ready to make a proposal. However, when trying to generate sales leads, a basic knowledge of the company at best won’t suffice.
With a little more time spent researching, phone conversations will feel less like cold-calling for both the perspective lead and the sales associate. A knowledgeable and detailed conversation will generate more effective leads and begin to develop a relationship before any proposal has been made.
Make an Appointment
One of the major hurdles to overcome while calling on sales leads is that you may be interrupting their day. It is impossible to know what is happening on the other end of the line, and your call may have been made at the worst possible time. If the lead is open to a conversation now, great! This will likely be the case in only a few circumstances, however.
Many other times, it is beneficial to set another time to call back and give you pitch. It is difficult to cram everything into a small window before the lead will become disinterested or need to step away. Setting aside 45 minutes for a conversation puts everyone on the same page.
For one, if you set an appointment then you are no longer bothering or interrupting the lead. You have established that they are available for a conversation, making them much more receptive of anything you are selling. Interrupting an important meeting and trying to give them all of the information before they hang up is difficult.
Setting an appointment for a future call gives you the proper amount of time to prepare and convey all of the important information without being rushed. If they are a local company, this approach presents an opportunity to meet face-to-face. Meeting in person is even better than talking over the phone.
Start on the Top
One mistake sales professionals tend to make is that they call minor manager with the hope that they will be transferred to a decision maker. This is generally not the best way to get your proposal in front of the right person.
If a manager goes to his boss and says there is a sales guy on the phone, they will most likely ignore the call or relay a uniform “no.” If you make a quick pitch to the person above or equal to the target, you are much more likely to see results from your calls. Getting the right eyes (or ears) on your proposal is one of the first steps in securing a lead, and this is the most effective way to go about it.
Timing is Everything
The time of day as well as the day itself matter greatly in terms of success rates with sales leads. Common sense dictates that calling at 5:00PM on Friday will yield no results; that’s a given. Statistics show that the best time to call a lead is early in the morning (8-9AM) and later in the afternoon (4-5PM). These are the most effective times of day, with late-morning also a popular time.
One of the worst times to make a call is right after lunch. Since lunch times vary, it is difficult to get someone on the phone. On top of that, everyone likes a bit of time to unwind before they get back to the grind after lunch.
The best day to call is on Thursday, as it falls in happy middle part of the week. The week is winding down, so managers will be more receptive, but the week isn’t completely over so the manager won’t have his mind on his golf trip. Wednesday is another good target for most of the same reasons.
Don’t ask Yes-or-No
Yes-or-no questions are valuable for getting a straight answer, but can be detrimental if you are trying to make a sale. A solid, “no” is often a stopper, and if a sales professional continues to press, the conversation may end without any valuable information being retained.
Ask “when” or “what” questions instead, such as, “When was the last time…” or “What was your last…” These will answer the same questions as yes-or-no questions, but also offer a way to get more information out of a lead. Not taking no for an answer is much easier when the word “no” or “not interested” are never uttered.
Read Between the Lines
With the above tip in mind, it is important to assess what the customer is looking for and what aspect is making them apprehensive. Most sales leads are not going to lay out their preferences and maximum price, so it will be up to the sales representative to figure these things out. A talented sales professional will be able to identify and alleviate the lead’s concerns before they are ever outright stated.
Sales process development
Sales leads are not that difficult to capture, all you have to do is be organised and consistent. Simply don’t give up. Call every day and add more prospects to your pipeline every single day. This will help you always have a good stock of leads to call.
In order to go more in depth in the sales process and make sure a good amount of sales leads will qualify here are simple hands-on steps. Don’t forget about them and everything should go smoothly.
Use Scripts to Assist
Scripted calls are generally disliked among sales staff, but they remain an effective tool. The point of a sales process is to develop a type of uniformity to calls and to make sure that all of the important points are being addressed.
Especially for new sales associates, an effective script will help bolster confidence and may lead to their first closed deal. A script can take the tactics of your best performer and implement them across the company. Here are some tips on developing an effective script.
Begin to Develop a Relationship
One of the best ways to make a sale is to develop a relationship outside of just selling. A cold call may not be the best time to have an in-depth discussion about politics, but find a generally enjoyed topic and throw it in to conversation. Whether it is the most recent football game or a reference to a widely known comedy, these references show shared interest and the ability to talk about something other than selling.
If you make a follow-up appointment, find out the interests of your lead and do a bit of research into them. If they are interested in expensive scotch, do a bit of Wiki research on the subject. These types of relationships transcend sales, and show the lead that you are in it for the long haul, not to make a short-term deal. Forging a bond with a lead is sometimes enough to turn an apprehensive ‘maybe’ into a closed deal.
Building a relationship with a potential client can be extremely valuable, but it is not always enough to close a sale. There may be other variables, such as price, that need a longer amount of time to iron out. Don’t forget about your leads, especially the ones with whom you have formed a relationship.
Call them up after a big football game to tease them about their overtime interception. Call them before a holiday weekend and find out their plans. Make sure you are on their mind as much as possible and eventually it will pay off. Too many sales professionals give up on promising leads after a few days, and sales are being missed because of this.
Don’t Forget Referrals
Referrals are one of the most important tools to any sales-based business. A referral is basically a customer pitching your business to a potential customer, or at least offering a concrete and steaming-hot lead. Remind customers that you’re always happy to handle any referrals a customer has for you.
It’s even sometimes appropriate and valuable to offer referral fees or rewards to certain customers. Even if a customer declines, offering a referral fee will make the customer genuinely think about anyone they know who may be interested.
Apart from closing the sale, identifying and connecting with leads are among the most important parts of any sales process. The best tool in your arsenal for this is still the phone, as it enables people to connect quickly and efficiently.
The internet is a fantastic tool, but it should be seen as supplemental to the use of phones. A relationship can be developed over the phone that can’t be shared over the internet. Keeping these tips in mind will help your sales staff improve the quality of leads and turn more leads into sales opportunities and ultimately customers.