Process makes perfect. No matter what product or service you’re selling, your sales process usually follows the same basic steps. By focusing on each of your phases individually, you can ensure that your overall sales cycle becomes more predictable and delivers optimal outcomes.
What is a Sales Cycle?
The terms “sales cycle” and “sales process” are used interchangeably in the sales world, but there are subtle differences. A sales cycle includes all the steps or activities which occur when you’re selling your product or service. A sales process is a documented set of activity and criteria that determine where you are in the sales cycle, and how to progress to the next stage. It’s the structure within your sales cycle that ensures the fastest path to the close.
Before you can sell your product, you need someone to sell to. This is your prospecting stage – the period of time when you are researching potential customers. Prospecting is also known as lead generation, which can be done by sales representatives or lead generation platforms which will provide a list of prospects. Nailing the prospecting phase is a pivotal part of the process because you can’t get to the close without that all-important first meaningful conversation.
Now it’s time to reach out to your prospects. The most effective method is by combining cold calling, emailing, and social engagement. Remember that this stage isn’t devoted to making a pitch. Prospecting is about engaging with your prospect and securing an initial conversation to see if there is interest and alignment in your solutions.
Qualify Your Prospect
Wasting time on dead-end prospects will drastically prolong your sales process. While we never suggest discarding leads too quickly, it’s important to avoid burning unnecessary cycles with a prospect who simply isn’t a fit. Determine if your prospect is financially able to afford your product and if there is even a need for it. If not, don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole. Move on.
Share Your Solution
Perhaps the most crucial stage of your sales process and the portion which will take the most preparation is that first meaningful interaction. This is the phase you have the opportunity to learn more about the prospect and share how your solution can help them. Some of the marks of a solid call include a concise presentation (aim for 20 minutes), thorough research, being clear in your objective (which should be stated at the beginning of the conversation) and listening closely to what they are telling you. Asking open-ended questions is the key to understanding the true needs. Ask a couple questions, share some information, then turn the conversation back to them and ask another clarifying question to ensure they are engaged, and that you clearly understand their needs.
It’s common for prospects to have objections or questions during the sales cycle. This is your chance to practice your sales skills. Apply active listening and clear communication when discussing terms such as pricing, specific product features and length of service. Try to determine if they are providing objections or excuses — they are not the same thing!
Close the Deal
The end is near! It’s time to close your deal. At this point, you should have come to an agreement for your contract that both you and your prospect are happy with. However, disagreements can still arise. Just remember to listen to your customer’s concerns, maintain an attitude of flexibility and set deadlines to keep your cycle active and moving.
Ask for Referrals
Asking for referrals can greatly speed up your next sales cycle, yet it’s one of the most forgotten phases in a sales process. According to a study, over 90% of customers state they are willing to give referrals but only 11% of salespeople actually ask for referrals. After you’ve closed a deal, be sure to ask your customer for referrals who would also be interested in your product.
From prospecting to getting referrals, treat each portion of your sales cycle as an independent step to completing your process. Putting in the necessary effort for each of these stages will give you a stronger foundation and help you transition into the next phase of your cycle. View our web series for a more in-depth look at achieving a successful sales cycle.