Let’s start with three simple questions: 1) Do you have a sales process? 2) Is it written down? 3) Have you made a change to it in the last 6-12 months?
If you answered no to any of these questions, definitely keep reading. Even if you answered yes to all three, I am confident you will learn something from this post that will improve upon your current sales process.
What is a Sales Process?
A sales process is the repeatable set of steps your sales team will take to move a prospect through various stages from initial contact to closing. While there isn’t one sales process that works for every business, there is a formula that everyone can follow.
Step 1: Know Your Lead Source
Do you feel like you have enough leads? Do you know where most of them come from? Do you know where the best come from? Many businesses are focusing on getting “more” leads, forgetting that quality leads will get them more business than quantity. Really evaluate these three questions above, write down your responses and determine how you should move forward.
For example, does your Facebook lead generation bring in 5-10 leads a day however your sales people are only closing 1 in 100 of those? Meanwhile, your LinkedIn leads generation is bringing 1-3 a day and your salespeople are closing 2-4 a month. I like the odds from the LinkedIn conversion rate a lot better.
Now, depending on your business and what you are selling, your convertible leads may be higher from Facebook, Instagram or your website than LinkedIn. The purpose of this example is not to sell you on LinkedIn lead generation, but rather to give you an example of how you should be evaluating conversion rates from your various lead sources.
If you cannot answer these lead source questions, put a process in place to track this information.
Step 2: Track Your Leads
Here’s where the heart of the Sales Process comes in. A good framework for a repeatable sales process involves Sales Stages. This helps you track clearly where your leads in their buying process which will help your salespeople to overcome objections more easily (more on this shortly).
Know that you know your various leads sources, you know how they are entering your process and you can decide what happens next. Depending on the lead source, the first action or two in your sales process may vary, but don’t worry, they’ll all sync back up again quickly. Once your lead comes in to you, add it to your tracking system. A customer relationship management (CRM) tool simplifies tracking leads through the sales process. Having your leads automatically input into your CRM not only streamlines the process and saves you time, but it also works to ensure that no leads are lost due to inefficiencies. Once in the CRM, you can easily drag and drop to move your prospects through each stage. An example of potential sales stages may look like this:
Prospecting → Contacted → Qualified → Educated → Visited → Quoted → Sold / Lost
While a linear sales process would certainly be ideal, that is not the reality of it. So instead, most sales processes look more like flow charts, with branches going on in various directions. Many of those branches are due to buyer objections that come up at various parts in the process. This is where you can start to see real value from a sales process, especially when working with a more junior salesperson.
Step 3: Find Leaks and Fix Them
Leaks in your Sales Process are the points where a lead drops off and either makes a firm decision not to buy or simply stops responding to your salesperson. Think about two or three of the most common objections that you receive. One objections that we hear in almost any business is around price. There are a lot of sales strategies to overcome pricing objections, but often it involves a bit of a dance between buyer and salesperson. Perhaps even ends in a salesperson over-promising what the operations side of the business can actually deliver upon.
Rather than having to respond to objections after they occur, what if you could head them off. If you know exactly where in your sales process common objections occur, then you can put a step into your sales process that heads off those objections before they even arise.
Step 4: Re-evaluate and refine your sales process as you go
A sales process is an ever changing thing. I’ve run into companies that say “we had a sales coach come in several years ago and put a great process into place for us.” First of all, Kudos for taking the steps to bring in an expert to help you with building your process, which can get a little complex. However, have there been any changes to your business? Has your marketing strategy changed in the last few years? (I hope so, given that there have been amazing advancements in digital marketing). Do you offer any new products or services? Even if neither of those have changed, your buyers and their communication preferences certainly have. Your should be regularly assessing your sales process. Perhaps a new objection came up that you haven’t heard before; write it down and how you overcame that objection, consider building that into your sales process at the educational stage, providing a new resource to your buyers to help them understand your offering better.
Step 5: Sales is not Marketing, Marketing is not Sales, but they do need to work together.
A solid sales process utilizes the marketing branch of the company. When a prospect stops responding to calls or emails, or when they tell us they aren’t interested, commonly the sales process ends right there. How many times do your sales people reach out to each prospect before stopping? 80% of sales people only contact a prospect 1-2 times, however it typically takes 8-12 touches to convert a prospect.
When you receive a no, add that person to your drip marketing campaign (make sure to give them an option to unsubscribe, but understand that often a “no” is just a “not right now.” If they’ve stopped responding to calls and emails, add them to a drip marketing campaign. Just because they don’t have time to answer your calls right now, doesn’t mean they won’t need/want what you are selling in the future. Did they buy from you? Add them to your marketing campaigns. Previous buyers make great repeat customers. They already know and love your products. If you rely solely on salespeople who are chasing the next new lead, your prior customers may go unattended. Leverage your marketing team here, and if you don’t have one, leverage your CRM which can make marketing to them easy.
Follow these 5 steps to build your proven and repeatable sales process. Make sure to include your sales team as they will have valuable insights to provide. If you need help with this, let us know, this is exactly what we do!
There are a lot of ways you can manage your leads. CRMs are the best and most effective way to do so. If you use them properly.
What is a CRM?
Simply put, a CRM – Customer Relationship Management – tool allows you to track and follow-up with your leads and customers in a more efficient way. Perhaps you are currently using a spreadsheet or pen and paper. Is your office wall covered in post-it notes with your most promising leads and priority tasks? Don’t get me wrong, I love post-its, my wall is covered in them, but these are my long-term goals, dream projects, etc. My priority items, are all digitally stored, so that I can get pings, dings, emails, alerts and whatever other automated reminders I need to keep me on task. This is the way I operate my daily activities AND my leads.
Why do I need one?
Maybe you just have a handful, so few that you remember every conversation in perfect detail. What happens when 10 become 20, or 200, or 2000? You need a system in place that works just as efficiently for a few leads as it does for thousands. Why? Because your business is going to grow. That’s what you want isn’t it? So be prepared for that growth.
What to do with your leads once you have them
Most people follow-up with a lead 1-2 times. Studies show that it takes between 5 and 12 contacts with a person before they buy from you. A CRM will help you make all those touch points in a variety of ways. 1) Notifying you, at intervals you set, based upon your sales process, when your next action is due. 2) Sending automated emails based upon where a prospect is in your sales process. 3) Providing date-based alerts – birthdays, anniversaries, expiration dates, service due, etc. Reminders and follow-up will become second nature. Let your CRM be your automated assistant.
Additionally, with a CRM you can segment out your leads based upon purchase history, interest type and virtually any other category you can come up with for your business. If you offer multiple products or business lines, this is a must when you are trying to effectively market to your audience.
What features should I look for/avoid?
When determining the best CRM for your business, you should consider factors such as, what features you need, how many leads do you have and how much does it cost. One of the key pieces necessary to understanding this, is know your sales process and finding a tool that aligns with that process. I included more tips on selecting the best CRM for your business in a previous post.
When is the right time to get a CRM?
Now! And yes, I can say it this assertively, NOW is the right time. If you are reading this post, or asking this question, then now is the right time for you to get a CRM. This doesn’t mean run right out and get the first one you find, however. Do your research and pick the right CRM.
Mark Hunter, author of High-Profit Prospecting and High-Profit Selling was quoted saying: “It’s not about having the right opportunities. It’s about handling the opportunities right.” You can purchase an incredible lead list, or spend a ton of money on marketing, but if you aren’t managing those leads daily through a CRM, you are wasting your time and money.
So, once you have the best CRM for your business, make sure you are fully utilizing it! Even the most expensive CRM does you no good if you don’t use it. Every. Single. Day.
I was recently walking along the Flat River in Greenville, Michigan and I saw this wonderful little gaggle of Canadian geese on the shore. Mamma and Pappa decided to take their little goslings across the river, presumably for a tasty treat. In the water they go. It was hysterical to watch them trying to arrange themselves in a row, with one parent in the lead, one in the rear, and the little guys lined up in between. The parents did a magnificent job. The inexperienced little goslings came very close, but never quite made that perfect row of geese you see in pictures.
What does “get your geese in a row” mean?
As I was clicking away with my camera, I realized I had a wonderful analogy for the many small business owners I work with who are trying to “get their geese in a row.” For geese, it’s just the way they swim…they are trying to line up in a row behind one of their parents!
For startups, it’s different. Cambridge dictionary defines getting your ducks (geese!) in a row as, “to be well prepared or well organized for something that is going to happen.”
For startups, it means planning.
If you have not launched yet, it means creating a business plan and a step-by-step Action Plan to start your business and land paying customers. It often means having a support system in place as you create and roll out your plans, a trusted resource where you can ask questions and get guidance. Many small business owners work with experienced small business coaches to help them get their geese in a row.
If you are a startup who has been in business less than three years and have under $100,000 in sales, it may still mean creating a business plan! It probably also includes creating a step-by-step Action Plan to land more paying customers. I work with many clients who “never quite got around to the business plan” and are overwhelmed with finding more clients while also managing their business. They need a plan. We are not talking about a 50-page, glossy-pie-chart type of plan. We are talking about a basic business plan that describes who you are, what you do, how you do it, and how you make (more) money at it. And the business plan means nothing without an Action Plan to execute it. You “get your geese in a row and keep them there” by creating and executing both plans.
Take the plunge.
Back to the geese trying to get in a row. When I saw them, they were on dry land. First, they had to take the plunge
into the river to reach their goal – their tasty treat on the other side.
As a small business owner, you need to take the plunge, too. If you are starting your business, you…must…actually…start…it to achieve your goals. You must get into the river! If you are growing, you also must also take the plunge and make time to work on your business, not just in it.
They were clumsy.
Okay, they were cute as heck, but those little goslings had trouble getting “in a row” so Mamma and Pappa could shepherd them across the river. I had my camera and clicked away as they were paddled through the strong current, ending up side-by-side, in a group, and just about any other configuration you can imagine as Mamma and Pappa guided them. The goslings were clumsy and inexperienced.
Most startup business owners are clumsy and inexperienced, too. It is to be expected (though most of my clients tell me it is uncomfortable as heck for them!). Yes, you may know your service or product down cold…but that is not the same thing as starting and managing your business and getting (more) clients.
They had support.
Mamma and Pappa were with the goslings for the entire trip across the river. Whether they were breaking the strong current for them, or communicating with honks and calls, they were supporting them the whole way.
Do small business owners need support, too? Of course they do! Whether you form your own support group or hire a qualified small business coach/consultant, you will “get to the other side of the river” faster and make a better landing if you get support.
They were persistent.
That little group of inexperienced goslings never quite made that perfect row of geese. However, they continued to practice and when they reached the other shore they were about 80% there! We know from observing nature and seeing pictures taken by others that with practice, experience and persistence, most gaggles do eventually “get their geese in a row.”
The same is true for small business owners. Maybe they are just starting out and need a bit of launch advice. Or they’ve launched and are unsure of how to grow their fledgling, gosling-type business. Or maybe they know what to do and want an accountability coach as they practice a new skill. Sometimes they just need a safe and confidential place to brainstorm new ideas with a non-judgmental person or group, so they can “talk it out” and find their solution. Or maybe they need a business plan.
For sustained success, startups must practice being a business owner and gain experience, enlisting support along the way. And they must be persistent as they work through their startup challenges to reach their goals. That “tasty treat” of success is achievable for both goslings and startup small business owners.
Schedule Your Free Consult With a Small Business Startup Coach.
If you would like to talk about “getting your geese in a row,” please set up a free consult. I would love to speak with you about starting or growing your business, and seeing how I can help.
Robin Suomi, MBA, is an experienced small business expert and founder of Startup to Growth, LLC. Working with clients remotely through video meeting platforms, she helps clients answer their technical business planning questions. She also encourages them to dig deeper, dream bigger, and works with them to create their Success Steps! Check out the website for ongoing How to Start a Business and Business Plan Boot Camp workshops and seminars, as well as 1-1 small business coaching and group coaching, including QuickStart Mastermind and Growth Mastermind groups.
Also check out Startup to Growth Video Library for additional small business training and professional development videos available to you online, anytime. A very affordable option.
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