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.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a sales manager about apologies. Quite often, sales people start a call with “sorry” and then do exactly what they just apologized for. Rather than offering up apologies that carry little weight, try relating to them. Let me elaborate…
Have you every started a sales call with “I’m sorry to interrupt” or “I’m sorry we keep calling you” followed quickly by your sales pitch?
Now, think about the last time this happened to you as the consumer? Has someone every offered up an apology that you could tell they didn’t really mean? It reminds me the kind of apology a 5 year old blurts out when they got caught doing something they weren’t supposed to, but they don’t really feel bad about it.
Even if you do feel bad about it, you clearly don’t feel bad enough to change what you are doing (because you are still “calling,” “interrupting,” etc.). So instead of offering up a meaningless apology, try actually listening and relating to the person on the other end.
The Feel, Felt, Found Strategy
More than anything, people want to be heard, and understood. Simply listening to a customer’s complaints is not enough. They don’t just need a sounding board; customers need confirmation that what they just said was received.
Start with Feel
Acknowledge that you heard their concern. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to make this strategy effective. You can do this by simply repeating back what they said and include the word feel. Let’s see how this would play out with a very common concern expressed by customers in most any industry…
A customer tells you, “Your prices are too high.” A common response to this very common complaint is to go right into an explanation about the value that they are getting for the cost. The problem is that the customer is not connecting cost and value in the same way you are. Chances are pretty good you won’t make the sale with this approach because you are arguing two different points.
Instead, start by saying “I understand that you feel the prices are too high.”
Right now, you have let the customer know that you heard their objection clearly and you are ready to work with them on it.
Progress to Felt
So now that the customer feels heard, they need to feel connected. If you are struggling to relate to their objection personally, consider the other times you received that same objection (don’t worry, if you are new and it’s the first time you are hearing it, you can make it up a little, I’m sure it won’t be the last). Also try to think about a similar situation you have had personally as a consumer.
You could follow up with “Others felt the same way you do.” This makes the customer feel connected to other customers who have been in their situation.
Now, let’s say for the case of this example that the customer is a small business owner. If you really want to connect to them, try saying “Other business owners have felt the same way you do.” This lets them know that not only has this objection occurred before and is therefore resolvable, but also that it was felt by others who are in their same situation (e.g., business owner).
Found for the Win
The last part of this strategy is to help the customer understand what actions others in their situation have taken and what the result was. The found phrase typically has two components; the first is what you want them to do (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.). The second part is the positive impact that this action had on those customers, or how you resolved the concern previously.
Here’s how that would look: “They found that after purchasing our service, their expenses went down.”
.Now, let’s look back on what we’ve covered here. If you responded to “Your prices are too high” with “Our service will decrease your other expenses,” you are stating a fact, but not one that you customer can relate to or trust.
If you want your customers to know, like and trust you, they need to be heard and understood. Employing this strategy, we can respond to “Your prices are too high” with “I understand that you feel our prices our too high. Other business owners have felt the same way you do. They found that after purchasing our service, their expenses went down.”
A strategy for all
This strategy works for many situations, whether it’s an initial cold call, or a long time customer. Whether you are responding to an objection, or simply feel an apology may be in order. Consider the cold call complaint at the start of this post. You are aware that a prospect has already received numerous calls from other companies selling the same product you are (or perhaps even calls from other reps within your company). Instead of saying “I’m sorry” in response to “My phone has been ringing all day with people trying to sell me ‘X’,” use feel, felt, found like this.
“Thank you for letting me know how you feel about the numerous calls you have received today, I felt the same way when I filled out an online information request for ‘Y’ and what I found was [enter your microscript or resolution here]”. You have now related to them personally, they understand that you get where they are coming from and they are much more open to listening to what you have to say.