The Sales Cycle – Part 4

The Seven Steps

Following is a short discussion of what each step and a sampling of questions and answers for each.

Step 1 (identify, contact and engage prospect)

The most important step in the sales cycle is the personal contact between you and the customer as this is where you build trust and establish common ground.

This step most commonly fails by thinking you have contacted the customer or client simply by sending them a letter, calling them on the phone, shaking their hand as a greeting or any other of the usual social business openings.

The step will not succeed when you only know who they are and what they do. Until they are aware who you are and what you do, and have expressed at least some interest or curiosity, you have not contracted them.

Just because you’re in a hurry to get to step 2, doesn’t mean that they are.  Spend as much time as necessary on step 1, to ensure they are fully contacted as an individual person and not just a job title. Job titles don’t buy things, people do.

Question: How do you know when you have contacted the prospect, and you are now safe in moving to the next step?

Answer: There will come a point when they become interested in or curious about you what you are offering. At this point, the door will is open to asking more pointed questions about discovering their purposes, their problems and their hot buttons.

Until this state has been comfortably achieved, don’t bother moving on to the other steps, as you’ll be wasting time for both of you.

Step 2 (Discover common ground, client purposes and/or problems and qualify)

People are ordinarily open to talking about their goals and what they want to achieve or accomplish. It could be a purely business purpose, like to gain a bigger share of the market, or a personal ones, which are as varied as there are people. Whatever it is, get them talking about it and they’ll be interested. I guarantee you.

Question: What if a customer is unwilling to talk about personal issues such as purposes?

Answer: If someone is resistive to inquiries about their purposes, they have not made it through #1, the contact step no matter what you say or think.

Stop working on step #2 immediately as anything you do without first completing step #1 will severely worsen your chances to getting through to the close. It is even possible that you might possess personal characteristics that they can’t relate to, thus creating some irresolvable tension.

In this case, you’ll never fully complete step #1. You should excuse yourself with some credible reason and tag with another salesman or woman to have them take over in your stead.

Only when you (or another sales rep) have established common ground and gotten to the real “cold-sweat” issues that are bugging the prospect are you safe in moving forward.

Step 3 (Presentation of your product or service)

This step is where the rubber meets the road; it is the moment of truth that will show how well you’ve done the previous steps.

Question: What is the best way to begin the presentation?

Answer: Tell a story. It puts everyone at easy and gives him or her something to relate to.

Once you formally start your demonstration or presentation, if you find that the audience is less receptive than you expected, commonly you’ve skipped a step, no matter what they’ve tell you or there is something you don’t understand.

In either case, it traces back to being incomplete on step 1 or step 2; either you haven’t really contacted the person or you haven’t discovered their true purposes. Go back, summarize and clarify the agreed upon purposes of the presentation and move forward.

It could be that there is another more important purpose that they haven’t yet revealed or something that just came up. Or perhaps they’ve got a solution or think that nothing can help anyway so your presentation is a waste of their time: if so, these fall into the “qualified prospect” category. Find out and handle accordingly.

Question: What can go wrong with the presentation?

Answer: The easy answer is that anything that can go wrong, can and likely will go wrong.

This can many forms, such as: arriving too late, lack of preparation, mechanical difficulties or failures with computers, microphones, or videos; the location is too noisy, too big or too small, temperature is uncomfortable, attendees are unfamiliar with your company, interruptions, language translation problems, unexpected changes in agenda, mixing messages during the meeting, or the decision maker (s) didn’t show up (this is the most important).

Any or all of these can happen and where planning, preparation, foresight, practice, and the resourcefulness to adjust and adapt are vital for any hope of success.

Question: What if they try to jump in and just want to know the price before the presentation is over?

Answer: Almost always, they’re looking for a reason not to move forward. They are just avoiding the pain of facing their problems and looking for an easy way out by saying it’s too expensive. But clarify the comment and gently move them back to your presentation.

Whatever it is, find out, don’t ignore and just try to push through.

Do not just continue and go through the motions, or you’ll be doing both you and the potential customer a huge disservice by wasting their time and lowering your morale.

Step 4 (Handle objections – strengthen understanding)

Unless you’re getting objections of some kind, you’ll never close the deal.

Why? Because most objections are buying signals.

The prospect that never objects either has no imagination or you’re talking over their head or their pay grade or they are not the decision maker. In any case, you’re wasting your time and theirs.

The only exceptions are with is a point of sale product that is bought on impulse; and this only happens when another salesperson has successfully completed all the prior steps before you came on the scene.

No objections or questions mean they didn’t make it completely through step 3.

Invite objections because without them, you’ll never find out what remains to be handled before you get to the closing step.

Question: What if they seem to agree with everything but don’t move forward?

Answer: Beware the customer who accepts everything you say and agrees with everything you’re presenting with no objections.

They either are not the final decision maker or they don’t have enough understanding to evaluate what you’re talking about. You’ll need to go back in the sales cycle as far as the contact or qualification step and come forward again.

Handling objections takes a little practice but is not all that difficult. You just listen to what they are telling you and don’t shrink away from it. This is not a rote script; just let them know you see how they feel.

Let them know you are familiar with what they’re saying and that others have expressed similar views and even you have felt the same way at times.

But, that you have found in dealing with lots of clients that when they are truly serious about achieving their purposes, they have always been able to find a way to get it.

No resistance, no objections, no questions, means you didn’t really contact the individual.

The objection will always occur, now or later.

It’s always better to handle it now instead of going on hoping that the other shoe will never fall. I always does, and often at some very inopportune moments. Believe me on this point.

Step 5 (Summarize benefits and reinforce purposes).

Make a summary of the points that have been agreed upon as benefits. Underscore how these would accomplish what they have said they want.

Question: What if they start coming up with reasons not to close the deal at this point?

Answer: If they start saying is too expensive, they want to wait, or think it over, need to confer with another person, usually, it’s because they are just afraid of making a mistake. Everyone likes to buy; nobody likes to be sold. They’re afraid of being taken advantage of, or what their friends would say and more.

They need understanding and reassurance. Let them know you know how they feel; others have felt the same way, but when they looked at the details, they found that the deal satisfied all the things they wanted. Remain interested and keep their focus on what they wanted to achieve. Show how what you’re offering can help them get it.

By this point, they should be aware how your product/service would provide a personal benefit or you have not made it through step 4.

No amount of convincing or fast-talking will do the trick. Just bite the bullet and go back, find out what you missed and correct it. Doing so will make step 5 possible, even easy. Otherwise you’re fighting a losing battle and you’ll tend to resort to forcing the sale.

As all of the steps overlap and interrelate with each other to some degree. Your familiarity and understanding of each step will allow you to adjust to the customer as necessary.

Step 6 (close the sale)

 Sales closing is not something you have to sweat at too hard. Just show them how you’re going to help them have what they want. The harder you work at it, the more resistance you’ll run into.

Nearly all problems with the close can be traced to this one fact: Problems at the close means you skipped an earlier step in the sales cycle.
Question: When do you use trial-closing methods?

Answer: I find trial-closing methods to be of limited value. Why? The reason is simple. When they have made it through step #5, they will be anxious to close the deal and they will give you signals to indicate this.

 The sales close is as easy as rain when it’s done right and when the previous five steps have been done to the proper end result. It’s just like taking the final step on a stairway.

That last one is no harder than any of the ones before it, you just take them one at a time, recognize when you have fully completed each step and go on to the next one and it just flows like melted butter.

 Now, just get on the bike and ride the “sales cycle” and it will all fall into place. Review the steps and practice. Soon, you’ll be cruising along like a veteran.

Step 7 (Handle the paperwork)

 Once you have completed the sales close, there is one other step you must be prepared for. This is handling the paperwork, signing the contract, authorizing the agreement, and so on.

This element must be natural and stress-free; just one more step to move through. The more attention you put on this step, the more opportunities you create for the deal to fall though.

Just tell them to sign here and then collect the money. If you’ve done your work on the other steps up to this point, you’ll have nothing to worry about.

Now, just get on the bike and ride the “sales cycle” and it will all fall into place. Review the steps and practice.

Soon, you’ll be cruising along like a veteran.

daniel w. jacobs
© 2002-2020, all rights reserved


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