This article will help you to learn about the even most essential steps involved in selling process.
The actual selling process starts with prospecting and qualifying. However before this step, there is something called pre-sale preparation which identifies prospects and makes sales presentations where sales people attempt at convincing customers that a specific product can satisfy their needs.
There are many sales people who believe in following this step after the prospecting process which has to be done in a planned and scientific manner. Actually the pre-sale preparation phase is a phase of selling process-where sales people are found to prepare themselves with adequate knowledge about the products they are supposed to sell.
They are supposed to be aware of the competition and the category and profile of customers they are supposed to target. It is this phase that helps sales people present a credible picture of the product to the customer.
It is generally observed that sales people who are well prepared and have understood the complexity of the product and consumer buying behavior do have stronger communication ability than those who do not possess adequate understanding on the above.
Customers as such are low on knowledge quotient about a particular product and it is supposed that sales people with knowledge about products, technology and markets will be enabling the customer to make an informed choice. To a large extent, customers depend upon sales people for product related information.
When sales people fail to provide relevant information, it gives an opportunity to sales people of competitors to cash in on the opportunity. Talking about sales people’s knowledge base, there are three areas on which sales people should have adequate knowledge and those areas are product, company and competitor.
In the context of product knowledge, history of the company, finances, size of the company and policies and procedures of the company are some of the information that sales people of a company should possess.
In the context of product, the features, benefits, styles, origin and price of the products should be well understood by sales people. In competitor’s context, it is the industry structure, market share, market behavior that sales people should be aware of.
7 Steps of the Selling Process Starts from Here
Selling Process Step # 1. Prospecting and Qualifying:
The process of prospecting is very crucial in selling any kind of products as this involves the process of identifying potential buyers who have the need for products offered by the company and have the ability to pay for the product. So in other words, it will involve all those people who have the willingness and purchasing ability to buy a product.
Proper follow up is often required in the prospecting stage so as to convert many suspects into prospects. There is another terminology that needs to be understood over here and that is the concept of lead customers. It refers to all those who have a desire and need to purchase the product but no adequate purchasing power as such.
A sales person should have good analyzing ability to screen customers in the context of their buying power, financial transaction capacity, volume of transaction etc. So in other words, prospecting refers to the process of collecting customer data and checking lead parameters to make them qualify as prospects. Gives a clear understanding of a successful prospecting exercise.
Prospecting involves taking customers up the decision making ladder from being just aware of a product to being interested in them and then evaluating the alternatives before making a final purchase. Qualified prospects are those who have the need for a product and have the ability to buy them but then they need more persuasion and conviction regarding a product meeting their requirements.
Effective prospecting allows sales people differentiate between prospects and suspects among the lead prospects so that he can actually channelize his energy and efforts well to meet his sales goals. The process of prospecting involves a series of steps that first and foremost has to do with sales people scouting for people with unmet needs or semi-fulfilled needs.
It also needs to be understood over here that prospecting process is an unending process since existing customers may have a change in their product preferences or may change their needs.
Sources of prospects can be satisfied customers who are willing to give references, websites, trade journals, newspapers etc. Sales people need to identify and define prospects; identify the attributes and features of prospects and then qualify or differentiate the prospects from the suspects.
The process of prospecting thus includes three major steps viz. identifying and defining prospects, searching for sources of potential accounts and qualifying the prospects from the suspects. The need indicators among the potential customers are normally demographic and psychographic in nature and the ability to pay indicators include factors like profession, age and sources of income.
By way of an effective prospecting process, sales people build their sales strategy and methods to handle customer objections and satisfy their needs. There are various methods of prospecting viz. cold canvassing, direct mail, prospect pool, centre of influence, non-competing sales force, trade shows, telemarketing and networking.
In case of cold canvassing, sales people go from door to door in a specified area for identifying prospects. This method involves face to face interviews with people. Over here, it should be noted that often cold call results in an appointment on a later date. Cold calling or canvassing is a time consuming process no doubt as because a sales person has to spend lot of time in qualifying customers.
Sales people should be selective in making cold calls and should make proper estimation of an area where high number of prospects can be found. Cold calling is not effective in all cases. It is however quite useful for consumer products and services.
Prospect pool refers to the group of names obtained from various sources like telephone directory, mailing lists etc. Generally, it is observed that prospect pool is created from four major sources viz. leads, referrals, orphans and customers. Leads refer to all those people and organizations about whom sales people know nothing about.
Referrals refer to people or organizations about whom sales people know very little about. Orphans are customers whose sales people have left the company and customers are the most important prospects for future sales.
Direct mail is a method of prospecting where prospects are mailed a business letter inviting them to reply in case they are interested in a certain product. The response rate is generally low in this case and it covers only interested potential customers.
Suitable follow up procedure often raises the conversion rate in case of direct mail prospecting method:
1. Center of Influence:
This refers to all those people who are in a certain position of responsibility, have a significant personality and have accomplished many things in life. Center of influence can be found in social, business, religious and political spheres.
Such people are found in trade associations, seminars etc. It is because of this reason that often we find film and sport celebrities being used as endorsers for various brands. The principle of power lead has been found to work really well in several cases.
2. Non-Competing Sales Force:
It is often observed that salespeople of non-competing products are an effective source of getting prospects as because they have the information about new business openings, names of authorities who can make decisions etc.
Non- competing sales professionals are often found to strike agreements to exchange information. It is due to this reason that those who are into insurance selling get their database from people who into the MLM businesses with brands like Avon, Amway etc.
3. Trade Shows:
There are companies that use trade shows and demos at exhibitions and various other public gatherings to undertake an exercise for collecting prospect data. Such shows are often visited by large number of people who register for the shows and often there are many interested people who turn up at the shows.
There are various ways by which telemarketing can generate prospects. In case of inbound telemarketing, prospects are found to call the company and in case of outbound telemarketing, the representatives of the company call customers.
Processing of order happens in bound telemarketing. Including toll free number is another aspect of telemarketing by which companies are found to motivate customers to respond to mass media campaigns.
Selling Process Step # 2. Pre-Approach:
This stage of the selling process deals with development of sales strategy by sellers which happens by collection of customer data and combining those with product attributes to satisfy both organizational and customer needs. One needs to identify various sets of personality characteristics to be found in customers at this stage in order to approach customers with the right kind of mindset.
A pre-approach selling strategy for each potential customer requires proper understanding of the characteristics of the customer along with his/her needs. Identification of the general needs of customers then matching product benefits with those needs is what strategy development is all about. The perceived needs of the customer can be influenced by the rate of adoption of the customer and the stage of the product life cycle.
Sales people need to draw a checklist of information they are required to have during the pre-approach stage:
1. Size of the business
2. Product lines of the business entity and the markets they serve
3. Identifying the responsible executives of a company
4. Buying routines and procedures followed by client organizations
5. Identifying the competing businesses in a particular product category
6. Identifying the sources from where customers are buying presently
7. Identifying the possible levels of volume
8. Identifying the prospects of developing future sales from the client
The selling plans of a company helps in building sales strategy as it explains the call norms and objectives and the differential advantages being offered by a product to customers. The selling plans have also been found to explain the seasonality of a business.
There are certain basic ways of identifying the personal needs of potential clients and that is the seller needs to think the way the buyer thinks. This approach actually helps in translating product attributes to suitable consumer benefits. Selling strategy also involves the development of call objectives.
These objectives actually explain the actions that sales people want the prospect to take. It is the call objectives that decide whether there will be a sales call in the first meeting itself or whether that meeting will lead to an appointment for a later date. Thus pre-sales planning involve determining call objectives, developing customer profile, determining customer benefits and determining the sales presentation.
Selling Process Step # 3. Approach:
After a prospect is identified and the selling strategy is developed, sales people are actually found to contact the clients and make efforts in influence them to take suitable buying decisions. It is in this step that sales people make efforts to get the customer’s attention and generates interest in the sales person for the sales presentation to be made.
Appointments for the purpose can take place over phone, through email or through personal visit. Often sellers are found to approach buyers without any prior appointment and such calls are called cold calls, the purpose of which is to undertake a brief understanding of the customer and meet him later with proper tools for presentation.
It is especially felt that sales people need to impress customers with their body language and dress during cold calls. There are various ways of approaching the customers viz. stimulus-response approach, need satisfaction approach and problem-situation approach. Proper stimulus is offered to clients to elicit needful response from the buyer’s end in the stimulus response approach.
In need satisfaction approach, needs of clients to be correctly understood and proper selling mechanism to be implemented to satisfy the needs. In the problem-situation approach, sellers are found to offer solutions to a problem situation being faced by the customer.
Other approaches like benefit approach, referral approach and introductory approach are also to be observed. In the approach stage, customers are to be probed suitably by sellers and this probing happens at many points during the selling process. Probing helps customers to learn additional insights regarding customer demands and benefit requirements.
Probing also has to do with careful listening to the answers of customers. Sellers need to listen to customers properly in order to gauge what and what not they want to buy. Sales people should abstain from committing certain blatant errors during the approach stage.
Some of them have been mentioned below:
1. Not paying heed to the importance of first impression
2. Forgetting the objective of getting an order
3. Selling the image of the company and not actually the products offered by the company
4. Unresponsive to the needs and objections of clients
5. Confusing customers with technical jargons
6. Relying on product literature for product knowledge totally
7. Talking more than listening
8. Failing to ask for order
Selling Process Step # 4. Presentation and Demonstration:
After the salesperson approaches a customer and is able to strike an initial rapport with the customer, it is time to make a suitable presentation of the product through which customers get to know about the product in a better way. There is need for two-way communication between the seller and the buyer during any sales presentation.
A seller needs to present his products before the prospects in such a way so that the buyer gets interested in the product on offer. During the presentation stage, it is the responsibility of the seller to link the features and aspects of the product with the benefits that can be derived from the product.
The presentation should be made keeping in mind the level of customer interest, nature of product and the time available for the presentation. The salesperson presents the product in response to which the customer accepts, objects and often demands certain logical explanations from the seller.
Often when customers feel initially interested in the product they look for more information to be offered by the seller and hence put across a number of queries to the seller.
There are certain products that require detailed demonstration to be made. Take the case of Eureka Forbes. Often the products of the company require detailed demonstration so that prospects can have a better understanding of the product in action.
There are various approaches to sales presentations viz. attracting attention, creating interest and arousing desire and conviction building. In the context of attracting customer attention, it is to be understood that it involves proper understanding and assessment of the buyer’s mind and presenting product information as per the thought process of the prospect.
There are a range of factors that influence the level of attention like the mechanical factors, the interest factors that are found to create a positive impression in the minds of the prospects.
The approach of creating interest involves sellers creating interest in a particular product category. This approach is classified as benefit approach, factual approach, complement approach, premium approach, service approach and problem solving approach. As the names suggest, the benefit approach has to do with presenting the benefits of using a particular product while the factual approach presents certain facts regarding the product.
There are certain products that can be used as complement to the main product and those can be highlighted and sold in conjunction with the main product on offer. The problem solving approach requires the seller to play the role of a solutions provider.
The approach of arousing desire and building conviction mentions that sales people need to take customers to the next level of the decision making process. It is often necessary to convert the interests of the consumers into desire and build conviction in the minds of the customers.
Sellers are found to generate conviction only when they are able to build confidence in the minds of prospects regarding themselves, their products and the company they are representing. Prompt and correct answer to queries raised by prospects often is a good way to generate conviction.
While discussing the types of presentations, it needs to be noted that there are broadly two types of presentations viz. oral presentations and written proposals. Written proposals are often used for selling high valued industrial products and while selling government agencies.
B2B products which are less expensive often involves only oral communication. Sales presentations can either be canned presentations, organized presentations and tailored presentations. The canned presentations are prepared by the selling organization and over here the seller as such has next to no scope of modification while making the presentation.
There is a fixed content that gets displayed across customer segments. Companies are often found to prepare both printed and audio visual materials as far as canned presentations are concerned. However in case of organized presentations, sellers have ample scope to word the presentations but then that has to happen as per the policies and systems of the company.
This kind of presentation has been found to be helpful for both new and experienced sellers. Often the content of such presentations are based on data collected from field research. Tailored presentations are developed based on detailed evaluation of a prospect’s business and is actually designed for specific customers. The level of customization is the highest in this kind of presentation. It is a very common method of presentation in B2B selling.
Any sales proposal should have five qualities viz. tangibility, assurances, responsiveness, reliability and empathy. The proposal should enhance the messages of the salespeople and should build trust and confidence in the selling process.
It should further invite purchase proposals from customers and should identify the solutions to customer problems apart from confirming the understanding of the seller as far as customers’ need and wants are concerned.
Selling Process Step # 5. Overcoming Objections:
After the seller is through with his presentation, it is often followed by a stage where customers raise objections related to the product on offer. Broadly it is observed that objections are either real or are phoney. Real objections are those where the customer puts across questions that are valid and are related and relevant to the product on offer.
It stems from the genuine interest in a particular product while phoney objections are mere excuses of not buying a product. The customer over here is not at all interested and somehow he tries to keep the seller at bay by raising such objections that has nothing with the product.
The order taking situations of selling actually do not offer any scope of objections being raised by customers. When customer have doubts regarding quality, quantity, price and usage of the product it is the responsibility of the seller to clarify the doubts and objections raised by the customers.
Often when customers are not much aware of the needs and the ability of the product to deliver desired benefits to the consumer, they are often found to raise objections. Objections can take the shape of doubts, minor objections and major objections. A doubt basically asks for a proof that whether what is being said about the product can actually be performed by the product.
Minor objections can be regarding the incomplete facts and figures provided by the seller while major objections often create the greatest hurdle for the selling of a product. Objections are a way of receiving the feedback of customers on various aspects and benefits being offered by the product.
The step has been found to be useful from the point of view of ability to buy, needs and authority to buy. Objections are to be perceived as customers asking for greater reasons to buy a product. Often if minor objections are not handled properly by the seller, they can snowball into major objections.
There are several methods of handling customer objections which have been discussed below:
1. Superior Feature Method:
In this method, sales people accept the objections raised by customers and persuade them through additional benefits of the product on offer to compensate for the objections raised by the customer.
2. Yes…But Method:
Over here, salespeople are found to agree with the objections raised by customers at the beginning and then they gradually make an effort to remove the objections.
3. Indirect Denial Method:
In this method, sellers are found to deny the objections raised by customers in a clever manner but indirectly by offering affirmative answers to the objections. This way the sellers sees to it that he is not offending the customer in any way.
4. Pass out Method:
Sellers over here do not pay any attention to customer objections and express neutral opinion. In cases, where objections raised by customers are baseless, it is better to pass them off without attending to the details. Often it happens that customers feel neglected if this method is not used properly and this makes them drift away from the seller.
5. Comparison Method:
Over here, sellers demonstrate similar products of other manufacturers before the customer and try to remove objections by comparing the benefits of his product with that of competition.
6. Direct Denial Method:
Over here, sales people reject customer objections outright buy turning down customer objections and calling them absolutely wrong and then building up on the presentation.
7. Another Angle Method:
Over here, sellers ask customers to look from another angle to understand the features and associated benefits of a product. Sellers’ objective is that the customer views the product in proper light so that advantages associated with the product outnumber the disadvantages.
8. Narrative Method:
Over here, sellers use a story to remove customer objections. After listening to the customer objections, the seller offers his response in the form of a story or description that would seem appealing to the customer.
9. Testimonial Method:
Over here, sellers present the sales message by referring to celebrities and people of significance as the users of product. People who are centers of influence are quoted to enhance the confidence regarding a product.
10. Question or Why Method:
Sales people ask questions again and again without any sort of break against objections raised by the customer to get suitable answers to those objections. It is found that often customers adopt a defensive attitude after facing a number of questions from the seller.
Selling Process Step # 6. Trial Close/Closing the Sale:
Each and every effort that is applied by the seller is to close the sale finally. While handling customer objections, sellers should attempt at trial close which is nothing but an attempt to make the customer commit to make a certain payment for the product on offer. It is only after effective handling of customer objections that a selling process can be closed by the seller.
There are various methods of closing the sale. There is something called an assumptive closing technique that assumes that the sale is made. For products in short supply or those that require immediate customer action are products that should go for assumptive close.
In the caution method, sellers are first found to make the customer cautious about the availability of the product or the period of availability and then requests the customer to place the order.
There is another method called the implied consent method where sales people believe that the customer is satisfied with the presentation and may place the order at the end of the presentation. In the direct order method, the customers is found to come forward to place the order without any further persuasion from the seller. In ownership
suggestion method, sellers are found to suggest the customer about buying a product to reinforce his social standing.
Selling Process Step # 7. Follow Up:
This step of the selling process helps sellers to evaluate the competitive sales moves and generate additional sales leads from satisfied customers. This step also helps in the process of up selling and cross selling. Follow up refers to the step where sellers are found to thank the customers for a purchase decision and then they proceed in building customer goodwill regarding the brand being sold.
Sellers are advised to do post-call self-evaluation to identify personal strengths and weaknesses in product and company knowledge and selling skills that need attention for improvement. After sale service is an important element of the selling process that ensures not just repeat purchases but facilitate better word of mouth.