How to Streamline Your Sales Process

Here is a basic seven-step process that you can follow, or fine tune to suit your unique products and services.

This system will work for every business in every industry, from sales presentations to casual conversations in retail stores. Focus on cultivating your ability to master each step, as everyone builds on the first and is important in the overall process.

  1. Prepare yourself with enough knowledge about your product, customer, and industry.

Preparation is essential – for sales presentations, meetings or the sales floor – and it is the only part of the process you have complete control over. In addition to knowledge preparation, make sure that you, your place of business and your merchandise appears clean, well put together and professional. First impressions are everything, so do everything you can to support and prepare for your success, and it will pay off in closed sales.

Know your product or service.
Continuously build your product or service knowledge, and make sure you understand what you’re selling inside and out. This includes a knowledge of complementary products and services that you can offer as an up-sell, down-sell or cross-sell.

Know your customer.
Review what you learned about your target market, or do some research on the company or person you’ll be presenting to. Establish points of common ground and learn a bit about what they’re interested in to build meaningful relationships.

Know your industry.
Stay current on new developments and trends in your line of work or industry. Sharing this information at relevant points in the sales process will position you as an expert and build your credibility.

  1. Begin to build a long-term relationship based on trust.

The first few moments of interaction with a prospect will set the stage for the rest of your conversation. Focus on casual conversation that will relax your prospect, and begin to develop a relationship. Bring up points of mutual interest and understanding, and begin to establish your credibility.

  1. Discuss the problem, need, want or desire in detail.

Now that you’ve begun to build a relationship with your prospect, you can start to ask open-ended questions to establish what their needs and wants are. You could ask them what brought them into the store, or why they are looking for a particular product or service.

Once you are clear on what they are looking for, ask more open-ended questions to gain a better understanding of the features, price range, and complementary items that would be suit their objectives.

  • Listen to their statements, and repeat back what they’ve said to show you understand
  • Ask questions to clarify their statements, and to show you are listening
  • Ask open-ended questions to keep them talking. Learn as much as you can about their needs and unique purchase motivations.
  • If you are sure the customer will make the purchase, as specific questions about size, color, and price range.
  1. Offer the solution and focus on benefits.

When you have a good understanding of what your prospects needs and wants are, begin to offer the appropriate product or service.

  • Start with an explanation of how your product or service will deliver the results your prospect is looking for, or solve their specific problem
  • Paint a picture of your prospect after the purchase using hypothetical examples
  • Offer the mid-range product, and up-sell or down-sell as appropriate
  • Use anecdotes about other customers who had positive experiences with the same product, or showcase the awards or accolades the product or service has earned
  • Focus on benefits, and support with features and advantages
  • Take cues from your prospect’s body language, and ask qualifying questions as the need arises
  • Give the customer an opportunity to ask you questions or provide feedback about each product or service after you have described or explained it.
  • Ask closed-ended questions (yes or no answers) to gain agreement as you discuss the product or service
  1. Anticipate, then overcome objections with empathy.

While you are presenting your product or service, be aware of body language and the questions that your prospect is raising and use them as clues to potential objections. Try to anticipate objections, and then address them by asking open-ended questions (What do you think about…? What is important to you in…?) Objections will arise, so do your best to prepare for them.

When an objection arises:

  1. Repeat the issue back to the prospect to show you have heard what they said, and to ensure you understand them correctly.
  2. Empathize or show that you can relate to what they said, and then provide a response that resolves their concern.
  3. Repeat yourself to confirm that you have overcome their objection.
  4. Close with confidence and awareness.

This is a crucial part of the sales process, and the step that most people have difficulty with because it’s all about timing. You have to cultivate an ability to sense the appropriate time to ask for the sale. This can’t be scripted; it has to happen in the moment when the customer’s objections have been overcome, and when you feel they are ready to seal the deal.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before you attempt to close the sale:

  • Has the prospect agreed that there is value in the offering?
  • Does the prospect fully understand the benefits of the offering?
  • Does the prospect have any more objections or questions?
  • Are there any other factors could influence the purchase decision?
  1. Make that customer a part of your customer retention program, and don’t forget to follow up.

When you’ve completed the sale, make sure to get your customer’s contact information and set up a follow-up schedule. Your goal is to establish a long-term relationship to help cultivate loyal, repeat and referral business.

You should also be sure to ask satisfied customers to be part of your referral program, or if they would mind providing you with a testimonial. Be sure to do this as soon as possible after the sale.

Integrate up-selling, down-selling and cross-selling into your business.

Up-sell to increase the value of your sale.

Cross-sell to boost your average dollar sale.

Down-sell to avoid losing the sale.

Sales is a system that can be created, improved, taught and perfected.

The important thing to remember here is that everyone needs to enhance and refine their sales skills on a regular basis. A routine review of sales 101 is helpful for even the most natural of salespeople.

Consider creating a poster of the sales process with tips under each step, and posting it in the staff room or on your staff communications board. Visual reminders and passive access to resources can have a lasting impact on your staff’s performance.

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