The Sales Process
Selling can be straightforward and uncomplicated. But, particularly in a business-to-business proposition, it often is complex and time consuming. Sales are made or lost based on a myriad of motivations, details, influences, circumstances...and luck. Some of these factors you can control. Some of them you can anticipate and affect. Some you can only react to when they occur. And the longer your sales cycle, the more complex your sales process is likely to be.
In every case, however, you can improve the odds for a favorable outcome by carefully analyzing and structuring your sales process. That is, by identifying each contact and event leading to the sale, examining the factors affecting it, you can select the right media then create the appropriate communications to move the prospect through each step in the sequence.
The sales process includes all the steps that lead to the sale. The sales sequence is the order and breakdown of the steps themselves.
The sales sequence lists each step and the media employed.
Here is an example of a traditional, though overly simplified, sales sequence.
1. Print Ad
The ad is designed to generate inquiries for a new product or service via a specific type of response. Responders will be self-selecting.
2. Inbound Phone Call
The customer service representative collects name, title and company and has the chance to ask initial qualifying questions.
The fulfillment package, as personalized as possible, fulfills the ad promise and lays the groundwork for a follow-up call.
4. Outbound Phone Call
This outbound call, made by a sales person, determines the interest level of the prospect and sets the appointment for a demonstration
5. In-person Sales Visit
The goal of the sales visit is to make the presentation and close by obtaining a purchase order. The sales visit is also the first step in a customer loyalty program.
Each step in the sales sequence sells only the next step.
Notice that each step in this (overly simplified) sequence is focused on selling only the next step in the process. This is perhaps the most important aspect of designing a sales sequence and structuring the communications to be encompassed in each step.
Any attempt to skip a step or use a medium that is incapable of accomplishing the objective of that step will probably result in a lost sale. Likewise, what we say and do in each step is a building block in the overall sales/purchase cycle and should be designed to fit the purchasing process employed by the target organization.
A properly-designed sales sequence mirrors the prospectís "buying sequence."
In a consumer sale, even a elaborate one like a home or investment, there are likely to be fewer steps than in a business environment, simply because there are fewer people involved. In most cases, even though several contacts may be necessary to close the sale, they will all be with the decision maker(s) and progress in an orderly fashion from introductory conversation through to close.
In business, we often spend more time "selling" to people who aren't directly involved with the product or service than we do with actual users of the product. Each "influencer" or "approver" may have a specific job function and/or a personal agenda. Taking the time to understand the needs and objectives of each of these contacts is basic to developing an effective sales sequence. Only then can you design the messages and assign the appropriate media to make the sale. We cover more on this in "The Complex Sale."