The 5 Key Stages of an Effective Sales Process


by Richard McCandless, Regional Director – North East England & Scotland

What is a sales process?

A sales process essentially works as a step-by-step guide for sales reps to follow to turn prospects into new customers.

Why is it important?

Having a clearly defined sales process ensures that every team member is singing from the same hymn sheet, no steps are missed, more deals are closed, and every client feels well looked after and satisfied.

The most important part of a sales process is ensuring that you maintain a good relationship with prospects throughout and beyond closing the deal. Learning how you can provide solutions tailored to your prospects, will more than likely result in customer loyalty, referrals and, ultimately, business growth.

Does your sales process consist of the following key stages?

Sales processes vary depending on company size and industry but here are the stages that I consider essential for converting leads into fully-fledged customers.

  1. Research

Before launching into cold calling and selling, it is crucial that salespeople know their product inside out, the value that it provides and how it solves the problems of the buyer.

Use your current customer data, CRM system and surveys to create buyer personas that outline the purchasing habits, demographics and psychographics (needs, wants, and behaviours) of your ideal prospects.

By developing personas, you can be crystal clear on exactly

  • who you are selling to
  • what their specific needs are
  • how your product or service addresses those needs

Research your competitors. How is their offering different? How are they bringing in customers? Who are their ideal clients?

  1. Prospecting & Qualifying Leads

The next step is sourcing and engaging with prospective customers and ‘qualifying’ them to assess their needs and decide whether they align with your buyer personas.

Leads may be found through a variety of sources, including networking events, referral marketing, social media such as LinkedIn, forums, or targeted Google searches.

You may also be receiving inbound enquiries via your website, email marketing or advertising.

Once the first contact with a potential lead is made, they need to be ‘qualified’. Qualification involves collecting key information that enables you to identify whether they are likely to convert and make a purchase. This may take the form of a discovery call.

You could decide to use the BANT model:

  • Budget – how much can the prospect spend?
  • Authority – are they the key decision-maker?
  • Need – what are their pain points, and can your offering solve them?
  • Timing – is there urgency?

Remember to be friendly, listen, empathise … and don’t interrogate!

We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason and you should use the 80/20 rule. 80% listening and 20% asking open questions.

As you move through the sales process, input all new inbound and outbound leads into your CRM system, with details of interactions and where they are in the buyer journey.

  1. Pitching

Present your product or service as a solution to your customer’s needs. This is absolutely essential. Tailor your pitch to your prospect and highlight how your offering will be valuable for them. Employ a benefit-led, not feature-led approach and articulate how your product or service adds value to their business. Research has shown that 95% of buyers make purchase decisions based on emotion – if you can connect with their emotions, they are much more likely to buy.

Make sure everyone on the team delivers a consistent message regarding your offerings, features and pricing.

If your prospect has any objections, don’t get defensive. Instead, be understanding and listen to their concerns. After all, feedback helps the business to improve.

Make sure that you mention the next stages, such as follow up calls or suggested timeframes, and have all documentation ready to go.

  1. Follow-up and closing the deal (hopefully!)

Both stages 4 & 5 are vital and should never be overlooked.

Answer any queries, and send additional information and all paperwork, including proposals, quotations and the final contracts. Contracts can be sent from your CRM system to be signed digitally, allowing you to close deals quickly.

Your CRM system will become your best friend throughout the sales process. Create automated workflows to ensure that your leads receive all the necessary information, and you maintain good communication.

If your pitch wasn’t successful, ask for feedback. Don’t write them off completely and aim to schedule future re-engagement.

  1. Nurture the relationship and upsell

If they have become a customer, the relationship doesn’t end there. Retaining customers costs far, far less than acquiring new ones. Ensure you are continuously thinking of innovative ways to delight them and encourage loyalty. How can you upsell and deliver even more value?

If your business involves the salesperson ‘handing them over’ to operations, make sure that this is seamless and that your new customer doesn’t feel abandoned or neglected by the person they connected with so well.

Check in with them consistently, keep them updated about services, and ask for testimonials. Short video testimonials are great.

And that’s it! 5 key stages to selling success.

If your sales process is:

  • customer-centric
  • flexible
  • goal-orientated
  • consistent
  • simple to follow

it is guaranteed to lead to an increased conversion rate and many more satisfied and loyal customers.

Good luck and if you need any support developing a solid sales process, please get in touch.

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