Be a Salesperson How many times have you felt like you had gotten “lost” when trying to sell a prospect on your product or service? How frustrated have you been when you felt like you weren’t in control of your sales interactions? It happens to all of us and it can be maddening. Navigating the sales process isn’t always easy. It’s something even experienced salespeople can have trouble with. Here’s the bottom line: If you have no control over the flow of the conversation, you won’t make the sale. You’re driving a car in the pitch dark without headlights hoping to make it safely to your destination. How many times have you felt like you had gotten “lost” when trying to sell a prospect on your product or service? How frustrated have you been when you felt like you weren’t in control of your sales interactions? It happens to all of us and it can be maddening. Navigating the sales process isn’t always easy. It’s something even experienced salespeople can have trouble with. Here’s the bottom line: If you have no control over the flow of the conversation, you won’t make the sale. You’re driving a car in the pitch dark without headlights hoping to make it safely to your destination. What Is An Entrepreneurial Sales Process? The term “entrepreneurial sales process” can be defined as a series of stages or milestones that make up the progression a prospect and salesperson goes through when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. Each phase is designed to gradually turn a prospect into a paying customer. Every section has its own set of sales techniques that are used to move the prospect closer to the sale. In some cases, a sales process may utilize scripts. The scripting for each section varies depending on what the ultimate objective is. The important thing to remember about using scripts is that you shouldn’t be following it verbatim. It should serve as a guideline that gives you an idea of what you should be doing in each section. Why Should You Have A Sales Process? A good sales process will give you an easy-to-follow progression that will help you map out your interactions with your customers. When you have a set pattern to follow, you will be able to control the conversation much more effectively. To put it simply, a sales process will help you earn more clients and sell more product. It has been shown that companies that have a sales process earn 18 percent more revenue than companies that do not. A good sales process will get you more business. Here are some of the benefits of a sales process: Helps you remember which sales techniques to use. Helps you plan out your sales flow with each prospect. Gives you a blueprint of the sales process you will use when you have a sales force. Mapping Out Your Sales Process When creating your sales process, there’s one important factor to keep in mind: the process you follow must be adaptable. Yes, you are going to outline the various phases you will go through with your prospect, but you won’t always be able to follow each phase of the sale in the exact order that you intend. This is okay. If you have a viable sales plan, it will make it much easier to improvise and change tactics quickly when the need arises. While each sales process is different, there are common factors that any sales process will have. Your sales process will look different from the processes other entrepreneurs use, but this next section will give you the framework you need to create your own sales process. Preparation This is what happens before you actually begin the interaction with your prospect. When possible, you should be as prepared for the sales call as possible. This means you need to do research on your prospect before speaking with them about your product or service. The most important part of this phase is qualifying the lead. If you can, find out whether it’s a good use of your time to engage with this particular prospect. Here are some things to keep in mind in this part of the process: Does this prospect actually need my service? Can they afford my service? How likely are they to be open to buying? You may not be able to weed out every “bad” prospect. That’s okay. When you actually speak with them, you will ask them questions that will help you figure out whether or not they’re a good fit for your company. Initial Interaction The initial interaction is the beginning of the sales call. It’s where you will introduce yourself and your company. This is arguably the most important part of the sales process. Why? Because it’s where you will make your first impression. It’s the best chance you have to position yourself effectively. If you position yourself the right way, it will make the rest of the sales process so much easier.Position Your Company You want to get the customer to define your company in a way that is favorable to your cause. The initial interaction is the best place to do that. When you introduce your company, there are three things you must do. You have to tell the prospect who you are, tell them why it matters to them, and then prove your claims. When you introduce you company, do it in a way that makes a claim about what your business can do for your prospect. If you own a landscaping business in Dallas, you don’t just say “I’m with ABC Landscaping. We service customers in Dallas.” That description doesn’t do you justice, and it doesn’t establish any distinct position in the mind of your prospect. Make yourself sound more interesting. Instead, you can say something like “I’m with ABC Landscaping. We’re the premier landscaping company in the Dallas area.” Or “I’m with ABC Landscaping, the most affordable landscaping solution for homeowners in the Dallas area.” Make your claim, and own it. Tell Them Why You Matter After telling them who you are, you must tell them what benefit they stand to gain by doing business with you. Obviously, they know your company does landscaping, but what does this mean to them? Nothing, unless you tell them what it means to them. Don’t just tell the prospect what you do and then leave it at that. Let them know how this impacts their lives. If you own a landscaping company, let them know that your services provide a rich and relaxing environment around their home. Tell them how much it can increase the value of their home. A short statement that emphasizes the benefits your services could bring will help your prospect understand why they should consider doing business with you. Prove It! Lastly, give examples of how your services have provided this benefit to others. You need to back up your benefit claim with proof. You don’t need fancy facts and figures to prove what you’re saying; just one or two examples of how you have helped other clients. If you have testimonials from previous customers, that’s even better. Discovering Needs This is the part of the process where you will begin to understand your prospect. This section is intended to gain as much relevant information as possible in order to discover potential solutions for the prospect’s problems. Any effective sales process must include this section. You can’t successfully pitch prospects without getting into their heads first. So, unless you know how to read minds, you must make sure you’re asking great questions. The types of questions you ask will depend on what you’re selling and who your prospect is. It’s best to have a list of questions that you make sure you ask in every interaction. You can map these out beforehand so you can be prepared. Here’s some key factors to keep in mind during this phase of the process: Focus on the customer, not on yourself. Open-ended questions get the most information. Practice active listening. Resist the temptation to start pitching! This part of the process is very important because you won’t know how to solve the customer’s problems without it. Unless of course, you can read minds. Presentation/Proposal This is the moment you’ve been building up to. The previous sections of your sales process will inevitably lead you to this phase. It’s time to pitch your solution. Note that I didn’t say it’s time to pitch your product or service. That was done on purpose. If you want to win at sales, you can’t focus on your product, you have to focus on solutions. Don’t sell them a product, solve their problems. What does this mean? It means presenting a customer-centric solution that will make your prospect’s life easier. In order to prepare for this part of the process, you must ask yourself the following questions: What is the underlying cause of my prospect’s problems? How does my product or service address this issue? What will be the outcome for the prospect if they accept my offer? How can I communicate this in a way that gets my prospect to see the value? What are the objections they will probably have? How can I address these beforehand? When you can answer these questions, you will be prepared to present your solution. Be sure to make sure that you’re focusing on the benefits and outcomes more than the features of your product. This is what will make your prospect see why they should accept your offer. The Close After the pitch, it’s time to get them to buy. This section shouldn’t be too complex. Sometimes, a straightforward approach is best. Just ask for the business. It’s that simple. Before you do this though, make sure that you and your prospect are on the same page. Review some of the major points that you have talked about so far and find out if the prospect has any more questions. This is also where you will address any potential objections that can arise. When you have answered your prospect’s questions, you’re ready to close the sale. Ask for the order. Fulfillment And Fostering Relationships If you want a profitable, long-term relationship with your client, then the sales process doesn’t end after the customer makes the purchase. Sure, in some lines of business, each sale is transactional. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. When you get your customer to buy from your company, it means you have gotten them to make a commitment to your brand. You need to find ways to continue to deepen the relationship. Here’s some things to keep in mind: After the customer buys, you need to deliver on the promises you made. If possible, exceed the expectations you have set. Follow Zappos’ example. If you can, take a consultative role with your customers. Use your expertise to help them become more successful. Provide EXCELLENT service. Take a hint from Apple. Continue to develop your relationships with your customers and you will gain their repeat business. Do your job well, and your customers will become brand evangelists for your company. Deepening your customer relationships can literally help you multiply your clientele. Conclusion Being successful at entrepreneurial sales means learning how to control your sales conversations. If you create and develop a viable sales process, it will become easier to get more prospects to become actual paying clients. When you have more control over your conversations, you will feel more confident in your ability to effectively persuade your prospects to see the value of your brand. A sales process is a crucial component of the growth of your business. Don’t keep driving in the dark with no headlights. Start developing your sales process now.