June 7, 2012

The Sales Cycle – 8 Simple Steps to a Sale (Part 1)

"Professional services to bring you the most valuable solutions."

All good sales people lead the customer through eight steps called the “Sales Cycle.”

1. Introduction and Rapport
All sales is personal.  It’s important to establish a basic friendly relationship with the customer.

Smile.  Shake hands.  Introduce yourself.  Take a few moments to learn about the customer and her job.  Choose something you honestly like about the customer and compliment it, such as “That is a very elegant dress.”   Make sure it is a sincere compliment.

2. Fact-Finding
You can’t sell to the customer if you don’t know what they do.  Ask questions to learn about their business and about the person with whom you are dealing.

“Could you describe your main products?  Who are your customers?  What kinds of problems do you solve for them?  How big is your company?  How fast are you growing?  For what areas are you and your team responsible?”

Good sales people always do some research before the meeting to understand some basics about the customer.

3. Goals and Problems
This one is SUPER IMPORTANT!

After you’ve learned about the customer’s business, ask them about their business goals.  Then ask them about the problems or challenges they must solve in order to achieve those goals.  You will ask follow-up questions until you have a clear understanding of their goals and main challenges.

For example, if the customer is a bank the conversation might go like this:

Sales Person: “What are your goals in the next 12 months?”
Customer: “We want to grow revenue by 50% over last year.”
Sales Person: “Wow, that’s a great goal.  What do you need to do to get there?”
Customer: “We have to open 15 new bank branches and grow our deposit customer numbers by 50%.”
Sales Person: “What needs to happen to open 15 new branches?”
Customer: “We need to an Operations Director to find new locations and manage construction…”

You get the idea.

4. Cost of Not Solving the Problem
Remember the problems the customer just told you about?  If you’ve led the conversation well, some of those problems will be problems solved by your product.

These problems are the KEY to a sale.

Ask the customer about the cost of not solving the problem(s) addressed by your product.

Sales Person: “That Operations Director sounds very important.  What happens if you can’t find a good one?”
Customer: “Every month we don’t have an Operations Director is another month of delay for finding locations for our new branches.”
Sales Person: “And every month you don’t have new branches open leads to lost sales?”
Customer: “Yes.”
Sales Person: “About how much revenue do you lose for each month of delay?”
Customer: “I’m not sure…maybe $15,000 or $20,000 each month.”

Bingo!

You’ve led the customer to focus on his problem.  More importantly, you’ve got him thinking about the cost of not solving his problem.  This step is critical.

Have you noticed that we’re halfway through the 8 steps but we haven’t even talked about our product yet?

Stay tuned!  I’ll cover steps 4-8 of the Sales Cycle in Part 2 next Monday.

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  • Giang

    Thank you very much for sharing, Chris. 

    I found that a good sales person do this intuitively. He/she builds rapport at any time, regardless he/she is in a sale pitch or presentation to customers. By doing that, he/she get high chance of having new customer(s).

    • Yes, good sales people build rapport instinctively. 

      Instinct is not enough to sell successfully and consistently though.  Instinct combined with training and practice create sales superstars.

  • Waiting for the next session :)

  • Pingback: The Sales Cycle - 8 Simple Steps to a Sale (Part 2)()

  • Chau Nguyen

    Thanks you very much, Chris! Your post about Sales cycles opens my eyes about sales!

    • Sales is very misunderstood Chau. Glad this post made it a bit clearer for you.