The Sales Cycle
Co-written with Amina Islam
When kids are asked, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” nobody says I want to knock on the doors of strangers, and have them slammed in my face 80 % of the time accompanied by rude comments, but that is the life of a door-to-door salesperson.
In the previous post, I wrote that the main steps to sell anything are prospecting, pitching and closing. But that’s like saying the main steps to any medical operation is cutting, operating and stitching. There are so many intricate details that go within each step that it’s going to be hard to cover each one but I’ll try.
Before we proceed, let’s define the steps:
- Prospecting: Picking your potential buyers
- PItching: Developing a sales pitch
- Closing: Closing the sale so that value is exchanged between the two
Prospecting is the process of identifying your potential customers. To do that, you really need to understand the product you’re trying to sell; what problem is it solving, and who incurs that problem on a regular basis so they would be willing to part with their money to have it solved. Additionally, answers to the following questions need to be very clear:
- What are the demographics of your potential customers?
- Where do they live?
- What kind of jobs do they hold?
Prospecting can be as easy as building a spreadsheet list of potential customers with their addresses or numbers.
Once you’ve identified your potential customers, it’s time to pitch your product. Unfortunately we live in a world where salespeople think pitching is all about going to the field and shoving the product down someone’s throat. But it’s more than just presenting your product or service to the prospect. To sell, there are various social skills that need to be honed, such as attunement as detailed in Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human. At the end of the day, businesses don’t do business with businesses but people do business with people, and as much as we may think we’re rational beings, human emotions play a huge factor in closing a sale.
Attunement is the ability to align one’s actions and outlook so it comes into harmony with other people. It’s the key to resonance or clicking, and for attunement to take place, skills such as perspective-taking, empathy and strategic mimicry need to be practiced. Perspective-taking as the name suggests is the cognitive skill of taking your potential customers perspective. It is a cognitive skill. Empathy on the other hand, could be considered its fraternal twin, but it’s an emotional skill. Even though both successfully produce greater joint gains and more profitable individual outcomes during negotiations, studies have shown perspective-taking as being more effective than empathy.
This means when you’re trying to sell, you have to understand where your buyer is coming from, what their desires, needs and pain points are. To get all that, you would need to ask questions and actually listen instead of just launching into a pitch straight away. Essentially, during your pitch, you would need to answer for them the question, “What’s in it for me?”
You also have to make them understand the value you’re presenting and why they would part with their hard-earned cash to get that value. They need to be able to imagine that something in their life would improve after having the product or service.
Another interesting technique that could be done during a sale is strategic mimicry, which involves mimicking the mannerisms of the person you’re negotiating with. The trick is to do it subtly enough that the other person does not notice what you’re doing. Otherwise, this technique may backfire. To ensure subtlety, try to wait for 15 seconds before mimicking their action.
Finally, understand the pitch is not about you and how much you love the product or service. This is about them and why they should love the product or service.
Closing the sale is the final process where the value is exchanged by them making payment in return for the product or service. This is the most important step as there is no sale without closure and it’s the point we’ve been building all our previous efforts for.
As best practice in the sales field, develop a simple monitoring and evaluation model that allows you to track progress and make improvements as you progress. This should be periodical i.e hourly, daily or weekly.
Tracking will be the start of a sales funnel i.e a pipeline of customers arranged in order of their readiness to acquire the product or service. For example, a client who promises to purchase the service on Friday will be scheduled for a visit on that day with the single objective of closing the sale.
For salespeople who are just beginning on their sales journey, evaluating the results of their work during the first month can help define goals for the next month based on the project or business objectives. This will help with the professional growth of the sales person, as repeating the sales cycle exponentially could help one become a sales superstar.
Remember that actually delivering a good product and service is essential to the growth of your business. This is not just about selling. You want them to refer you to other clients as well. Your work does not end with closing the sale but by ensuring that the customer is happy with whatever they’ve paid for.