In our last blog, we covered how to have productive meetings with your customers. Before that, we discussed the stages of the customer buying process. Understanding the buying process is just part of the activities needed to drive sales. Businesses should also have rigorous, documented selling processes that mirror the customer’s buying process. A clear selling process can help companies keep track of their customers and move them closer to a sale. A lack of a process can lead to disorganization and missed opportunities.
Defining the selling process key stages
To create a selling process, companies should begin by defining the interim milestones that fall between meeting a customer and closing a sale. Examples include scheduling an initial meeting or meeting the decision maker.
For each of these milestones, companies should then establish clear, objective criteria that indicate completion of that milestone. The goal of an initial meeting, for example, could be getting an introduction to a prospective customer’s ultimate decision maker. At the end of the meeting, the salesperson should know if they met their sales objective or not.
A company can set rough timelines for when steps in the process should be completed, but should also pay close attention to the buyer’s needs. If a customer asks for a demo or additional meetings that are outside the normal selling process, the seller should be sure to accommodate their requests.
Using the selling process to learn from experience
Most importantly, companies should record their progress—including completion of major milestones, customer requests, and notes from customer meetings. If possible, they should keep this information in a shared file or drive accessible by an entire sales team. Small businesses often manage this information using a system like Microsoft Excel or Outlook. Larger teams may need something more robust, like a customer relationship management (CRM) system.
Keeping clear records helps companies know how and when to follow up with specific customers. It can also help them see trends and bottlenecks across their customer base. For example, a company might notice that sales typically stall around the quoting phase. Another company might find that they have trouble moving from an initial meeting to a sit-down with a decision maker.
By defining a repeatable selling process and documenting progress, organizations can reveal problems they might not have discovered otherwise. This, in turn, offers the potential to provide solutions to those problems. Knowing these areas for improvement can help companies determine where to focus their efforts to best grow their sales.