By: Stephan Schiffman
IF WE WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN IN SALES, WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING DELIBERATE AND IMPOSSIBLE TO IGNORE---SOMETHING THAT ALL BUT FORCES THE OTHER PERSON TO RESPOND TO US. THE PEOPLE WHO THEN DO RESPOND TO US ARE OUR PROSPECTS; THEY’RE THE ONES WE SHOULD FOCUS OUR ATTENTION ON.
Whenever we talk about a prospect, we are talking about someone who has demonstrated by action that he or she is willing to discuss the possibility of working with us. This person is moving through the steps of the sales process with us.
Assume that there are, in fact, four steps to the sales process. What must be the objective of the very first step? The objective is in fact nothing more or less than getting to the second step of the sale process.
Let’s look at what’s happening in each of the four steps of the sales process.
First Step: “Opening/Qualifying.” You can’t just walk in the door and start firing off questions. You have to do something to open up the relationship. In our industry, sales training, this initial phase typically takes place as a result of a cold call from one of our salespeople to someone who has not yet heard of us or thought about working with us. When salespeople have scheduled a first face-to-face appointment with a prospect, we regard them as being at this first step.
Second Step: “Information Gathering/Interviewing.” This is probably the most critical step of them all; it’s also the step salespeople are most likely to rush through or skip over entirely. Our definition of effective selling is asking people what they do, how they do it, where they do it, when they do it, who they do it with, and why they do it that way. Then, and only then, do we ask how we can help them do it better.
The key word there is do, and it is during the information-gathering phase that we learn about this do—which may have no connection whatsoever with what we assume the prospect needs. How do we know what we’re recommending will make sense to the other person? Well, we don’t … unless we’ve gathered the right information and that is why this step is the most critical step of the sales process.
Third Step: “Proposal/Plan.” This is where we use the information we have gathered from the second step and make a recommendation or submit a plan that we trust is going to make sense to the prospect and prompt a decision to buy from us and use us – preferably forever.
Fourth Step: “The Close.” If this is a selling process, somebody has to be buying something … so the fourth and most obvious step is the decision to buy, also know as “the close.” People buy from us for one reason – because it makes sense to them for them to do so.
Here’s the point: You can’t move through these cycles on your own! You have to be working with the other person at each of the four steps. As a salesperson, you must make sure that every step you’re taking in a business relationship is with someone who’s really playing ball with you. What does that mean? It means you must make absolutely sure that you’re moving through the steps of the sales process with the full, engaged, aware participation of the person with whom you’re working.
In a face-to-face selling environment, this means working with someone who is willing to schedule a slot on his or her calendar for time with you – what we call a Next Step. If you don’t have that slot, you’re working in a vacuum. You have no meaningful commitment and no meaningful information. Your plan probably won’t match what the person does.
Stephan Schiffman is president of D.E.I. Management Group, Inc. For more information, please call (800) 224-2140, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.dei-sales.com.
“YOU MUST MAKE SURE THAT EVERY STEP YOU’RE TAKING IN A BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP IS WITH SOMEONE WHO’S REALLY PLAYING BALL WITH YOU”