Planning and preparation is an essential part of being a good sales professional. It's not just your sales pitch, it's knowing your customer, their needs, and to provide solutions. The close is just one piece of the overall process.
- My first sales manager used to say to me that the actual time selling to a customer is often less than 15% of the overall time to secure the business. When I first heard that, I was a bit skeptical, but quickly came to understand how true it is. The vast majority of your effort goes into all of the other steps of the sales process. It's important never to lose sight that the time you spend presenting to your buyer, handling their objections, answering questions, and then closing a deal is a lot shorter than you would ever expect.
Think about this. Your close, if done correctly, is less than a minute long. That minute will be really difficult, and very often unsuccessful, if you don't have all of the other steps properly in place. This is why I stress the importance of having a well designed and strategically aligned sales process that you follow. I feel that all sales processes should begin with a basic seven to 10 step framework that most trainers use. At some point, you may want to learn other methodologies like Challenger, Sandler, or Miller Heiman for example.
The one that I've followed throughout my career, and one that many sales people have been trained on is I.N.P. or information, need, product or service. That is really the backbone of the sales process. Depending on your sales organization or company, the first step begins with prospecting. It is then followed by planning, gathering information, and preparation. Which leads to assessing the need of the buyer and what solution is required.
The fourth step is solving the problem of the buyer with the right product or service. You will then reach the stage of presenting to your buyer. And then, right in the middle of the sale process is why we became sales professionals. We have to ask for the business and close the sale. But it's not done yet, because if you don't successfully complete the final four steps of the sales process, you will never have the opportunity to close a deal again with that buyer. It's essential to deliver on your promise and commitments you've given to your buyer.
You must follow up with your customer, ensuring that your offering has met their expectations. Some people don't give as much weight to the ninth and tenth steps, but I believe that reporting and communicating back to your customer and your own company is an essential part of our jobs. You need to stay in touch and be visible. Then you must always look for ways to evaluate and improve so you can sell and support your customer even better the next time. Those 10 steps surround the core of your objective, which is bringing in business.
Falter on any one of them, and your chances of success diminish. The leading, and most successful and accomplished sales professionals recognize that a finely tuned sales process is critical to closing sales.