Successful sales people are often described as having been born that way. This is not necessarily true as the ability to charm does not guarantee a successful sales career. Many charismatic individuals have failed to produce favorable results when placed in a sales position. This is good news for entrepreneurs who find themselves having to be the company salesperson. For many, it is not a roll they are have not been trained for or have comfort with. Since getting new customers is crucial to business success companies must have a selling process in place.
Success in sales is no different than any pursuit—there is a systematic method that can be followed to achieve the desired outcome. Those activities once defined, can be monitored, measured and improved upon to increase performance.
Sales processes can be broken into three components: lead generation, lead management and prospect conversion. The following is a series of questions regarding three processes. Although each company is unique, many of these questions can apply to most organizations.
Review the questions and customize a list to your organization. Ask each person involved in the selling process to submit their answers and then have a team building meeting where tribal knowledge can be shared, to the benefit of all involved. The more consistent and streamlined the sales process—the greater potential for overall company success.
(1) How are you generating your leads?
(2) Where are you getting your customers?
(3) What percentage of leads turn into prospects?
(4) Are you asking for referrals?
Lead generation is the first step and a crucial aspect of the process. The ability to convert prospects to customers is based on the quality of the lead. Lead generation can take on many forms: cold calls, mailings, online forms and tradeshows. As a company, you have to determine your best source of quality leads.
If you already have customers, trace the pathway back to determine how they learned about your company. Many times the most useful information can be gained by analyzing past success.
For many years I believed my clients came from networking and referrals. Upon further examination I learned that the majority of my clients came from my speaking engagements. This prompted me to invest all the time in obtaining opportunities to speak rather than trying to meet people for referrals.
Measuring the amount of leads that convert to prospects is as important as measuring the amount of prospects that become customers. However, many people do not measure at this level. By measuring how many leads turn to prospect it identifies if your original activities in lead generation are effective. Starting with qualified leads provides a better chance of converting prospects to customers.
Referrals are still one of the best form of leads. Does your company have a process in place to ask referrals? You may be missing out on additional sales opportunities by not asking customers and partners for a referral.
(5) Describe your process for organizing the leads once obtained.
(6) What fast are you following up on the leads?
(7) How do you manage the follow-up process?
Independent of the method you use to generate the lead, you must have a detailed plan for follow up. Studies have shown that companies take on average almost 48 hours to respond to an Internet generated lead.
As expressed earlier, smaller companies do not have the luxury of a dedicated sales force. With no one dedicated solely to following up on leads, it simply gets logged on to somebody’s to do list. Try to set aside a specific time each day/week for lead follow-up. Prospects will be more patient if they received some type of response. At the least, each company should have a computer generated immediate response.
Anything can be achieved if an intelligent plan is in place. Having a process in place will allow you to respond to a lead in a timely manner.
(8) What criteria do you use to identify a lead as a “qualified prospect”?
(9) At what point in the sales cycle do you determine if the prospect is qualified?
(10) What percentage of qualified prospects turn into clients?
Wasted time on a prospect that has no intention of purchasing is missed opportunity on the one that does. Knowing when to cut ties and move on is important skill for salesperson. Those that succeed have an internal gauge that says it’s time to move on.
It is advantageous to write down the five top criteria for a qualified prospect. What specific buying criteria must be deployed for them to purchase. Are they able to afford your product? Are they willing to purchase now? All must be considered. This list can be viewed repeatedly when going through the prospecting process to make sure you are properly investing your time.
By calculating your conversion rate from prospect to customer you have a method to it audit your processes. Peter Drucker once famously said-“if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This same principle can be applied to your sales strategy.
If you adopt the methodology that selling is a company-wide responsibility you will have a selling machine that will constantly be producing new customers. This does not happen mysteriously-it happens as the result of planning and implementing processes. Invest some time developing a sales strategy-it’ll be time well spent.
Lori educates and inspires entrepreneurs. Her company Business Simply Put provides information, advice and tools to succeed in business. Whether you are starting a company or growing an existing business, these tools will define your pathway to success. For more information visit www.BusinessSimplyPut.com or send an email to [email protected]. She loves to hear from inspired entrepreneurs!