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The key strategy to grow any business has to be how effective it is at converting leads to profitable orders, or in other words, sales.

There are a wide range of beliefs held around sales people, from, “it’s what you do if you can’t get a proper job” to the pride and joy in being able to communicate with people and virtually write your own salary cheque. The most amazing thing I have seen is how little time and effort is invested in thinking about the sales process the business follows, how little time is spent training and developing the sales people on this process and why it is important.

Many business owners and sales directors still believe that to be successful at sales, you need people who have a good technical understanding of the product or service and who have the ‘gift of the gab’. They then spend most of their time managing their sales force around getting more and more activity completed, but very little time working on a sales process that adds value to both the prospects and the business itself.

So what do I really mean by a sales process? Many of you are going to immediately think about a heavily structured and scripted document that allows the sales people no scope for their own personality to shine and techniques to be used. Others may think immediately of the numerous telesales companies that call us many times a day with their very rigid scripts which allow for very little interaction. In both of examples, the only focus seems to be on getting a specific sale. Very little time and effort is placed on building a long term relationship and actually helping the prospect find a good solution to the problem or need that they may have. Sadly, many of the sales strategies being used today tend to create more of a negative feeling with people rather than a positive one.

With some of the more negative aspects of various sales processes out of the way, let me explain why I believe that having an effective sales process is so important.

I am a very strong believer that in business, the starting point for any strategy starts with the outcome you are looking for. A sales process must create a positive emotional experience for every customer or prospect that goes through it. 5 key areas a sales process must focus on are;

1. Filter out the prospects the business does not want as clients and focus time and effort only on the ideal prospects.
2. Deliver profitable sales by solving prospects and clients problems and needs.
3. Build long term relationships that keep customers coming back time after time.
4. Create customers of the business, not the salesperson.
5. Be simple and effective for both the prospects and the salespeople.

I am sure that many of you may be really interested with the wording of the first point, to filter out the prospects that the business does not want to sell to. Many people I have helped with their sales process have been alarmed that any sales process should want to get rid of any prospects, but just think to yourself, how much time have you or your salespeople invested into prospects where nothing has happened time and time again with the same people or company? Where would the sales performance be if we could find a way to focus on the real profitable prospects?

How well is your process and sales people focussed on solving problems rather than just selling as many products or services as quickly as possible? If it is just focussed on getting products and services out of the door, how does this make you appear different to your competitors? If you want to do a quick and rough check on how much value your sales process and people are adding, work out what percentage of all the enquiries your business handles involve a request for a lower price! If you have a fairly high percentage of requests for lower pricing, how much value are you adding to your prospects? Focus on adding more value in the sales process and just see how that margin creeps up.

One of the higher costs in any business is the client acquisition cost. This is not just measured in purely money terms, but also time. After a business has spent all this time and money on getting a prospect to a customer, it would be such a waste it if that customer only purchased once from that business. This is why it is vital that your sales process is designed to wow the customer the first time, but has a well designed follow up process that keeps consistent but acceptable levels of communication with the customer. This follow up process is probably the one area that the majority of businesses I come into contact with, fail on.

Probably the most challenging part of any sales process is the strategy that is needed to be developed to make sure that all customers become clients of the business, rather than just a client of a person in the business. How many businesses live in fear that if one of their sales people leaves, a bunch of customers will follow them to their new employer? Design this into your sales process from the start and you will lose considerably less customers if one of your salespeople leave. What is more, you will add value to your sales process as the customers will receive excellent service from whoever they deal with in your business.

Lastly, but very importantly, this sales process must be effective but simple to use so that communication between various departments within the business is easy to understand so that new employees can be quickly trained. It has also been proven, that simple processes always work better as people understand them quicker and they are easier to use.

If reading this article has challenged you to think about your sales process and wonder how much value it is adding to both your business and your prospects, or if you just want to grow your sales without employing loads more people. Go through the sales process your sales people are following and then ask yourself at each step if it is addressing the points I have listed above.