No matter what field you’re in, there’s an established flow on how to best land a sale. You can tweak it to fit your particular industry of course, but there are seven essential steps to success, known as the Sales Cycle.
Like the circle of life, you should look at your sales cycle as a never-ending loop; new leads converting to contacts that turn into closed deals who refer more new leads. But over time, even really good salespeople tend to focus more time and energy on the tasks they excel at while paying less attention to other, equally important aspects of selling.
To be a master salesperson, you must master the entire process! Let’s take a look at the seven steps of the Sales Cycle and see if you can spot one you may be neglecting in your business.
Step 1: Lead Generation
Also called prospecting, this step is where you gather leads to fill your sales funnel, which in turn leads to your sales pipeline. While you’ll have more leads at the top of the funnel, as they work their way through the system and you research and qualify each of them, that number will decrease and become your sales pipeline, which is filled with deals you’re actively working to close. In a robust system, you should spend some time gathering new leads, and separate time and effort dedicated to qualifying those leads.
Step 2: Initial Contact
This is your first contact with your prospect and the pivotal moment where you build rapport, determine their personality style and begin to create a buying atmosphere. A buying atmosphere is a space where you’re creating mutual trust, earning respect, and ultimately giving your prospect permission to say no. (You can read more about how to effectively do this in the blog post I wrote about Avoiding the 3 B’s.)
Step 3: Needs Analysis
The most crucial step of the whole sales cycle. It’s where you ask questions to identify the prospect’s pain and the reasons for them needing your product or service in the first place. To get a step-by-step primer on how to set up the sale while identifying their needs, read my blog post on The P.A.I.N. Technique.
Step 4: Presentations & Proposals
After getting to know your prospect and identifying their needs, the next step in the cycle is to deliver your presentation, also known as the pitch. For complex services, this stage will include drafting a proposal that details the scope of work you expect to do for them. When selling straightforward products, the presentation may be a simple walk-through of the product’s features, highlighting how it can fulfill the needs you uncovered in step 3.
Step 5: Negotiate & Handle Objections
By this point in the sales cycle, you’ve already asked good questions and identified what the prospect’s objections could be, and you’ve gotten out ahead of yourself and answered those questions with your proposal. But sometimes they may throw out a new objection or concern. So it’s in this step where you might be revisiting questions as well as negotiating on things like price or terms.
Step 6: Close
The moment of truth! This is where you ask the prospective client for their business. It may sometimes lead to backtracking to Step 5 to further negotiate or address concerns. But when all’s said and done, this is where you land the business.
Step 7: Follow Up
Your job isn’t over just because you closed the sale. This final step is ongoing, as you’ll need to continue to develop the relationship so that you keep the client happy and on board. It’s also a vital step in regards to asking for testimonials and referrals—a key element, and one that starts the cycle over again with someone new. Effectively following up is also key to long-term customer satisfaction and repeat business.
Master the Entire Sales Cycle
So there you have it. No matter what you’re selling, sticking to this cycle will ensure that you’re providing prospective clients with top-notch service and, ultimately, closing more deals. Even the most seasoned sales professionals will find that they are leaving business on the table when they neglect any one of these key aspects. Which steps in the sales cycle are you best at? What steps could you improve on?
Until next time – go sell some stuff!