What is the Sales Process?
A Sales Process is a set of structured , repeated activities that a Sales person does in order to take a prospective customer from the initial stage of awareness to the final purchase.
As per the Objective Management Group, a whopping 68% of all salespeople do not follow a sales process at all!
A study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) showed that businesses with a standardized sales process see up to a 28% increase in revenue as compared to those that do not.
In another research, HBR reveals that 50% of high-performing sales organizations admit having “closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated” sales processes.
48% of under-performing organizations have non-existent or informal sales processes.
The three main sales parameters revenue, performance and forecasting accuracy – tend to go significantly up when a company adopts a standardized sales process.
Despite the obvious advantages of following a structured Sales process , nearly 70 % of Salespersons do not follow a sales process at all due to several factors like inertia, dislike of being “boxed into” formal, structured process and feeling that what has worked in the past will work in the future too.
How do we get around this and convince the Sales team that following a structured Sales process will enable them to achieve consistent results and superior performance?
The answer lies in convincing the Sales team that a structured sales process will help in addressing the top challenges that they face.
A typical Sales process follows the sequence below:
· Objection handling
· Nurturing and Follow up
Figure 1- Sales Process and Top Challenges
At each stage of the Sales process , the sales person faces some challenges which impact the sales cycle and conversions as outlined above.
How an individual and organization deal with these challenges is what differentiates the “best” from the “rest”.
To put things in perspective, let us outline the challenges faced by a salesperson in a B2C service like opening a Fixed deposit in a Bank.
Stage 1- Prospecting or Lead Generation
There are 5 ways of getting leads :
Contact centre/Inside Sales
Social media and website
To make it simple, let us assume the lead has come from the contact centre which has been calling mobile phone users with billings above a certain threshold.
How do we get qualified leads ?
Basic contact details of the prospect, preferred time and mode of contact must be collected by the contact centre agent. A clear script with details to be collected by the CC agent will help in filtering and qualifying leads before they are assigned to the salesperson.
BANT must be clear – Budget (amount to be invested), authority (who is the decision maker), need (objective of the investment – high returns, low risk, safe investment,portfolio diversification) and timeline must be clear to qualify the lead.
The lead becomes disqualified if the timeline is not clear, budget and authority are uncertain or have dependencies on other variables.
If the amount and timeline are unclear due to dependency on some other variable (eg.sale of a property/inheritance) or the decision maker is the someone other than the recipient of the call, the lead requires to be nurtured for it to reach the closure stage.
Stage 2 and 3 – Preparation and Approach
In these stages, the sales person makes a call to the prospect to fix an appointment . Most sales persons do not have a standard script for this call and hence fail to collect all relevant information including whether the customer has all KYC documents ready for account opening and mode of transfer of funds for the Fixed deposit.
The prospect would have collected information from friends/websites about interest rates being offered by competing banks and would like to understand the differentiators of your bank before going ahead. Hence, a comparative table of competition rates would help in faster closure.
In short, the 5 K’s which are the pillars of preparation are :
Know yourself – what are my strengths and how can I leverage them to come across as an honest, credible ally of the prospect
Know you Bank- Differentiators, strengths, history , track record, financial standing
Know your Market- competitive landscape and offerings
Know your product- interest rates, documentation, onboarding channel, timelines for account opening, mode of communication to the customer on successful onboarding
KYC- know your customer which includes not only the identity and signature documents, but also the BANT.
Standard scripts, presentations , e mail templates and collateral help in simplifying and reducing time spent on the preparation stage.
Stage 4 – Presentation
The battle is half won if the preparation is thorough and detailed.
The big challenge here that the inability to correctly address the customer requirement. Failing to ask the relevant questions during the preparation stage may result in delays and multiple visits before conversion takes place. For example, the prospect may require a Fixed deposit in the name of his grand children which the Sales person may not have discovered during the earlier interaction. If some documents for the minor’s (grandchild’s)account are missing or the legal guardian is not available in the appointment slot, time, cost and efforts required for conversion go up significantly.
Understanding the requirement and tailoring your presentation to provide the best solution is what drives success at this stage.
Stage 5 – Objection handling
Objections indicate the prospect is interested and will take positive action if provided with compelling reasons to buy.
Unfortunately, many sales persons are either lack the knowledge or confidence to deal with objections in an empathetic, no confrontational manner.
FAQ’s, market and competition intelligence, mock calls and demo calls with a seasoned Manager would provide more confidence to the salesperson at this stage.
A ready reckoner of top 20 objections and responses would facilitate prompt response by the sales person. Stage 6 – Closing
Finally, it is time to onboard the customer and convert the prospect.(collect the funds for the Fixed deposit). However, the prospect may prevaricate because they are not 100 % convinced that they are getting the best “ deal” and may want to still shop around for better rates.
At this stage, demonstrating clear value through
- interest and yield calculators
- higher safety due to excellent credit ratings
- customer testimonials confirming service levels and reliability
would help propel the prospect towards the purchase decision faster.
Stage 7 – Nurturing and follow up
Studies have found that a 5% increase in customer retention increases profits up to 125%
Here are some ways that you can nurture your customer relationship to build trust and turn them into lifelong fans.
Sharing product updates, interesting industry trends, regulatory changes affecting the industry and implications, new investment options, asking for feedback and suggestions are good ways to remain connected with the customer.
Designing and disseminating standard templates and automated e mails for customer communication should be a key deliverable of the marketing team.
Setting a clear timetable for communicating with the customer and building this into the CRM ensures that the sales person gets alerts /reminders to connect with the customer.
Great things are done by a series of small things done together."
– Vincent van Gogh