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The sales cycle and the art of bringing in a sale

The sales cycle and the art of bringing in a sale

  • Section : Being convincing
  • Publication date : 10/29/14
  • Author : Olivier Piscart
  • Comments : 0



 

After many years in sales management I came to the conclusion that the salespeople that obtained the best results all had one thing in common – a complete command of the sales cycle.

 

They were masters in the art of taking their clients from the point of realising their needs to the signing of the contract without ever losing control of the balance of power or rhythm of the sale.

 

The sales cycle can seem like the planning of a sale. It consists of a succession of crucial stages to identify and understand the needs of the client and convince him/her that we have the adequate response to his/her needs.

 

I’ve also come to notice that clients are generally reassured by a clear sales cycle, led by the seller. In presenting to the client the different stages of the sale, everyone knows what it is they have to do.

 

Depending on the products, sizes of the businesses, the length and the rhythm of the sales cycle vary. Nevertheless it seems to me that the base structure stays the same.

 

Here is an example of the sales cycle that I have followed for many years now and which has proved its effectiveness.

 

We can sum it up in 7 steps and meetings.

 

Step 1: The qualification meeting

Step 2: Presentation of the product or service

Step 3: Dealing with problems

Step 4: Presentation of the pricing

Step 5: Negotiation and finalisation of the contract

Step 6: Project launch and transfer of risk

Step 7: Follow up

 

Here is each step in detail:

 

 

Step 1: The Qualification Meeting

Following some targeted research on your prospect and the initial contact, usually by, phone, comes the first meeting in person. This meeting is key to implementing the sales cycle. It is on leaving this qualification meeting - after analysis of the client’s needs, of the context and decision making process - that we decide on the rhythm of the different stages of the sales cycle. Clearly, it is extremely important to fix the next step at the end of the meeting. You’ll find other articles related to the qualification here on this website.

 

Step 2: Presentation of the product or service

Now that you have clearly identified and understood the needs of your prospect, it’s the moment to present your solution to his/her problems. Obviously, it is always necessary to verify that you have completely understood his/her needs in your first meeting and that these needs haven’t changed following meetings with your competitors, for example. Beware of making your presentation a monologue. There’s nothing worse than long speeches or endless demonstrations. Make sure you always stay focused on your client’s needs. Show them that you have completely understood the challenges facing them and that what you have to offer is exactly what they need. Make your explanations clear and be honest. At the end of this meeting the client may already have made his/her decision.

 

Step 3: Dealing with problems

Be methodical in dealing with each issue that has been raised. This stage of the cycle isn’t always necessary but if you have a complex product or there are people involved in the decision making process apart from those that you have already met then it is an essential step. For example, your product may affect the IT service but the decision may be made by the Marketing Manager. It’s important to meet them all in order to identify eventual obstacles. During this stage you’ll methodically review each issue which has been raised or found. It is, therefore, important for you to show that you are credible and reliable. Do not hesitate to use all resources available from your company to reassure the client (the sales director, director of customer services, pre-sales support).

 

Step 4: Presentation of the pricing

Like each stage in the cycle, this one is crucial. This is one of the last cards you can play. Do not waste it by making it a simple email sent after the first meeting. The presentation of pricing is a skill that needs to be mastered. The client is waiting for your offer from the first meeting. If you give it too quickly you lose the power in the relationship. The client won’t need you… You’ll lose your hand.

 

Some salespeople consider it a waste of time to meet the client only to present the offer. I’ve often heard them say, “but an email is so much quicker, I have more important things to do.”

 

True, but via email you’re not able to explain further nor analyse the client’s reaction. Do not underestimate the complexity of offers. To you, the price you offer is clear but probably not to your client who has to compare yours with those of competitors who no doubt aim to muddy the waters in order to avoid direct comparisons. Furthermore, in a meeting if you see that your client is surprised by your offer you can react to take control of the situation. Perhaps you misjudged and made an offer which was too expensive for him/her. As such you can adapt the offer to match the client’s capabilities.

 

Step 5: Negotiation and finalisation of the contract

You’ve reached the end of the sales cycle. You’ve been waiting for this moment for months perhaps. This final meeting must be the logical consequence of the completion the previous steps. Now, it is about getting the client’s signature. Now we begin a long and rather complicated phase of legal and financial negotiation. But what is sure is that the client has probably already made his/her decision even if he/she tells you that you’re still competing with a competitor.

 

Step 6: Launch of project and risk transfer

I know a lot of good salespeople who ignore this step. It’s true that the client has signed; you’ve made your commission. Nevertheless, in order to establish a long term trusting relationship with the client, this stage is paramount. You have to understand that the client is now in a position of risk. He/she has put his/her trust in you and does not want to be let down. Up until now throughout the sales cycle it was the opposite; you took all the risks while the client could sit back and relax. This is why it is essential for you to show that you’re still there and that you can be counted on, because after all it’s you that he/she trusts. So prepare your next sales meeting with the client to be sure that the relationship begins on a good footing.

 

Step 7: Follow up

The client has signed a few weeks or months ago. All seems to be going well. This is the perfect time to go and see your customer again to show that you care about his/her satisfaction with the product. Take advantage to ask for references. This could be invaluable for finding new clients via recommendation or for convincing new prospects using customer testimonies.

 

Final pieces of advice: Each stage has its raison d’etre. Do not try to shorten the process or to complete more than one stage at once to save time otherwise you’ll jeopardise your chances of making a sale. Beware of becoming too close personally to the prospect or putting excessive pressure on them – this generally will not work.

 

Sales is the art of convincing someone to buy. It is therefore the result of a demonstration and a maturing process of the client. 

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