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The Sales Buzz Issue 151 -Sales Process Stages – An important skill
February 13, 2012

Following on from last week’s Sales Buzz free newsletter we look at mistakes made by sales people trying to sell to us and how we can learn from them.

This week see how a CRM software company lost any chance of selling to a team of buyers because they didn’t use sales stages or a selling process. When you see real examples like this you picture how you can improve the way you sell to your prospects and customers...

Sales Process Stages – An Important Skill

I often use real examples to give impact to my sales training, both online and when presenting to groups.

This real example shows how a large company with a good product made a common mistake that completely messed up their sales presentation and lost them the business.

As you read it consider if you have seen others do the same, do your sales people make the same mistake, and can you learn from it.

Picture the scene:

The buyers are a team of field sales manage.

The sellers are two very knowledgeable technical sales people from a Customer Relations Software provider.

This is their first meeting, the only previous contact was a few telephone calls.

A Good Start and well prepared

The meeting gets off to a good start.

The sellers show they have prepared and using Power Point they tell the buyers what they know about the company and how they can help them to increase sales activity with their Customer Relations Management software.

The sellers have an understanding about the services and products that the buyer’s company offers and where they are not sure, or want to clarify details, they ask the buyers to confirm or give them information.

The constant stopping to discuss whether some features will be a benefit gets a little irritating as it holds up the sales presentation. But this first sales stage has gone well and covered the wider picture of the company with some confident presenting of general benefits that their product could give.

Now it’s time to move on to a more detailed presentation of how the CRM system will benefit the field sales managers on a daily basis.

Presenting the Detail and the Benefits

As they move into the finer points of what a tailored CRM system could do for the sales managers on the buying team the presenters start to stumble.

A slide showing a feature relating to selling to existing customers is questioned by the sales managers.

The sales teams that will use the CRM system will only be targeting new business not cross sales or re-sales to existing clients.

The presenters apologise and another discussion takes place on the target market of the field sales teams.

Another feature is presented that will not be a benefit.

This time it’s related to the recording of sales activity and again a discussion takes place while the sellers try to discover the needs of the buyers.

The pattern continues with more stops and discussions on needs.

What started out as the presentation stage of the sales process has now stepped back to the Questioning Sales Stage.

It’s clear that the presenters have assumed they know the buyer’s needs and have put together a presentation, and now they are seeing that they have made a mistake.

Instead of admitting their error and using the rest of the meeting to discover the buyer’s real needs, they pick up bits of information and then try to present benefits that their software could provide to meet those needs.

The whole thing becomes a tangled mess as they bounce from the Questioning stage to Presenting features and benefits and back again.

After the meeting the sales managers are not sure if this was a fact finding meeting or a sales presentation. The meeting had no structure, no process, no path to follow, and not surprisingly no sale.

Use Sales Stages – They Work

The above example is a clear picture of what can happen if you don’t use sales stages correctly.

The CRM sellers were technically very competent, but their sales skills let them down. If they knew how to use sales stages they would only have presented their proposal after they had discovered all the buyer’s needs, possibly over two or more meetings.

Instead they tried to combine questions and fact finding with presenting features and benefits, and it simply doesn’t work. It comes across as confusing and amateur. When your sale requires meetings with the buyer make sure you set an agenda for each meeting. Agree with the buyer what the purpose of each meeting will be and set yourself an objective.

If you need information from the buyer before you can write a sales proposal then arrange a fact finding visit.

In all the meetings I had with CRM providers not one of them asked if they could go out with a sales person for the day to see the job first hand.

When you get to the presentation stage agree the purpose with the buyer. And also agree the decision making process once you have presented your proposal.

Very few sales meetings are as bad as the example above, but many sales people do meet with buyers for a meeting and have no real goal or agenda.

Often I will see a great sales presentation given before the buying process has been discussed. When a decision is asked for the buyer then gives reasons why it can’t be made at this time.

The sales process, the stages of a sale, are important to give structure to any sale, whether it’s a large contract with a formal tender and presentation process or a low value retail sale.

Even if you already understand how to use the sales process to your advantage it’s a great idea to remind yourself and click for improvements. If you’re new to sales every experienced professional seller will tell you that it’s one of the most important sales skills that you can learn.

See more free sales training that will help you to achieve your goals at The Sales Process

I'm Stephen Craine from the website

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