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The seven steps of selling – understand the sales process and close more deals

March 24, 2015

If you can develop a better understanding of the selling process, you’re more likely to make those all-important sales. And by knowing more about the seven specific steps you need to take before you can close the deal, your sales efforts will be more richly rewarded.

Here’s what you need to know about the seven steps of the sale;

1. Cold calling

Cold calling isn’t easy for anybody, but the more you do it, the better you get at it. It is important to always keep challenging your comfort levels – this will make you a more effective person. Any sales person should always be on the lookout for new prospects, and constantly target one new prospect every day.

Before you begin cold calling, it is imperative that you have all the background information on the business and the person you are going to contact.

Be prepared – do all of the necessary market research about the particular company, find out what products they are currently carrying, etc. You must be tremendously knowledgeable and confident that you are offering solutions to their needs.

Research your targets

By doing the proper market research you are able to understand the marketplace and establish what the client needs and wants. And before you can cold call someone, you first need to establish who the decision-makers actually are and make sure you are calling the right person, otherwise you will be wasting your time.

Make sure you know how to pronounce your contact’s full name, too – taking the time to do this might not seem important at first, but people respond much better to someone who is pronouncing their name correctly. (I know the importance of this all too well: I am Lara, not Laura!)

Respect your prospects’ time

During the cold call you want to be able to build a presence quickly over the phone. Make sure you are organised – have a pen and paper at hand before you begin.

Don’t keep the call going for very long unless the contact wishes to drag it out, and before you even begin, always ask your contact if the timing is convenient or if there is a time when it is more appropriate for you to call them back. You must prove to your contact that you respect their time.

The purpose of the cold call is to set up a meeting time and not always to sell over the phone. The objective is to sell yourself and the company so effectively that you have piqued the contact’s interest so much that they now want to meet you.

By the way, one of the best and most powerful ways of generating sales leads, which should be worked in any business, is the word of mouth recommendation from an existing customer. Incentivise these, grab onto them and treat these warm leads with the utmost respect.

And finally, do remember to smile while you are talking on the phone with someone – it may sound crazy, but you can tell if someone is smiling while they are talking to you by the tone of their voice.

2. Introduction

As always in sales, put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Once you have set a meeting time you must make sure you show up fully prepared.

The purpose of the first meeting is to sell yourself and the company; you are proving to your contact that you are knowledgeable about what you do, and that you can offer solutions to their needs that will save them time and money while enhancing their own customer’s perceived value of the business.

Always show up to the meeting armed with brochures (if relevant) and short – very short, preferably – PowerPoint presentations; people remember 70 per cent of what they see and only 9 per cent of what they hear, so pictures are very important.

Make friends with gate-keepers

Before you begin the meeting you will initially be greeted by the receptionist or secretary. Make friends with these people as they are the gatekeepers for the decision- makers and can make or break you depending on how you treat them.

Incidentally, don’t ever be rude, negative or nasty to anybody, and that includes when you are talking about the competition. The more you treat people with respect, and the more positive you are, reflects your level of professionalism and it will be noticed.

Overcome negatives and turn them to positives

Equally important to remember is that dwelling on disaster does not move you on or get you closer to success. Mistakes simply close avenues and nothing is the end of the world – or not in my experience, and I have worked relentlessly to turn every negative into a positive. Do so and your days will be much brighter: full of potential for improvement.

Make sure that you greet everyone with a firm handshake – I’ve already stressed the importance of a handshake and nothing is worse than receiving a weak one. Also, make sure you look everybody in the eyes – this shows your sincerity and confidence – and always thank everyone for their time.

When you arrive at the contact’s office or boardroom, always make sure you sit down last (to show respect) unless they invite you to sit, and if you are faced with a choice of chairs as in a boardroom – ask where you should sit.

Once you are in the room make utterly sure you have planned the presentation or discussion which you aim to deliver (easier said than done, but without even a five-minute plan you will not be able to work the opportunity for everything you could get).

Listen to your contact and establish their needs

During the first meeting make sure you spend most of your time listening to your contact. This is the only way you can really find out what their needs are.

Make your sales pitch memorably short, competent and factual. State your objectives of the meeting to the contact at the beginning so that you are both on the same wavelength.

Ask lots of questions. Conversely, if the contact asks you a question that you don’t know the answer to, do not lie. Simply tell them the truth and say you will get back to them with the answer. And make sure you do follow up – if you don’t, then how are you going to expect the contact to have faith in you further down the line?

Don’t make claims you can’t fulfill or promises you can’t keep

Similarly, never make a promise you can’t keep. Be honest with people and they will respect it.

At some point during your conversation make sure these words leave your mouth, ‘Is there anything I can do to make your life easier?’

This demonstrates to the contact that you have their best interests at heart and are not simply selling a product or service. And take notes and action plans during the meeting.

When the meeting is over try to arrange another one some time in the future. It is much easier to do this when you are sitting in front of the person than by phone or email a few days later.

Avoid odd, uncomfortable departures; make your farewell sentence intelligent. Later on that day, email the contact your notes from the meeting in a detailed manner so that you can clarify if anything was misunderstood.

Do you score your own performance after a meeting? Are you self-critical about what you achieve? Make scoring yourself a habit and learn from every encounter. I have also learned a lot since I started to ask others with me at meetings for their feedback.

One important note here: even at the end of the first meeting, try to ask for the sale. This can be done in various ways, for example, ‘If I can meet your quality and service needs and meet your budget, will you order from us?

3. Recommendation

Once all the details have been discussed, you can recommend a product or service based on what they have said at the same time, so there are no surprises. Discuss key terms and conditions. This usually takes place during the second meeting.

You may encounter some contacts who want to go through all the steps in the first meeting – it’s not very likely but it does happen – and this is why you should always bring some samples along in case the contact wants to see any products right away (if doing so is relevant to your business).

You will also need to quote them a price. This might not all happen during one meeting – in fact, you may meet with a customer many, many times before you get to this point.

Try and read your contact’s body signals. You can very quickly tell if they are interested or not. If they don’t seem interested, then ask why – and ask what you can do to make them more convinced.

4. Negotiation

Once a product or service has been decided upon, a price can be established and/or negotiated. The negotiation phase can also be quite lengthy but the main areas to keep in mind are:

  • Rarely sell anything that does not make a profit.
  • Never compromise your integrity, the integrity of whatever you are selling, or the integrity of your company.
  • Never negotiate payment terms unless you are utterly certain that your cash flow can afford it.

One useful negotiation tip is this: if the customer is trying to get you to lower your price and you really can’t go any lower, remain silent for as long as possible. This forces them to speak again and usually makes them realise that this is the lowest the price can go.

5. Asking for the order

Always ask for the sale. This can be done at any point but once a product and price has been set, always ask for the order – but expect hurdles for you to overcome.

As already mentioned, this can be done casually in the first meeting. Also, always make sure that you allude to asking for the order in any correspondence with the contact: ‘I look forward to hearing from you soon and taking your order.

6. Contract and/or agreement

All relevant paperwork is to be signed and the order is placed. A forecasting schedule can be included where necessary. It is very important that whatever you promise you can do for the customer, you make sure that people within your company are aware of it.

You need to keep all of the internal players in the loop in order to have everything run smoothly, and you cannot just expect other employees to adjust to meet your demands.

Here is another method that should be priceless to business organisations that compete in a tender system. Find out as soon as you can the methodology and the value that your buyers put on the different sections of any bid you make. Focus on the big, highly valued deliverables and make sure you meet all the measures placed on the tender.

7. Invoice and/or payment – and the rest

The account now needs to be monitored and maintained. Remember that no order is complete until the money is in the bank. This is sales’ responsibility and sales people should not be paid commissions on an order until the business has recouped their costs and been paid, at which point profit should then be proportioned.

The service you provide for the customer doesn’t stop once the payment has been made, either. It is all very well to close a sales deal, but maintaining the level of service stated in the contract is crucial; customer retention is just as important.

And once the original sale is closed, you have the perfect opportunity to begin up-selling the customer more things – for instance, items for the coming year, reordering products, etc.

If I have one skill which has been priceless in pursuit of success it has been my ability to sell. Right now, I cannot think of an entrepreneur I have met who could not sell their product.

I believe I can sell anything, and I believe anyone can learn to sell and also enhance their skills continually by continuing to learn.

5 key sales tips to remember

New skills need to be practised, the most powerful of which for me – keeping quiet, and thus actively listening – has been my biggest challenge. Here, to emphasise how important they are, are five basic sales tips:

  1. Never be embarrassed to take notes.
  2. Summarise actions at the end of a meeting (use the same document internally and externally).
  3. Act according to the promise you have made, and fast – the sooner you deliver on the promise, the sooner you make money. Take the early appointments every time.
  4. Follow-up efficiency wins orders; always think about the next sale development and building long-term relationships.
  5. And don’t be ‘British’. Over and over again, people who are persistent, leave more messages, make more calls and ask more often for the sales, make more money.

Phone skills

And finally, is your answering machine message on your phone everything it can be? Do you always leave a call-back number? Do you always sound confident, bright and cheery despite having the worst of days when you answer the phone? Incidentally, how often do your team hear you selling by phone?

In an open-plan office you can learn from each other. I cannot stress enough the importance of an open base of all communication and how much value this gives.

When calling customers, never, ever ignore an opportunity to leave a solid message. Indeed, when calling any customer take the time to leave an energising, original and entertaining one.

You need not appear to be unprofessional but the originality of a message that amuses will always have a greater chance of getting a positive response.

About the author

This article is extracted from, More balls than most © Lara Morgan, (published by Infinite Ideas). Lara is founder of Company Shortcuts – a consultancy dedicated to excellence in sales and leadership. For tips, checklists and templates to help you grow your business, visit: CompanyShortcuts.com

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