This is an excerpt from my second book, Managing the Sales Process, available on Amazon.com. You can find a series of these excerpts in a dedicated blog category to get a broad overview, post-by-post, of the book (they are listed in reverse order in the category, so start with the oldest).

From Chapter 3 – Doing the Right Things: Is There a Sales Process to Follow?

When I ask salespeople and sales managers about their sales process, the answer is far too often an embarrassingly ugly set of hems and haws with no real answer. Ultimately, it is discovered that there is no real process. Most seem to realize that having a sales process is important, but that doesn’t keep these individuals and organizations from failing to do the work required to develop one.

When there is no sales process, there is no consistent framework within which managers and salespeople can communicate. To help elaborate on this point, let’s describe what I call The Universal Sales Process. This is the same sales process used in Chapter 2 to illustrate the skills needed to effectively navigate the sales process; here now is the actual definition of each step for clarity:

Leads
Some subset of the seven billion-plus people who live on our planet should be the target of your prospecting efforts. These people are your leads. This includes your existing customers when viewed as potential sources of new business.

Prospecting
Prospecting is the act of engaging and then convincing a lead to enter into a dialogue with you about making a sale.

Qualification
Once you are in that dialogue, you should first make sure the person is capable of and likely to buy from you. This is qualification.

Needs Analysis
Once it looks like the prospective client is capable of and likely to buy from you, you need to find out what exactly is needed and what he or she might want or need enough to exchange for some of their money.

Presenting the Solution
Once you understand their needs, you should suggest a way that those needs can be met by some product or service that you or the organization you represent can provide. You also need to let them know the cost of those products or services.

Objections / Negotiations
Once you suggest a solution and a price, you may face some questions or objections, and you may need to negotiate some of the items in the proposal.

Close
If all of that gets done, you will want to secure an agreement to complete the order, contract, proposal, and so forth. This is called “closing the deal,” or more simply, the close.

This sales process model is very simple, basic, general, and clean. This does not mean that it is not complete, important, or useful; it is just simple. I suggest that EVERY sales process follows this model. Many other names exist for these stages, but these are the steps that should be done and, in fact, need to be done for each and every kind of sale to be completed.

Some of the steps in this process can be “automatic” or pre-completed if you will, but none of them can be skipped. This is the path to a successful efficient sale. When it is developed properly and incorporated into the fabric of a sales organization, the work of managing the sales organization becomes structured, measurable, predictable, and efficient.

On the other hand, when there is no agreed-upon sales process, execution of sales by salespeople and the management of sales efforts becomes random, subjective, and unpredictable. This does not mean that a sales organization cannot be successful without a well-developed sales process; it is just less efficient, less predictable, and harder to manage.

There are good, motivated salespeople who find a way to get their sales done with or without structure and guidance from sales management. There are sales managers who take a personalized, non-standard approach to each salesperson and work to support them effectively. Just not always efficiently. Let’s explore how the development of the sales process into the sales organization can help make a sales organization more effective, efficient and manageable, regardless of the state of affairs at the point of departure.

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Authors note (AKA shameless plugs)

So, this 7-step sales process and associated topics…. Yup, I write about that a lot. I’ve been working with it since I developed it about 25 years ago – in my own diverse work experiences, with my teams when I had them, and with clients ever since.

If you would like to develop you own personalized and customized, highly effective and efficient B2B selling system, here are some further steps you can take:

The Salesman’s Guide to Dating is a free or very cheap (depending on Amazon) Kindle book that walks you through the sales process using the familiar analogy of dating. It’s a good, fun and quick way to get your mind around the whole process and how the pieces fit together.

Building Your Sales Process (BYSP) is a free and very thorough exploration of the same 7-step process that will walk you through the development of your own customized, personal B2B selling system. When you are done, you will know exactly what to do to get new business.

The Momentum Selling System® is an inexpensive but very robust online sales training course that is similar to BYSP, but goes deeper into the concepts behind each of the steps, and also helps you develop a plan not only for the 7-step process but also addresses mindset, repeat business and client base management.

If none of that sounds right, I do personal coaching and offer a free 30-minute intake session so that we can both learn if it makes sense to work together 1-on-1. If this sounds interesting, click over to the coaching page on this site and sign up for the free session.

Here’s to your success!

-David