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Operate a 'Sales Process'

for Consistent Profits

Major direct-sales companies always have a very clearly defined sales process because using it makes a great deal of money. I know because I've worked for several of them.

The men and women who make up the sales force are given clear instructions on what they have to do. If they carry out what they have been taught, both they and the company make a lot of money. The systems are reliable; they have been developed and refined, usually over many years.

Each phase of the operation is defined and measured. Then daily / weekly / monthly, the numbers are examined and any anomalies dealt with.

There is a commission 'override' structure, meaning that each level of the company's management hierarchy, is paid a certain percentage of the sales volume according to their degree of responsibility. The effect of this is that from salesperson, through district manager, regional manager and national manager there is an ongoing bonus system resulting from each and every sale.

This disciplined organization contrasts strongly with the way many small businessmen handle the sales part of the job. Here, the usual method of task prioritisation might be described as 'tyranny of the urgent', sometimes called fire fighting. In this model, there is little structure, sales are not predictable, the volume of orders varies for no obvious reason.

In your business, do you know what causes sales inquiries to come in? Is there a repeatable process to achieve this?

Elements of a structured sales process:

First there is the stage which brings the companies' products to the attention of its market. A sales-led business knows exactly what it has to do to generate inquiries and then turn them into orders.

Typically in the sort of company I was referring to above, the company spends little of its own money on this. Instead it shows the sales people how they can generate prospects and customers themselves.

Since the company is saving money on lead generation and marketing costs, it can pay large commissions. This has a powerful effect, because it induces  high motivation in the sales people. This is a main reason why such companies achieve strong sales results.

The methods used to generate prospects are, cold calling, leaflet drops, direct mail, small ads in newspapers and referrals, from existing customers. These methods are effective and relatively cheap.

Another important part of the sales process is the presentation. This is taught by an experienced manager and practiced by the salespeople until they perform it with skill. So is the pitch, the words, which are used in the presentation. They are carefully learned along with closing techniques and ways to deal with any objections the customer has.

Competent sales management is necessary. Usually the people with this position have a very strong sales record and a no-nonsense attitude. They are under pressure to maintain and grow sales figures, because their pay is structured with incentives for good performance and penalties if the numbers drop.

Overall what you can say about using a sales process is that it is a professional, almost automated, way of making money. Many of the vagaries of business have been eliminated by using a systematic approach.

With a clearly identified sales process you have more control. The measurement of sales activity quickly shows which cause leads to what effect, making possible appropriate adjustments as necessary.

A structured sales process makes success far more likely than the boss simply urging the sales staff to 'Try harder'.

The characteristics of sales-led businesses:

  • Their highest priority is obtaining orders.

  • They have a clear idea of who their customers are.

  • They know what their customers' reasons are for buying from them.

  • They operate a sales process.

Stages of the Sales Process

  • Selecting the target market.

  • Identifying a pool of prospects.

  • Communicating a sales message to those people.

  • Setting up meetings with good leads.

  • Progressing these to completed sales.

  • Maintaining contact with customers to be certain of customer
    satisfaction.

  • Obtaining additional business and referrals from these customers.

  • Feeding back information to their own companies to make
    improvements possible.

  • Measuring sales activity so that problems can be identified and
    corrected early.

I'm not suggesting that you should transform your business to exactly this model. But there are many learning points you can take from it if your motivation is to make a lot of money.

If you enjoyed this article, take a look at my book.

The Selling for Engineers manual

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