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Designing Your Sales Process

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The more I shop around the more I realize how rare it is to run into the sales professional that truly understands their sales process. I was reminded of this the other day while shopping for a bed. My wife and I went into a store and did what you thought you would do when you buy a bed: we walked around the store and flopped down on different mattresses looking for that one that would jump out and say "buy me!"

The sales person tried to help giving us some details on springs, coils, foam and pricing but we were really left up to our own devices to narrow down the 50+ beds they had and make a decision. Eventually we did and after the 2nd restless sleep realized that we had made a terrible mistake. Luckily they have a policy that lets you exchange the bed within 60 days of purchase so I stopped by a sister store of the franchise to find out if a couple of the other beds we were considering were still on sale or not. I didn't have a lot of time and just wanted some pricing information. I thought given the previous sales experience (being left on our own) that this would be as easy as walking in, picking the sales person clean for information and leaving. Boy was I wrong.

I knew it from the moment I walked in that this experience would be different. I was greeted within 30 seconds of walking in the store by a warm smile, a hand shake and a "welcome to the store". I was immediately asked if I had been in before, how long I had been shopping for a bed and whether I had had a "fitting" or not. I said, "a what!?" "A fitting" the guy said. He went on to explain that there were over 50 different mattresses to choose from and how even though they all looked the same there really were a lot of differences. In order to get the best one for me he said he'd ask me a few questions and based on my answers narrow down my selection to 4 mattresses that I could choose from based on feel. That way he said, we can save you a lot of time and you'll know you are getting the best bed for you and your specific budget. Wow – where was that guy the first time!

It struck me again how sales and service really do go hand in hand. In the first store I controlled the sales process and made a mistake. The sales person probably thought he was doing us a favor by letting us go from bed to bed asking questions when we had them and basically letting us decide what was best for us. I'm sure he thought he was "soft selling" and not being pushy. The problem is we are not experts in his product – HE IS! He could have been a lot more helpful to us had he led the sales process using his experience to ask good questions that lead us into the best product for us.

In the second store I was pulled off my game of just quickly trying to get some pricing information. Through a series of questions that got me focused on product I smoothly and painlessly forgot about price for a while and started to get involved in a logical process that I believed was best for me; one that would ultimately see me get what I really wanted which was a good nights sleep!

There are some simple things to keep in mind when designing your sales process to lead the client to buying decision and not just react to whatever they throw at you. Here are some basic principals that were used to establish control in the sales process:

Have a Plan
He had a plan as to how he would lead me to the best bed for me. He was experienced, he had gone through this process many times before, knew the best questions to ask, and knew that his odds of selling were the greatest when he lead the process as opposed to letting me wander around hoping I'd "land" on something.

What's your plan? Do you have one? Do you have the best questions lined up in a logical sequence that leads the client into product discussions? Is it practiced and reviewed regularly? Are you, your peers, and your coach constantly looking for ways to improve the process or is it just left up to everyone to say whatever they feel like?

Start with a Strong Greeting
He didn't let me wander around the store and didn't worry about me feeling jumped all over. Never underestimate the power of a strong greeting. It sets the tone for the rest of your sales process and lets your client know they are dealing with a professional. Remember, your client is there for a reason: they have a need, the timing is right, your reputation is acceptable to them, and they may not be happy with where they are currently banking. Start the process off like you intend to do business with them.

Take Control
He took control by immediately asking questions that got me off of my objective (finding out what sort of deals they had) and on to his plan of trying to see how he could help me get a mattress. Don't start your process by being reactive and just answering any old question your client gives you. Answer them and then ask your own question to keep it focused on what you and they really want – the best product for them.

Educate Them on the Process
There is value to the client in a good sales process. Educate them as to how the process will work. He asked me if I had done a fitting and then went on to describe how he would help make sense out of the entire inventory he had and ultimately make my life easier by helping me get a bed.

Is there more to buying an investment then just the rate? Sure there is. "Mr. Client, I'd love the chance to sit down with you and find out a bit more about your overall investment goals to make sure I make the best recommendation for you and to get you the very best return I can for your situation. Why don't you have a seat – I'll ask you a few questions and we'll narrow down your options for you – sound good?"

Be Willing to Walk Away
I was in a hurry and didn't have time to do the "fitting". I ended up making some excuse and leaving without the pricing information I came in for. What was interesting is that he made a strong case for coming back in and going though the process but wasn't going to change the process because I didn't have enough time. I'm sure many mattress sales people try to quickly load up the customer with a bunch of brochures and pricing information with the hopes of them coming back when they have more time. He wouldn't because he knows the odds of me buying from him without going through the full process is slim so he wasn't afraid to let me walk.

How many would be willing to do the same thing? Can someone make an educated buying decision on all your various products with just rate information? No they can't so what value are we to them by just giving out rates? Besides, you have to ask yourself how serious someone is if they are not willing to sit down and invest a little time into a discussion about their situation.

Having a solid sales process that focuses on client needs and wants and helps them narrow down their choices won't get you every sale. What it will guarantee you is more sales than if you don't have a process, or if your process isn't practiced, rehearsed and professional.

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Copyright © 2008 by Fusion Performance Group Inc.
Copyright © 2012 by Fusion Performance Group Inc. If you share this, print it out, or reproduce it in any way, please retain this copyright statement.