Back in October 2009 I wrote a blog post called what is the most important step in the sales process . The answer I gave then is still true – the most important step in the sales process is the NEXT step, and a well-defined and executed sales process is useful by giving you a map to follow as you work through each sales opportunity, step-by-step; sequentially; in the right order.
Based on questions I see posted in LinkedIn Groups, and in some of the feedback I am getting on my book, Mastering Your Sales Process, it seems that the message has not yet been fully received. So let me try another perspective here.
Let’s pretend that instead of the sales process, we are talking about the manufacturing process of, say, a car. Does the “which is the most important step” question make sense here? Well, it depends. Do you want the process to produce a car that is fully built, or are there some steps you can leave out?
Can you leave out the step where you bolt the engine into the car? Can you leave out the step where you paint the car, or put on the steering wheel? Not if your goal is to make a COMPLETE car. You’ve got to follow ALL of the steps to do that.
And what about my idea that the NEXT step is the most important – implying that you need to complete a specific step before taking the next?
Well, with the car, you probably want to finish building it before you paint it, right? You probably want to put the seats in before you finish the exterior. I’m not a car building expert, but you get the idea – right? There is a correct order to go through in this process, and completing some steps before moving on to others makes some of the early stuff easier than if you left it until later, and makes finishing easier too.
So which step in the sales process is the most important step and how can we justify that relative to the importance of the other steps? Let’s look at them one-by-one:
Leads are people from whom you can request a conversation about sales. If you don’t have any leads, you have no-one to talk to. Pretty hard to make a sale in this case. OK – so this is important!
Prospecting is when you ask a lead for a meeting, or a chance to talk about making a sale. If you don’t set up a sales conversation, it is pretty hard to have one. So this is important.
In spite of the fact that many (poor) salespeople skip this one, you need to qualify your prospect to avoid unpleasant surprises at the end, like finding out that they don’t have money, are not the decision maker, or don’t have any real problems that you can help them to solve. So this one is only important if you want to win the sale. Otherwise, feel free to skip it and spend a bunch of time on the other steps in the process before you eventually lose the deal because you failed to qualify – your choice!
If you have a solution that is self-explanatory, and customers knock on your door and say “hey – I know all about your stuff, please sell me some” then you don’t need to do a needs analysis (and your company probably doesn’t need sales people either). Otherwise, you will need to find out how your product or service can help your prospect, so that you can present it to them in a way that it makes sense for them to buy it, relative to whatever need they need to solve or satisfy. So in most cases, this too is a pretty important, unskippable step.
It may be as simple as a price tag, but you need to let your prospect know what you are selling, and what it will cost. I have yet to meet someone who will buy something without knowing what it is and what it costs – so this is an important step too.
You can skip the objections step if you like. If your client has an objection and you ignore it, they won’t buy from you. So go ahead and ignore it – unless you want to actually make the sale – in which case this too is important.
If this is simply the agreement to move forward, then moving forward isn’t complete without it. Here again, important.
So what can we cut out? What is most important? Clearly, these are just the wrong questions! In the analysis above, qualification, needs analysis and answering objections only seem important if we want to win the sale, but I think that is the goal, don’t you? So they are all important. And that is the point.
The reality is that you need all of the steps in the sales process, and no one step has importance in and of itself. The process makes sense because all of the steps are needed, in sequence, properly executed in order to get the right result. None is important alone, because alone, none can get the job done.
Following the process gets the job done. If the desired goal is making a sale, then the sales process needs to be followed, Each step. Humbly working with all of the others in a coordinated sequence. Perhaps it makes you sad that there is no step that gets the glory of being most important, but that was never the goal. Making sales is the goal. So take the all of the steps, take them well, and get where it is that you want to go.
To a sale.
About the Author: David Masover is a private practice sales consultant, an Amazon Kindle best selling author of books on sales and sales management and is one of the co-founders of Branders.com, the world’s largest online seller of promotional products, Masover is currently engaged in private sales consulting, blogging and writing.
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