Sometimes referred to as sales pattern or approach, the sales process is a systematic and logical progression through a series of defined steps that are reasonably expected to result in the completion of a sale. The ultimate goal is to secure new business for the company while establishing rapport with the client that may prove useful at some future point in time. While sales processes may vary from one situation to another, just about every model for this type of procedure will include a few basic elements.
The beginning of the process is usually considered to be the sales lead. The basic lead is simply general contact information that the salesperson can use as a basis for investigating the potential for making contact and possibly generating interest in the products and services offered by a business. Leads may be obtained in any number of ways, including the purchase of direct mail and email addresses, organizational listings of businesses and other entities, and even picking up business cards at a convention.
The next step involves the conversion of a lead into a prospect. This is accomplished when two events take place. First, the salesperson determines that the lead is a viable candidate to purchase the products offered. Second, the lead is contacted and expresses an interest in learning more about the goods and services offered. Once interest is established, the salesperson begins to establish rapport with the prospect and looks for ways to increase interest in making a purchase.
Cultivating this interest leads to the third general step in the sales process, which is normally known as identification or orientation. At this point, the salesperson is providing the prospect with specific applications for the products that are sure to result in a cost and/or time savings for the potential customer. Here, the salesperson is learning more about the culture and business model of the prospect and relating those functions to the products for sale in such a way that they become increasingly attractive to the prospect.
The next step has to do with the extension of a formal quote or proposal for the purchase of the products. This can be very complicated in some circumstances, or as simple as preparing a simple one-page document. Often, the prospect determines this part of the process, based on the purchasing procedures that are part of the prospect’s corporate culture. The quote or proposal is often followed with a formal contract that includes all the terms and conditions that apply to the business relationship.
Closing is simply the completion of the business sale. At this juncture, the prospect becomes a customer of the salesperson and has authorized the creation of a vendor/client relationship. The closing includes the placement of the first order along with the acceptance of the quote or proposal, and the official signing of the contract. At this point, the salesperson has completed the sales process and passes the new client off to support personnel who oversee the order fulfillment and also work to keep the customer happy.
While all these elements are found in one form or another in any sales process, there is no one definitive diagram that is used by all salespeople. The exact structure is usually determined by the market sector and industry, the policies and procedures of the vendor company involved, and even to a degree any type of governmental or trade restrictions that may apply. It is also important to note that the process may be completed within a matter of minutes or take months, depending on the circumstances surrounding the sale.