By Erick Simpson
This is part one of a five-part series. Click here for part two, here for part three, here for part four, and here for part five.
The Origin Of The Sales Process
While the business of selling goods and services has been around for thousands of years, it is important to note the history of the sales process. It is thought the first structured sales process was developed by John Henry Patterson, of National Manufacturing Company (later National Cash Register, or NCR) in Dayton, OH. He applied his philosophy on developing “scientific” methods and procedures that led to great efficiency in manufacturing to other aspects of the business such as sales.
By the late 20th century, Patterson had developed a huge sales force motivated by sales quotas and complete with territories. Patterson organized and created the first sales training event in 1884 and established the first sales training school in 1893. He taught a very simple sales philosophy which is still used to this day and is the underlying framework for the Seven-Step Sales Process:
- Identify the customer’s problems
- Develop a specific value proposition
- Demonstrate how the solution will fit
- Ask for the order
Success With Technology Services And Solutions Is Driven By A Strong Consultative Sales Process
The transformation to a services practice is more heavily dependent on a capable, effective sales process than with other solutions, due to the need to educate your prospects and clients to these new services, solutions and deliverables. By improving your sales acumen, you can accelerate sales velocity and shorten sales cycles for technology services and solutions.
The 7-Step Sales Process For Technology Services And Solutions
You can utilize the Seven-Step Sales Process to effectively sell technology solutions to your prospects and clients. The Seven-Step Sales process is a step-by-step methodology to ensure consistency and predictability in selling a product or service. The seven steps are:
- Overcoming Objections
Each step in the process is equal in its importance to increasing the odds of earning a prospect's business. When the steps are executed out of order or not followed through correctly, the prospect can feel pressured or uncomfortable with making a commitment. For example, a prospect will not buy a product or service (Close) and certainly not continue to buy (Follow-Up) without first knowing how that solution or service will provide value (Objection).
Most objections are simply misunderstandings or a lack of information which may be the result of an improperly conducted customer meeting or demonstration (Presentation). It is very difficult to present value without first understanding and uncovering what pains the customer is facing and whether or not the proposed solution will make sense for them (Qualifying). It is impossible to get answers to some of the tough questions asked during the needs development or qualifying phase of the process without first developing rapport and credibility (Warm-Up). The most successful first impressions/warm-ups are developed from understanding and forecasting what the prospect might need in advance (Preparation).
A successful sales process for technology services and solutions provides the framework for continuous improvement and growth. While simply executing the steps of the sales process will not ensure success, it will allow for more consistent results and the ability to forecast growth and scalability. The Seven-Step Sales Process works more effectively when combined with the consistent practice of sales skills through role-playing each phase of a sales engagement. Sales professionals who practice regularly are more able to navigate a customer from introduction all the way through earning commitment by reducing risk and positioning their value proposition according to prospects’ or clients’ specific needs.
Step 1: Strategic Preparation
Before any successful sales engagement can begin, there are many important pieces of information that can be gathered before any customer interaction takes place. The preparation phase is the first step in the Seven-Step Sales Process and requires a customer-centric mentality. Strategic preparation, when conducted properly, will allow the sales professional to gather the necessary information to conduct a valuable Warm Up (Step 2 of the Seven-Step Sales Process) and instill a sense of professionalism during the first customer appointment and increase the chances of building customer rapport.
There are numerous methodologies in the area of strategic preparation. Keeping prospects’ challenges and issues in mind instead of the solutions the sales professional is interested in selling is the first paradigm shift that needs to occur and is the underlying foundation for successful strategic preparation. This shift in approach and mentality will set the stage for searching for valuable information that can be used to bond with prospects and connect proposed solutions to more specific pain points that they may find valuable.
Examples of the tactical execution of strategic preparation by a sales professional include:
- Entering a prospect’s name and company name into an internet search engine and researching any recent news or social media affiliations. This tactic will allow the sales professional to get a better understanding of what activities or organizations the prospect and their organization may be involved in.
- Researching the prospect company’s website. In the “About us” or “History” section of the website there may be valuable information that could provide clues about the core value system of the company. The website may also provide information on multiple locations and the names of the decision maker(s).
- Researching the prospect’s vertical for any recent news or new or existing regulatory or compliance requirements. The sales professional should also research any specific line of business applications or business processes used by the prospect to determine potential pain points that can be used for discussion to build a perception of competence in understanding the prospect's business. This strategy will open the door for the sales professional to ask more valuable questions later in the Qualifying Phase (Step 3 of the Seven-Step Sales Process).
- Create a repository of the prospect’s potential business challenges (Issues) and at least 10 implications for each of these issues on other areas of their business. This will allow the sales professional to ask deeper questions during the Qualifying Phase of the sales process and escalate the sense of urgency for the prospect to make a buying decision by increasing the number of reasons a prospect would want to move forward with the proposed solution.
Strategic preparation is the first crucial step in creating distinction and differentiation between a salesperson and a sales professional. This step will allow the sales professional to develop a trusted advisor relationship with their prospects and clients. While Strategic Preparation alone will not close a prospect for technology services or any other solutions, it will provide the foundation for and increase the chances of conducting a successful sales engagement.
Next Time: The Sales Warm-Up And Qualifying Your Prospects
About The Author
Co-founder of one of the first Pure Play MSPs in the industry and creator of the MSP Mastered™ Methodology for Managed Services business performance improvement, Erick Simpson is a strategic technology business growth and transformation specialist and one of the most prolific, recognized, and sought-after business improvement and transformation experts, authors, and speakers in the industry. Learn more at www.ericksimpson.com.
Get Erick’s MSP, Cloud and Cybersecurity MRR Pricing Calculator: https://ericksimpson.com/freecalculator.