(1) Image Building (Branding) – People often base their purchasing decisions on company image. Developing a good image is especially important when your product’s benefits are intangible or difficult to measure. When customers don’t have the expertise to critically analyze a variety of products and features to make an informed decision, the company with the best-or most well known-image usually wins. How can a company overcome this? It can be a huge challenge for smaller or emerging businesses or those trying to catch up with competitors.
(2) Creating the Message – Critical to sales success is creating the right messages. Marketing is faced with the challenge of aligning the company’s needs and culture, attributes of the products and their position in the marketplace, and desires and demands of consumers; creating coherent and persuasive sales messages. Developing an effective marketing campaign is an art and consumer input is essential.
(3) Generating Leads and Prospects – Lead generation is an ongoing and demanding process, typically accomplished through advertising, public relations, conventions, trade shows, and word-of-mouth. Filtering and qualifying leads can be an arduous task. Effectiveness is usually measured in dollars per inquiry, per demo, or per sale.
(4) Qualifying – Identifying a prospects’ needs early in the sales cycle is important to avoid wasting time-for both buyer and seller. Qualifying prospects also entails determining whether or not they have the authority and the budget to make a purchase. A prospect not qualified today may be in the future, which makes the process of identifying, tracking and moving prospects closer to a sale very critical.
(5) Making Presentations – The lead generator has delivered the prospect…now the salesperson takes over. Manufacturers have a lot at stake. They must strive to ensure that every buyer is satisfied with their products and that its full value is extracted. A challenge under these current conditions: (a) When an industry is fast moving; (b) When price points are well above the impulse purchase level; (c) When a purchase also requires a commitment of time, attention and energy; and (D) When a purchase of a “wrong” product can cause significant disruption for both buyer and seller. In other words, engaging buyers and aligning their needs with product capabilities is growing more complex. New products, along with new versions, upgrades, etc., are hitting the streets at alarming rates; adding to the confusion.
(6) Answering Objections – Handling objections professionally and pragmatically is critical in consultative selling. The savvy salesperson will actually surface objections and tackle them head on.
(7) Closing the Sale – The defining moment in the entire process. Also known as writing up the order, making a positive buying decision, plunkin’ down the old credit card, proceeding to checkout ….
(8) Customer Service – Service is the key to customer loyalty. Every customer-satisfied or dissatisfied-directly influences an enormous pool of prospects. Remember, your customer service department can be your best source of sales.
(9) Customer Relations/Resale – In many industries, profit structures depend on resale revenue. Upgrades, new versions or replacements, add-on modules and other “enhancements” have given manufacturers an opportunity to recoup initial development costs by selling high-margin products. The cost of obtaining a new customer – versus retaining one – is expensive and chews into profit margins. With this in mind, it’s imperative that you stay in front of your customers through an effective means of communication. What means are effective has become the question of the moment.
(10) Bonus Step! Analyze, assess, refine, repeat. Stick with what works, replace what doesn’t. The world is moving fast. And, as they say, the art of good management is the art of constant course correction.
“Photo credit: Swiss Tourism.”