Five Steps to Improve Your Sales Process

Something in Tom's tone that spring day in 1984 really got my attention. It's a day I will never forget.

Early in my sales career, I had the privilege of being under the leadership of Tom Vanyo, a master salesman, motivator, mentor and friend, who said to me one day in the spring of 1984, "If you don't make a major change today, you will be doing the same thing next week, next month and next year."

Tom had underscored on several occasions the importance of keeping track of my numbers. I typically responded, "What does it matter? I'm already one of your top producers." I made all the excuses: "I'm too busy. It's more paperwork. I don't have time."

Here was the bottom line: Did I really want to know? It was too easy to go home at the end of the day, pat myself on the back and say I had a busy day. But busy doing what?

There was something in Tom's tone that day in 1984 that really got my attention. It was a day I will never forget.

I went back into my office and started making some major changes to my sales process. I kept track of every dial, contact, appointment, sale and how many times each day I would ask for a referral. The numbers revealed how little I was actually doing each day. I thought I was really productive, but I wasn't. I got faked out by being busy. My paycheck revealed I was one of Tom's top producers, but my daily numbers told the whole truth.

Over the next year, I made several significant changes, and those changes showed in my results. I doubled my income that year and -- what I found interesting -- didn't work more hours. I was simply more productive.

You will never know what's working and what's not unless you keep track.

Are the fundamentals of sales the same today as they were in 1984 or even 100 years ago? My answer is yes! I love what Jim Rohn, the great business philosopher, said many years ago, "There are no new basics and fundamentals." It's so true. The basics of sales have not changed in thousands of years of recorded history.

What has changed is how we connect, educate and engage with our prospects and customers. Years ago, we connected by foot or horseback. Then along came the railroad, then the telegraph and telephone, then the Internet, websites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

Selling is a contact sport. In other words, you have to be in the presence of the prospect or customer, but certain principles always apply, whether the connection is by phone, voicemail, email, face-to-face or even through social media.

Do you have a sales process? If you do, and it is documented and honed, it will serve you as you grow.

Here are the five most important steps in a sales process:

Step 1: What is the purpose of this phone call, email, voicemail or meeting? This step establishes the "why." Sticking to the purpose of a call, meeting or voicemail will keep you on track throughout your presentation.

Step 2: Who is the right person I need to talk with to get the right results? This step identifies the "who" -- it will point you to the decision maker. It is important that you are speaking with the right people.

  • How much time do you waste talking with the wrong people?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where are they located?

Step 3: What is the game plan for this call or meeting? This step establishes the "how" -- preparing for each call or meeting is how you project knowledge, confidence and a professional tone.

  • How often have you found yourself in the middle of a meeting or phone call not prepared?
  • What happens to your confidence?
  • What communication tools are you going to use to connect with your prospect or customer?
  • What days and times during the week are the best times to contact your prospect or customer?
  • What skills have you developed to work though their objections?

Remember this, if you are confident, others will be confident in you.

Step 4: What is the solution for this prospect or customer? This step defines the "what" -- key questions will help you identify their problems, which will allow you to recommend the right products and services. So often a customer is not even aware of his problems or is not sure what he wants. It's important to help prospective customers become aware of the problems they may experience without your product or service. 

Step 5: Have I clearly communicated the next step? This step directs the "where" -- communicating the next step helps guide the prospect or client to make decisions that serve her well.

  • Is the prospect or customer clear about the next steps that will help her solve her problems?
  • How are you going to ask for her business?

Following these five steps will help you develop a simple, repeatable sales methodology that will take the guesswork out of each call you make or meeting you conduct. You'll be prepared for anything you face, even the tough ones.

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