Wednesday, November 1, 2000

Understanding the sales process

THE FLEXIBLE ENTERPRISE

By David Gewirtz

Selling is an enormously complicated process. Not only are there the issues pertaining to the sale itself, but also there are organizational issues, interpersonal issues, and political issues that accompany every large sales situation. Even so, there is a process, a "science," a set of steps that most selling situations pass through.

A few years before starting ZATZ:Pure Internet Publishing and PalmPower Magazine, I wrote a book called The Flexible Enterprise about how to reinvent your company, unlock your strengths, and prosper in a changing world. In it, I had a section called The Sales Process, in which I summarized the steps one typically goes through to close a sale. While the tools have changed in the last few years, the process of selling hasn't. I want to share those steps with you here and point out some of the applications available for your Palm device that can assist you as you move through the process.

Plan

Make sure you know what you're doing in the selling process. Understand each of the steps involved and plan out your actions for each of the steps. Do your homework.

A great tool to use to help you do this is an application called Project Planner. It's available at http://www.pathcom.com/~carolron/PDA_soft.htm.

Pre-approach

Prior to actually making a sales call (approaching the prospect), make sure you've fully considered how you're going to make the approach. Are you going to cold-call? Do it by phone? Go in person? What are you going to say? How are you going to open up discussion? Prepare yourself, but don't memorize a fixed script. You need to be yourself and be comfortable.

Approach

This is the actual call itself, where you open up the discussion to what you're selling. A typical phone approach might be:

Hi! My name is John Harris with the Fontana Company. Bill Donnely of Heavy Industries gave me your name. I understand you're in the market for some high-performance, low-cost industrial processors.

Notice the use of the lead (Bill Donnely of Heavy Industries). This is a classic case of the value of maintaining a good relationship with your customers.

For the pre-approach and approach steps, you'll probably find an application like Call Tracker very useful. You can find it at http://www.standalone.com/palmos/call_tracker/. You might also want to try Iambic's Sales Warrior at http://www.iambic.com/pilot/saleswarrior/default.htm.

Build rapport

It's said that first impressions take only seconds. Likewise, you've only got one to three minutes to build a degree of rapport with your prospect. Obviously, you're not going to mutually decide to be friends for life. But those first few minutes will be when your prospect decides whether to listen to what you've got to say or to chase you out of his office.