7 Steps of the Selling Process
B2B firms often use sales representatives (sales reps) (collectively referred to as "the Salesforce") to meet face-to-face with new or existing customers in order to sell their products/services. Typically, the process of selling differs on the basis of the customer and the type of product/service being offered by the firm.
However, the general process of selling has been the same across sales situations for centuries. A sales process typically constitutes of 7 key steps (the 2nd and 3rd steps are sometimes combined together to form a 6-step selling process) referred to as the 7 Steps of the (Personal) Selling Process
or the 7 Steps of the Sales Process
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- PROSPECTING (QUALIFICATION): The process of searching for new and potential customers, who have needs which can be fulfilled with the company's products/services, is termed as Prospecting. The salesperson needs to filter the prospects/sales leads depending on their (1) Need for the product/service, (2) Financial ability to make the purchase, and (3) the power/authority to make the purchase decision. This is termed as "Qualifying" the prospects/leads. In this first step, the salesperson usually collects general information about the customer, such as name, address, contact, etc. The customer is usually not yet contacted in this step.
- PREAPPROACH (PREPARATION): This step includes the preparation for approaching the customer by collecting specific information about the customer's needs, familiarizing with the company's products/services, customizing the sales presentation for the customer, etc.
- APPROACH: The salesperson interacts with the potential customer for the first time in this step. The main objective of this step is to gain the attention of the potential customers and to build some level of rapport. This is mainly done via self-introduction, small talks, getting the customer to open up by asking many questions, etc. Here are some typical techniques for approaching the customer:
- Product approach: Giving the prospect a sample or a free trial of the product/service.
- Premium approach: Offering gifts (in the form of samples or giveaways) at the start of the interaction.
- Referral approach: Mentioning a mutual contact, who has referred the salesperson to the prospect, to gain the interest and trust of the prospect.
- Question approach: Asking questions to know about and gain the attention of the prospect.
- Customer-benefit approach: Demonstrating the benefit(s) of the product/service to the prospect. This requires gathering information on the prospect beforehand.
- Consultative approach: Here, the salesperson act like an advisor rather than a salesperson. A very good understanding of the needs of the prospect and the available solutions is required.
- PRESENTATION: This is the step where the salesperson pitches the product/service to the customer. Before this step, the salesperson is expected to be familiar with the needs of the customer, and the features of the company's products/services. The salesperson presents the product to the customer, explains the features and advantages over competitor products, and highlights the benefits of the product/service to the customer. The salesperson may also attempt to up-sell or cross-sell during this step. The main motive of the salesperson, in this step, is to move the product/service from the Awareness stage to the Consideration stage of the customer.
- HANDLING OBJECTIONS: Objections are questions from the customer regarding the product/service or hesitations from making the purchase The salesperson has to listen carefully to the customer and diligently tackle these objections by providing specific information, reiterating the features of the product, assuring the customer about the benefits, comparing with competitor product/services, or giving a live demo. Successfully tackling these sales objections means that the salesperson has succeeded in moving the product/service from the consideration set to the decision stage.
- CLOSING THE SALE: This step involves successfully closing the sale after eliminating any objections. This involves taking the order from the customer, negotiating and agreeing on things like payment and delivery options.
- FOLLOW-UP (AFTER SALES): The selling process doesn't just end with closing the sale. It requires a follow-up with the customers in order to retain them, further increasing customer satisfaction (resolving any post-sales issues), preparing for a future repurchase, and hopefully positive word-of-mouth to other prospective customers.
Dubinsky, A. J. (1981) "A Factor Analytic Study of the Personal Selling Process", Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 1(1), pp. 26-33
Moncrief, W. C., & Marshall, G. W. (2005) "The evolution of the seven steps of selling", Industrial Marketing Management, 34(1), pp. 13–22
CAERT Inc (n.d.) "Using the Six-Step Selling Process", n.d., MyCAERT
Shah, A. (2018), "The Seven Steps of the Personal Selling Process (Infographics!)", 2018, ThugStart
Lucidchart Content Team (n.d.) "7-Step Sales Process: When to Use It and When to Break It", n.d., Lucidchart
Burkinshaw, V. (n.d.), "The 7 Step Selling Process", n.d., Beyond Business Groups
"Powerful selling", n.d., 1(1), pp. 468-476
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