The Sales Process: Stages of Selling and How to Develop Your Process Intelligently

Sales are the lifeblood of any small business, and knowing how to correctly land a sales lead can mean the difference between a flourishing business, a small business that just stays in one place, and one that starts to slide backwards.

All sales are actually completed in stages, and these stages must be cautiously approached so that you are sure to make that final sale.

If you understand these stages then an agreement is virtually guaranteed; the important thing is to see all of the “closes” that may happen just to get to the final sale stage.

In this article, we’ll break down what in common opinion are the nine different stages of selling so you can earn more leads and close more small business sales.

  • Lead stage.

    You think a person or a company may need your services through some source.

    You take the initiative and approach the person to see if there really is something that you can do for them; this approach includes advertising and direct communication.

  • Prospect stage.

    This happens after you confirm the lead. After assessing the interest of the lead and finding that yes, they do have need for the service or product that your small company provides, they become a prospect.

    You agree to have a good discussion on what the prospect’s needs are, and that moves you into stage three.

  • Specifics stage.

    This is your first meeting with the prospect, during which you find out what their specific needs are and they find out the specifics on how you provide it.

    This is normally done on a one on one level; if the individual or company you are pitching to has the final word then it is on to stage five; if not, then it’s stage four.

  • The more specifics stage.

    Larger companies will have several individuals you will need to pitch to before a sale is confirmed.

    Again, you will want to listen carefully to what it is these individuals want and how they want it brought about.

    The close of this stage involves creating a very specific proposal that demonstrates how your small business meets the prospect’s needs.

  • Proposal stage.

    At this stage, you present your solution to the prospect’s query. If you are selling a product, you propose the price.

    If you are negotiating on a service, it is time to lay out that written proposal document.

  • Trial close stage.

    This is the bargaining stage of the sales process, and no, it doesn’t mean “no sale” here. It just means it is time for a refinement of your proposal.

  • The budget stage.

    This is where you find out whether or not the prospect has the funds to cover your proposal. Depending on what you are selling and the sale amount, it could take minutes or months!

    There is really nothing you can do at this stage but hope the sale goes through.

  • The close.

    Every small business owner’s happiest stage, if it works anyway. You make the sale or don’t.

    If you don’t, then go back to stage three and see if you missed anything and try to refine your approach.

  • Retention stage.

    Just because you have the cash in hand or have heard “no” doesn’t mean the sale is over.

    If you were successful, you need to follow up in order to ensure customer satisfaction.

    If you weren’t, then you want to assess what went wrong and try to fix it. You may even start over again once you determine why the deal did not go through.

Dividing the sale into different stages can really help you refine your approach and up your chances for success. No matter how small or large, retail or service, most sales processes will follow these steps.

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