You need customers to generate income. So implementing a tried and tested sales process is critical to franchise growth
I believe there are six primary stages in the sales process. And at each stage you must look for signs of commitment from the customer to advance the sale to the next step in the plan to seal the deal.
Stage one is about managing rapport and building a relationship. Ideally you’re looking for a face-to-face meeting but if the customer is responsive on the telephone then this first stage can work equally well remotely. Just play it by ear.
Open the meeting by setting the agenda and be friendly but not overfamiliar. It’s at this stage the new customer will decide quickly whether you’re somebody they would like to do business with, so ask low risk questions and set out your objectives for the meeting. There are four rules I recommend following – explain the agenda, check they’re happy with it, ask if they have any agenda items of their own and finally determine how much time you have for the meeting. Now you’re in control.
Once you’ve set the ground rules, stage two is all about asking questions. You’ll want to gather information to determine attitudes, issues and needs to enable you to think about how their problems can be solved. Open questions work best and listening is essential. Never interrupt or talk over a customer – it’s irritating and, worse still, you might lose critical information from them in doing so.
Asking questions leads us to the critical third stage of the sales process – identifying needs. Generally, where customers see problems, we see needs and solutions. Every time you hear a problem you have identified a need.
People have their own buying criteria but generally buy on two levels – logically and emotionally. Their logical buying behaviour wants to know if the solution they’re choosing is technically correct, whilst their emotional side is asking for reassurance that their decision is a good one and that they aren’t making a mistake. By asking questions you should be able to determine whether your products or services can solve the customer’s problems and satisfy their needs.
The next step, stage four, is to empathise. Now is the time to show you’ve listened and play back your understanding of what’s been said. For example, you can say: “From what you’ve told me so far, you’re concerned about getting a proof in good time to ensure the job can be done on schedule.” Once the customer knows you understand their problem you can offer help.
Now you can move onto stage five and present the solution by recommending your products and services with something like: “Could we look at ways to make that process more productive?”
However, you still need to gain commitment and establish how serious the client is about moving forward and you need to test their genuine intent to buy. Now is the time for a straightforward question. “If I can offer a solution that totally meets your needs, can we go ahead?” A yes means you know that you’re in a good position to present your products and services, which of course is the position you want to be in.
If they say no then you need to identify what else the customer might need to know or do before a decision can be made.
The sixth and final stage is all about gaining commitment. Be confident and don’t worry about rejections – keep control and stick to the sales process. You may have to make more than one sales visit before the actual sale takes place. But when you have commitment, your final act is to agree an action plan with your customer and it’s now that you should explain what you will deliver. Customers are always more at ease once they understand the process you will be using.
These six stages of the sales process will give you a framework for customer and prospect meetings. But whatever your personality and style, the approach to the process can be adapted to help you successfully negotiate and gain more business.