How To Define Your Sales Cycle

sales cycleYou know your company has a sales cycle. A lead comes in, sales activity happens and you work towards closure of some kind at the end. Hopefully the kind that makes you money. But, do you have clear definitions for each part of your cycle to make sure you sell more? Can you take one look at your leads, immediately identify which stage they’re at and what needs to be done to move them through your sales funnel?

A good salesperson is always adding new prospects into a properly defined sales cycle. The great salespeople are constantly moving leads through, making sure there’s no friction at any one point. Even if you don’t use a CRM, a sales manager with a regularly updated Excel spreadsheet provides mission-critical metrics because it lets you know exactly where leads are in the individual stages.

In the 1990s, in the days when ACT was the biggest CRM software for desktop computers, the company had 13 clearly defined stages of the cycle. For most businesses, this would be too many but, for some, more may be needed. It all depends on the complexity of your cycles, how many departments are involved and other factors.

By the end of this post, you’ll have at least a solid start on how to define your own cycle to improve your sales process, your lead throughput and make more money.

1. The Introduction

The introduction stage is the first step. The act of introducing yourself, your business and your product or service is obvious. Above that, there are two main goals for this stage.

a) Define a need

b) Book a meeting

These goals are intertwined. If you define a need, you’ll find it easier to book a meeting and booking meeting will make it easier to more clearly define need. Either way, do your best at the beginning stage to achieve these goals and push things to the next step.

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2. Define The Need and Present

Once you’ve booked a meeting, the presentation step in the cycle comes next. This is your chance to stir up that pain experienced by a prospect by their current lack of your product or service. It’s the time for you to sow the seeds of thought, use those roleplays you’ve been practicing so religiously and lay down the foundation for future negotiation. It’s where you work your magic as the salesperson.

3. Send Proposal

After you’ve suitably impressed your client, it’s time to send out their customized proposal. Tracking how many proposals you’ve sent each month is a critical metric to be familiar with in your sales cycle. Any good salesperson is always incredibly busy and it can be easy to forget send out an e-mail. This is one you do not want to forget.

4. Handle Objections

The objection handling phase comes next. This is an important stage to be defined in the sales cycle because it allows the possibility for creative input from other members of the team. If an account is flagged up as stuck in objection handling, a sales manager will likely have some invaluable experience and potential solutions that could help things move the sale onto the next stage in the cycle.

5. The Close

Yes that’s right. The close is far from the last step in your cyclical route to sales success. Remember this one? ABC. Always Be Closing. The close is when you try to get the agreement to see if you’ve handled objections appropriately. Anything that happens after that is a different stage. For example…

6. Negotiation

Negotiation is what happens after the close. This could also be seen as further objection handling, especially if you’re being faced with a price objection. If you asked the prospect to sign on the dotted line, some interest must have been shown so it’s just down to those last few hurdles. Tracking which sales in your funnel are in the negotiation phase is essential if you want to close as much business as possible.

7. Complete Paperwork

We’ve all been in the dreadful situation where a prospect agrees to buy your product or service, but it later transpires the company won’t give the go-ahead. The paperwork stage can be nail-biting, but keeping on top of communication can mean the difference between evading those painful circumstances.

8. Fulfillment

Once a sale has been agreed and the paperwork is filed, the order must be fulfilled. The sales contract could potentially become null and void if the order is not fulfilled to the agreed standards and so not tracking sales at this stage could cost you dearly. It’s not time to relax just yet.

9. Ask for Referrals

This is both the final and least-discussed step in the sales cycle. Few business set up tracking metrics or strategies to make sure referrals happen. Put these things in place and sit back and watch your business boom. Never fail to ask for a referral, especially as you’ve done so much hard work in doing a great job for your newly satisfied client.