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I sit and stare at a list of about 100 names, many gathered over the year from short introductions, others from networks, and a few from referrals.

 

I contemplate why I haven’t closed all of these connections.  Most were very clear sales, yet alas, I may have only sold to a handful.

 

I can hear all the sales gurus reverberating around in my head at once and I realise that they are all telling me the same thing, so I listen closely to the nitter natter.

 

Pay attention to your sales cycle!

 

Of course!

 

Silly me!  The sales cycle!

 

“What?!” I hear you screaming at me.  “What sales cycle?  People buy when they want to buy. I have no control over this.”

 

Now, all the sales gurus have fallen down and are clutching their necks, gasping for that proverbial air that you have just cut short.

 

The sales cycle is the one way to gauge just how you should be approaching people, and it differs from industry to industry, service to service, product to product, and organisation to organisation.

 

Working out just what your niche sales cycle looks like, and then following the predictable pattern is what will turn those 100 names from just pretty letters on a page, to real sales.

 

As mentioned, a sales cycle will look different for each, but there are some common elements which can help you in creating your own sales cycle.

 

  1. Prospecting

That list is pretty much the start of this step, however the list is only as good as how much you understand each person on that list.  Not all will buy from you, and it is in the research that you endeavour to do on each name that will result in whether you stare aimlessly at that list or actively mine it with purpose.  Then, once you have determined whether there is a possible sale in that person or company, work out how to approach them.

  1. Initiate Contact

There are various ways to approach people and companies.  If the name you received was a referral, speak to the referee and gather intel as to what would be the best first contact.  Some people respond better to a phone call.  Others prefer an email.  Know more about that contact before jumping in with both guns blazing.

 

  1. Identify Needs

This takes us to what you will talk about when you do make that initial contact whether it be a call, an email or a message (the latter isn’t recommended as a first contact, unless you cannot reach them on the former options).  Generally, an informative approach is best.  Give them something to think about and if you have done your homework properly before, you will have an inkling of what it is they may need from you.  Find an issue or problem that this person or their business may most likely come across.  You need to be the solution.  Once you have identified a need, make sure you have the right answers for the many questions that will surely follow.

 

  1. Present your solution

Note that I didn’t say ‘offer’.  You need to be the solution and believe me, everyone has something that needs solving.  Be so prepared that your solution looks like it was tailor-made for them.  There is nothing more appealing and impressive than someone presenting a solution to 1) a problem you weren’t aware you had, and 2) a solution that fits you or your company to the T.

 

  1. Be prepared for the objections

Just like Will Smith from the iconic movie “In Pursuit of Happiness” sat and fielded answers to all the objections he was thrown, make sure you have a list of possible answers with you.  Even write them down.  The ABC of all sales manuals will tell you to think of all possible objections and have a full-proof answer to each.  Sure, not everyone will convert into a sale but knowing that you were super prepared will make you at least feel better about the entire process.

 

  1. Close the Sale

This is the part where you need to “ASK FOR THE BUSINESS”.  Very often, this is where most sales people get stuck. They have done all that hard work to get to this point and they just don’t ask. I do remember being a fresh, young sales rep and sitting with my manager at a client’s desk. I followed the sales cycle to the dotted i, and when it came to that crunch moment where you just don’t say a word, and the client doesn’t say a word… and you just sit in silence. Well, I sat and he sat… and eventually he pushed the pen and paper away, telling me that he liked my product and thanks for coming in.  Not once did I ask him if he was keen on buying.  My manager just shook his head and asked me, “Why didn’t you ask for the business?”

 

Ask for the business!

 

  1. Follow up

I almost want to say that this is even more important that the previous stage because who wants just one sale, right?  You want repeat sales.  You want retainer type business that yes, keeps you on your toes, but also keeps your doors open.  Follow up after a sale and ensure your client is happy.  If they are not, make a plan to get them happy.  And don’t leave it there either.  Keep a regular follow up routine with all your clients.  You may have finished off the job, all is fine and well, but going back to touch base, check in and just remind them that you are still around is vital to sustainable business.

 

Apply the 80/20 rule here, in that you will always get 80% of your business from 20% of your clients and further to that, you will get 80% of your business from recurring clients.

 

Newsletters, emails, social media posts and regular calls (without being a pain) can just keep those clients in the know about what you do and what you are up to.

 

You will be surprised at how quickly a past client can forget what it is you do and oddly even what they bought from you.  Keep reminding them and you will keep that client for life.  (that is if you gave them good service to begin with)

 

So as you can see, paying attention to your sales cycle is a vital part of keeping your business afloat and more so, keeping your business buzzing and pumping.

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