To become successful as entrepreneurs and small business owners, we need to ensure our ideas and businesses survive. If we run out of money, it’s all over red-rover. Our awesome ideas never make it out into the world. We never get to leave our mark. We never get to make that impact we are constantly striving for, to do just something that we give a crap about, that matters.
So how do we ensure our ideas and our business not only survives, but thrives?
We do that of course by making sales. The more the better. The more sales the longer we last, the better chance we have of making it all the way.
It makes sense then that we actively decide to do everything we can to make sure we have a Rock Star sales process in place to keep that engine turning.
So how do we do this? Where do we start? Well it’s actually a lot simpler than you might suspect.
If you want to make the transition from budding entrepreneur to a Rock Star sales machine, you need to start doing a few key things that you are probably not doing right now.
So without further ado, here are the 5 key elements to a Rock Star sales process.
Define Your Sales Process
First things first. You have to get your sales process down on paper. Out of your head.
As entrepreneurs and small business owners, we often find ourselves doing very ad-hoc things when it comes to systems and processes. The very thought of documenting or defining something that you “just do” seems like such waste of time. You might be thinking; “There’s so much to do to become successful, why would this be a good use of my time”?
There’s a saying that goes; “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”
Stop, grab a pen and paper real quick and do this exercise:
First, take a blank sheet of paper. Next write “My Current Sales Process” at the top of the page.
Now, underneath write the very first step that signals someone is in your sales process (EG New Enquiry).
Now think of the very next thing you do with that person and write it down (EG Have a phone call).
Now what’s the very next thing that happens after you have the phone call if that call goes well (EG Have a meeting or Send pricing/quote).
Repeat this process until you have every single step written down, in the correct order. Don’t worry too much about the details yet, just get the basic flow of steps down. You should have a list outlining all the steps someone has to go through from when they first contact you until they are officially your customer.
Here are a few examples of what a simple sales process might look like:
- New enquiry
- Have phone call to get more information
- Send pricing or quote
- Get written go ahead from customer
- Website Enquiry
- Call Lead To Qualify
- Schedule Meeting with Lead
- Have Meeting
- Send Proposal
- Get Proposal Accepted
- Send Contract
- Get Signed Contract Back From Customer
- Phone Call Received
- Booking Confirmed
- Deposit Taken
If you have actually did go and get a pen and paper and do this exercise, CONGRATULATIONS! You’ve just documented your sales process. If you didn’t do be an idiot, stop now and do it before going on to the next step. (You’re reading this for a reason)
Have A Qualification Process
This is where most people’s sales process really falls down. Fortunately though, it’s also the step that allows for the most improvement and actually can have the biggest impact in terms of results and stress relief.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners can often make the mistake of thinking that every lead that comes their way is actually a good lead. Not true.
If we stop and confirm what we mean by lead this point becomes more clear.
Definition: “A lead is a person or business that could buy from us at some point”
Now that we have that defined it’s easier to understand that different leads can be warmer (more likely to buy) than others. And figuring this out can help you save a tonne of time and stress. Think about it, if you have 10 leads, but not all of them are ready to buy, wouldn’t be it useful to know which of those 10 actually are ready to buy? and even better again, which ones want to buy right now?
Of course! So how do we do this?
We make sure our sales process has a Qualification Step. This should be quite early on in the process, usually step 2. It would involve you making contact with your lead via email, phone, or potentially face-to-face (I say potentially, because face-to-face at this point in the process can waste a lot of your valuable time. Time your business desperately needs from you.).
During which you would be gathering more information and asking important questions that will tell you what they want, when the want it and how much they are willing to spend to get it and so on.
If you haven’t already got this step in your process (on your piece of paper), go back and slot one in.
This is a process you should be doing before providing prices or brochures to the lead. It is also a way for you to get some sort of commitment from the lead before giving them something, which leads me to the next step.
Have Points of Commitment
The ultimate goal of your sales process is to get the person or business to give you money in exchange for what you sell. That is, to commit to buying it from you.
We can dramatically improve our chances of success buy introducing small, simple steps that the customer must take (or commit to).
The goal here is to have the person agree to and take multiple steps of commitment before getting to the point of actually exchanging money. For example, if the customer wants to know your pricing, you can get them to first tell you about their themselves, their situation or their business.
One way is to ask questions that get them to reaffirm why they are taking to you in the first place, EG “Tell me, what would you like us to help you with?” or “John, tell me why you think we are the right choice for you”. It might seem strange at first, but every thought, sentence and action you can get your lead to take like this puts you in a positive frame and increases your chances of success.
Another great step to include, is to have a quoting or proposal stage. This would be where you document & outline the exact things they are getting from you and then send it to them. Following this you would require them to take a step of agreeing to it.
This could be done by them signing an order form, signing or accepting a contract or terms of trade, even just sending you an email to confirm they wish to proceed with the order.
The ultimate point of commitment is actually our next step
Make Sure Money Changes Hands
Very often our customers come to us with a very traditional way of doing business when it comes to their payment terms.
Whether it’s a product or service based business, people tend to fall into the trap of providing all of the service up front to the customer, taking on all of the risk of costs and time associated with delivering the product or service, and then only at the end do they send an invoice to the customer with payment terms allowing them to pay 30, 60 even 90 days later.
This means you could be footing the bill for as much as 3 months (more if you are project based) before getting paid.
You can then also find yourself having to chase payment to get things closed off.
The number one thing you can do to improve your business’s cashflow is to take payment earlier.
Here are 3 ways you can start to implement this in your business right now:
OPTION 1 – Introduce Deposits ($)
A great first step is to introduce deposits into your process. This would be the final step in your sales process, where you take payment for a small portion of the overall service.
This could be for a percentage (say 5%, 10%, 25%) or a fixed amount. By having your customer actually pay you some money, it puts skin in the game for them. This means they will be more responsive to requests, and also makes getting the final bill paid easier.
It also means you’ve taken some money up front to go towards the costs involved in delivering the product or service to them.
OPTION 2 – Introduce staging or milestone payments ($$)
This is where you look at your process for delivering your product or service and identify important parts in the process where it would be wise or feasible to take a progress payment of the overall amount. You take a payment to begin, then another payment half way through and then the final payment at the end of the process.
Here are a few examples:
- 1/3, 1/3, 1/3
- 25%, 25%, 50%
- 50%, 25%, 25%
OPTION 3 – Introduce payment in advance ($$$)
This would be where, as the heading suggests, you take full payment up front. “What?! All of it? Upfront? Are you kidding me?”
No not at all. We pay for things every day before we get to use or consume them, but when it comes to our own businesses, entrepreneurs and small business owners seem to never entertain the idea. Think about it, you buy events, transport, groceries, meat, clothing, flights, second hand goods, stuff on ebay or amazon all without getting to use them first.
Imagine what business would be like if all your customers paid you upfront. Imagine what that would feel like.
Both you AND the customer to be 100% committed to the transaction or relationship, the money would already be sorted and you could get on with a clear head to deliver the best value to them.
If this seems to far fetched for you, go back and get started with Option 1 (Taking a small deposit save 5% or $500), then over time progress to Option 2. This will allow you to get used to the idea of taking payment earlier, as sometimes our own psychology it what stops us doing this, not the customers willingness to do so. You might then be able to see how Option 3 is actually the natural progression from there.
Each business in different, and you may find this concept hard to entertain if you’ve never done it before, or if you’re thinking “that’s just the way it’s done in my industry”. I challenge you to get started with this process. It can literally transform your business overnight
If you can get to this place, your entire business will be transformed. You’ll have significantly less cashflow problems, and all the stress that come with it, your business will be heavily de-risked, your customers will have a higher respect for you as a business who is that good at what they do you pay for it up front. I’ll let you imagine what that is like a little longer in your own time.
Group & Segment Your Leads & Customers
Once you’ve got your sales process defined, and you’ve introduced a qualification process into the mix, given a little time, you’ll be able to start seeing some patterns in your leads & customer base.
As we mentioned above, not all leads are created equal. And you need to treat them accordingly.
If you have some leads in your city, and some outside, then doing face-to-face meetings is not practical for all people. If you have some people that are individuals and some that are businesses, then you will likely need to have a slightly (or possible completely) different sales process for each type.
By knowing this type of information , we can be more effective with our marketing, our sales conversations, even in the decision of what products & services we should be selling, and where we should be putting more or less effort.
“But what grouping or segmenting do I need to know?” Below are some good examples of ways to segment your leads and customers:
- By City, State and/or Country
- Personal (a.k.a Retail) or Business Customer
- Product or Service Interest
- New vs Old Customer
- New vs Existing Customer
- Method of finding us (Referral, Google search, billboard, etc)
If you’re still stuck, this is a great exercise to do on your existing or past customers. Look at (or make a list) or your past customers and sales. Then look for patterns or ways to group them together. Also identify who are your favourite clients and see if there is anything specific to that group that stands out. This will allow you to focus on finding more just like them.
So what next?
Well, if you got all the way down here and still don’t have a piece of paper and a pen in front of you, now is definitely the time to grab them and go back to Key #1. Remember, you are reading this for a reason, so don’t fall into the entrepreneurs trap of procrastinating or thinking you will come back and do this later. Stop wasting time and start making some changes that will have a real impact in your business.
If you did everything we discussed above, then hats off to you. You are among the very small percentage of entrepreneurs and small business owners who are serious about getting real results in their business.
We all know that the fastest way to become successful is to find successful people and emulate what they do and how they do it. This is the shortcut, sure-fire way to maximising your chances of success faster while you learn the ropes. Once you get things down pat, you get to add your own flare and experience into the mix.
Start with a goal (To become a Sales Rock Star), create a plan (see below), get clear on that plan (see below again) and tick things off as you go.
So this is the list of things for you to tick off:
- Define & Document Your Sales Process
- Start Qualifying Your Leads Early In The Process
- Add Some Small Steps of Commitment For The Leads To Take
- Get Some Money Up Front Before I start Work
- Group & Segment My Leads So I Can Know Who I Want To Attract