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Is your sales process losing you clients?

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Those of us running small businesses are in a unique position to see how the sales process unfolds within our own organisation and how it plays out in the suppliers that we choose to use – large corporates, government bodies, contractors, the works. We see the good, the bad and the ugly. So, what is a sales process, and why is it important?

Google will give you a million variants on a theme here, but essentially your sales process is the series of steps your business takes from the first point of contact with a potential new client through to getting them signed and the work underway. It doesn’t include the marketing side of things, these guys have already found you and they’ve made first contact via a phone call or email. Arguably it also includes the rest of the client journey to ensure they are fully satisfied with the service, they are paying on time, they refer you more business and they themselves become repeat customers.

Having a solid sales process is important because it ensures:

* Consistency – everyone who comes into contact with your business will have the same professional experience
* Repeatability – if you have a clearly articulated process it can be easily trained and understood by your team
* Results – if you have a process that works it maximises your chances of landing the work and making that dinero

Dealing with organisations with a poor sales process can be incredibly frustrating. You feel as though you’re trying to throw money at their business but they are unable to return calls on time, send through proposals when they said they would, etc. Don’t be that business, pull your socks up and have a solid process in place.

What does a good sales process look like?

1. First contact: The potential client will either call or drop you an email. First impressions count so make sure this interaction is professional and helpful. All contact should ideally be directed to one person in the office who can coordinate new business. This person should follow a loose script to discover exactly what the person is after – you want to make sure you can actually help and that they will be a good fit for your business. You’ll also run through your sales process on the phone so they know what to expect. If all looks good an initial meeting should be booked in with the key decision-makers in the business and  an email sent to confirm everything that was discussed in the call.

2. The meeting: This meeting should follow a standard format (create yourself  a checklist/form to help you here) and should allow the potential client plenty of chance to really explain their business and their issues. Explain how your business works, who the relevant team members are and briefly cover how you charge for your services.

3. The proposal: Now comes time to follow up from your brilliant first meeting with a beautiful proposal that they simply must agreed to. Create templates for the work you do and your team so that you’re not re-inventing the wheel every time you issue a proposal.

4. Following up: Don’t just send and forget. Make sure you follow up with a phone call in the coming days to see if they have any questions. If you’re using a platform like Proposify it’ll tell you if they’ve read the proposal, which pages, etc. Even if you just send a PDF via email you could always request a read receipt so you know it’s landed.

5. And then: If the proposal is accepted, happy days. The work gets fed into the machine, the client is happy and you get paid. If the proposal gets rejected make sure you ask the person why this happened. Take feedback on board and, when relevant, adjust your process to maximise your future chances of proposal-acceptance-related bliss.

Obviously there are inter-related parts to this process including your marketing procedures, client onboarding, the work itself, invoicing, quality control and more. This article is purely focusing on the sales process.

Remember, like  any other process or policy for your business, it’s important that you write it down somewhere the whole team can access it.

Written by Ben Fletcher, managing director at Generate. A version of this article was originally posted on their Better Business blog.

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