Selling services is much more personal than selling products. For a professional service business, prospecting differs with each client as they sell their time, knowledge, and expertise as their service.
But selling is not sorcery. There are no shortcuts, no tricks, and definitely no magic scripts that you will read and your customers will start pouring in. It is based on a blueprint strategy – that’s a sales process. A defined sales process helps you qualify, advance, and close opportunities. Organizations implementing a structured sales process have a 28% higher win rate than their counterparts. This makes a huge difference in the revenue numbers. This blog aims to cover all the steps that you need to build a structured sales process. Let’s take it from the top!
A consulting sales process entails a series of intermediary steps that a consultant follows to identify, qualify, and win opportunities.
Starting from identifying prospects, and understanding their challenges, to architecting a customized solution, putting it up as a proposal for negotiation, and close-wining the opportunity.
As professional service consultants, you are essentially selling ideas. Since here the opportunities are much more personal, mounting sales depends on building relationships and maintaining them. So it is crucial to understand their business requirements to create a win-win situation. So before you propel your potential customers to move forward, you must have a clear vision of the ‘next step’.
Businesses without a defined sales process usually end up with low win rates, long sales cycles, and missed opportunities. Think about it – if you cannot define your process that reflects consistency, how can your potential customers move forward with you? Here is some food for thought.
Your potential clients may often slip through the cracks when you don’t have a clearly defined approach. It starts right from lead generation, and qualification and ends in low sales conversion with unlikely scope of sales interaction.
When people do business with you, it means they trust your partnership. They want to rely on their partners – this trust comes from consistency. When you lack a dedicated sales process, you might tend to apply shortcuts and have irregular sales performance. Hence, the output becomes inconsistent and lacks credibility leading to a faltered revenue projection.
With an inefficient sales process, you are bound to miss out on follow-up tasks and meetings with your clients. Now, without an adept understanding of what your client requires, there’s a high risk of missing key points and preparing a solution that is not accurate as per their needs. This creates a negative impression on your clients leading to missed opportunities.
A defined sales process is super crucial for the growth of your business revenue. A study showed that businesses with a standardized sales process see up to a 28% increase in revenue as compared to those that do not. In another research, HBR reveals that 50% of high-performing sales organizations admit to having “closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated” sales processes. Meanwhile, 48% of under-performing organizations have non-existent or informal sales processes.
Today everyone is trying to come up with unique services to target their audiences. Their services are new and their approaches are new. Likewise, as a professional service consultancy, you would know best who your target audiences are. You can advertise your services to hundreds of thousands of prospects. Hundreds of them will most likely turn up to you for business. Out of those hundreds, you must identify the ones who can actually benefit from your services.
In other words, you must align the buyer (your prospects) and seller (you) criteria. This varies on different grounds such as whether their business requirements match your consulting expertise, your ideal fit customer persona, their business demographics, and so on.
Note that since you offer your expertise as your product, sales prospecting will include researching networking, and marketing. It can work as inbound and outbound marketing.
Inbound marketing exclusively focuses on raising brand awareness with a market-driven approach via SEO content. On the other hand, outbound marketing involves a sales-driven approach through networking events, email campaigns, and lead generation. Recent stats show that 42% of sales pros say prospecting is the hardest part of their job. The rest say it’s closing (36%) or qualifying (22%)
You can easily tout Socrates for his sales philosophy. The Socratic method can be defined as, a “form of inquiry between individuals, based on asking and answering questions to illuminate ideas.”
Now this idea involves a productive dialog between buyer and seller. As a consultant, you might want to ask a series of simple questions to your prospective buyer to help both parties understand what the business needs and how can you plan a solution. These questions prompt the buyer to question the practicality of his assumptions, consider alternatives, and then reach a logical conclusion.
It’s an important strategy to discover your client’s needs. You can ask questions such as
So you see when you engage in a conversation you ask questions that logically follow the information shared by your customers until you discover the core pain points. This exercise establishes trust and lets you build on that. According to Harvard Business Review, curiosity, intelligence, and an agile mind are the biggest predictors of sales success.
Once you get hold of all the information, you can evaluate them as per your criteria and qualify them as promising clients.
Now that you have narrowed down the core pain points of your prospective customers, it’s time for you to architect a power-packed solution blueprint. It must be a foolproof solution because you want to make your customers feel that what you bring to the table is more valuable than what other consultants can offer. This is where you can differentiate yourself and negotiate your best.
Proposals are just another expression of your offer. It can help you win deals if they are tailored to your clients. Here are some points that you can highlight:
Now that you have an idea of the solution in hand, you have a product to offer. This is the time when you must conduct sales follow-up tasks. It is one of the most crucial steps to winning the deal as you pitch your idea and name your price. Research study shows that nearly 80% of sales are achieved between the 5th and 9th constant with your prospective customers.
Here is an idea. You can conduct your follow-ups while exploring the value of this solution both in qualitative terms and in terms of finances and business goals. You can lend these follow-up communication points to show your value-based pricing. Even if you run a fixed pricing or subscription model, you can take your prospective client through the value that you’ll be delivering.
Another important factor is timing. You need to have a strategic communication flow to win your deal. But are timely follow-ups even possible if you’re maintaining a spreadsheet? No, it’s not. But with automation, it is. With a quality CRM software like Zoho, you can keep things easy and hassle-free. You can create and distribute tasks to your sales reps and mark follow-up dates on the intuitive calendar so that you never fall through the cracks.
Negotiation is part and parcel of the whole sales process undertaking. You table a proposal and your client will offer you a counter proposal. At this point of the sales journey, both parties might not want to lose the deal, correct? So you meet each other halfway and that is called negotiation.
As a professional consultant, you should be aware of the quality or the value of the service to leverage it to get the best offer. You must present an estimate of the design project and have a strong logic to back up your pricing. For the bigger picture, you should be realistic and willing to make concessions around shared interests. Even if you and your client reach a dead-end, you should be ready with alternative options to show your flexibility and will to find mutually beneficial solutions.
Once you have your client’s approval of the proposal with the settled negotiation, you are all set to close the deal. This leads us to the invoicing step. Invoice generation is again a crucial part of the sales process. For a professional service company, it is, however, relatively more nuanced as you often have to capture part payments.
Know that, when Zoho One walks into the picture, each part of the sales process becomes super-easy to handle. In a literal sense, it is an umbrella suite comprising 40+ applications that you can use under one subscription. You can advance your business with the benefits of these apps and keep all your business operations in an uncluttered yet unified interface. State Of Sales, LinkedIn says 75%–85% of top salespeople value CRMs, productivity apps, email marketing, and social selling as key factors in their success.
Right from capturing leads, managing appointments, and sales pipeline to the proposal and invoice generation – the apps with individual functionalities come together to perform as a whole. Read more to get a better idea about this platform!
As a business person, you need to base your business operations on a well-defined sales process. It is an expression of a consultative approach to your business strategy, that plays a huge role in bringing consistent success to your enterprise. Team it up with your professional service company for skyrocketing growth.