How can you improve your sales activities? Rank yourself to find what’s working—and what needs work.
Across every industry, sales professionals have to find leads and convert them into closed deals. Sales processes can be a little different from one business to the next, but every salesperson follows a set of fundamental steps—the sales cycle.
Here are the seven steps of the sales cycle:
- Lead Generation
- Initial Contact
- Needs Analysis
- Presentation & Proposals
- Negotiation & Handling Objections
The sales cycle runs in a loop. Leads are converted to opportunities, which are converted to sales. Follow-up generates testimonials and referrals, which support lead generation—completing the circle.
Holding yourself accountable
Although virtually every sale moves through each step of the sales cycle, many salespeople haven’t mastered all seven steps. Some steps of the sales process may feel uncomfortable, so they get ignored or skipped. If a salesperson excels in a particular sales activity, they’ll tend to focus their attention on that area and stay firmly in their comfort zone.
To be a master salesperson, you must master every step of the sales cycle. To do that, you’ll have to find a way to identify weak spots and hold yourself accountable.
Ranking your sales activities is a valuable tool to discover areas that can be improved, which in turn will improve your bottom line. The seven steps of the sales cycle are a great framework to organize your self-assessment. They’re fundamental and universal, so they’re the perfect benchmark for any sales professional.
For each step of the sales cycle, rank yourself on a scale of one to ten. Try to be honest with yourself—do you really think that you’re a perfect ten, or is there room for improvement? Studies show that we often overestimate our abilities, so if you can, try to evaluate yourself using real metrics (for example: revenue goals or lead generation numbers). A one-on-one sales coach, or your sales manager, can give you additional perspective on how you measure up.
Let’s go through the sales cycle and explore what questions to ask while you’re ranking your effectiveness:
1. Lead Generation
Also called prospecting, this step is where you gather leads to fill your sales funnel. After gathering new leads, additional time is dedicated to qualifying those leads to move them into the sales pipeline.
How many leads do you need in your funnel in order to feel you always have enough people to dial? If you don’t have enough time to call everyone in your funnel, that’s a 10! If you have to prospect once a week and that’s barely enough, maybe that’s a 3.
Even though you might know how to generate leads, are you actually doing it enough?
2. Initial Contact
In the initial contact step, you should build rapport, determine a prospect’s personality style, and establish the mutual trust required to create a buying atmosphere.
Do you actually build rapport well? Or, do you spend an entire meeting building rapport—and run out of time for your presentation?
3. Needs Analysis
In this crucial step, questions are asked that identify the prospect’s pain and the reasons they need your product or service.
How good are you at identifying the reasons a prospect needs what you’re selling? Are you really asking the questions you should? Do you find a client’s true needs and pain points, or do you just use the same old pitch for your products and services? Are you doing more talking or more listening?
4. Presentation & Proposals
In this “pitch” step, you may be presenting a complex proposal that defines the scope of work—or simply walking a client through the features of a product. Either way, you’re showing how you’ll meet your client’s needs that you identified in step 3.
During a sales pitch, do you run out of breath because you’re talking too fast? Is your presentation tailored to your client, or is it full of solutions that they don’t need? Are you confident and prepared for each presentation, or are you sweating like crazy because you’re nervous and unprepared?
5. Negotiation & Handling Objections
In this step, you address any new questions or objections not identified in previous steps and negotiate price or terms.
When a prospect objects, do you usually fold? Do you often rely on adjusting your price to make a deal? High marks here if you’re great at communicating why your product or service is worth the cost!
In the closing step of the sales cycle, you ask for the business. This may result in a need to revisit earlier steps—but if you’re successful, you’ll get a signature, and the deal will be done.
Do you have enough closing techniques to ask for the business multiple times? Or, do you give up and assume a prospect isn’t interested because they’re happy with their current solution? Do you directly ask for the business, or do you have a closing statement like, “Let me know if you want to move forward.”?
This final step is ongoing, as you continue to develop your relationship with the client. It includes asking for testimonials and referrals—enabling you to start the sales cycle with new leads.
Do you see follow-up as an afterthought or a priority? Do you have a follow-up plan that ensures your client gets everything they need? Do you get a steady stream of referrals from your clients that lead to new business?
How do you measure up?
Now that you’ve ranked yourself from 1 to 10 on each step of the sales cycle, you should have a better idea of what needs to improve. Mastering the sales process takes work, but having a clear evaluation of your sales activities will help keep you accountable.
Ranking sales activities according to this seven-step sales cycle is a fundamental technique we use with every sales coaching client. Identifying a salesperson’s strengths and weaknesses helps Skillway sales coaches generate custom-tailored plans—and they’re different for every individual.
How can you improve your performance throughout the sales cycle? It might take new sales techniques, different ways to manage your time, or solutions for staying motivated. A Skillway sales coach combines real-world expertise with our “3E” approach to tackle each of these areas and deliver real results.
If you’re ready to unlock your sales potential, CRUSH your sales goals, and love what you do, call 615-392-5655 to schedule a free jumpstart coaching session.