Have you ever heard the saying “Eat the frog”? This stems from a quote often attributed (possibly incorrectly) to Mark Twain, that says, essentially: If the first thing you do every morning is eat a live frog, you can spend the rest of the day satisfied that nothing worse is likely to happen to you for the rest of the day.
Entrepreneurs often avoid making sales calls because of the fear of rejection. Take courage from this saying. The frog is your worst task and should be done first thing in the morning. If you have two frogs, eat the ugly one first so that the second one won’t seem quite so bad. You will feel an enormous sense of achievement and empowerment if you adopt this strategy. Don’t procrastinate. Get the worst tasks out of the way so that the rest of your day runs smoothly. For most of us, this means sales!
In Module 2, we discussed marketing, branding and generating interest for your product or service. Now that you have created interest, how are you going to turn your marketing efforts into sales? Let’s try to find ways to make eating that frog just a little easier.
The word “sell” is literally about “giving” (in exchange for money). You figure out your customers’ pain and offer them a solution. If that’s true, though, why does selling feel so difficult? Fear not – we’re going to look at everything you need to know to prepare yourself and your business for selling.
Think of the sales process in terms of riding a bike up a hill. When you start peddling, you have to gain momentum to get the bike going. That takes a lot of energy. Once you’ve been riding for a while, though, you develop a flow; you can even freewheel at times. As you ride, you build up steam so that when you hit a hill, it’s easier to climb because you have momentum.
That’s what an effective sales process is like. Starting out takes extra energy as you put your plan in place, but once you get going, it becomes easier to maintain. You still have to pay attention to what you’re doing, but sticking with it and realising results becomes easier the more you pedal. However, if you start and stop repeatedly, you’ll end up exhausted with nothing to show for it.
Recognise that products and services have a limited life and appeal to customer and therefore a limited lifecycle. Equally importantly, products need to pass through various sales stages, each with its own distinct challenges, opportunities, and problems that require specific marketing, financing, and human-resource strategies.
A sales process follows a series of predictable phases or events that you, the entrepreneur, need to action to turn prospective clients into paying customers. We’ll look at how to do this a little later on.
Think about how stressful it is to establish a startup. You need to:
That’s a lot – and that last point is difficult! Regardless of whether or not you have a sales background, startup founders will always find themselves stretched thin. That said, if you can work through the early stages of putting together a sales process that works, you’re already halfway to resolving the pains that go with selling.
But what do we mean, exactly, by a sales process?
A rigorous process helps avoid time-wasting activities. To get this process started, think of the sales process as a funnel, starting with the initial contacts with a prospective client and working downwards to the final sale.
This isn’t just any funnel, though – this one leaks. As people move through the funnel, some of them don’t get all the way through. In other words, some sales don’t make it through the full process and are removed. To refine your sales cycle, you have to identify and remove the barriers that prevent a sale from moving to the next stage in the funnel and instead force them to fall out.
The sales funnel metaphor will allow you to analyse and manage a portfolio of sales opportunities.
Six stages of the Sales Funnel
The sales funnel has six stages, which include:
5. Commitment and payment
Before your customer can buy your product, they need to know:
1. It exists
2. They need it.
They need to know exactly why your product or service is worth their time and money. Remember value propositions from the previous module? This is where they come in! Products and services across a range of industries will be clamouring for customer attention, so make sure you stand out by defining specific features and demonstrating adequate selling points for your product or service. Marketing is crucial in this stage!
Your goal for this stage is to identify potential clients based on how closely they match your target market. We also call this lead generation.
Now that your prospective customer is aware that your product or service exists, they’re on the hook – but they haven’t made a clear decision just yet and could still get free. As a business owner, in this stage, you need to qualify all leads.
Qualification is probably the most critical and demanding stage of the sales funnel. It involves:
– Determining whether or not the interested party actually fits your target market
– Ensuring that they have sufficient budget for the deal.
– Receiving enough interest and commitment from them to justify taking the sale to the next phase in the funnel
– The qualification process can be complex and lengthy, but a bad lead will waste your precious time and resources.
Well done! At this stage, prospective customers generally have a genuine interest in your product or service and are more than likely evaluating the costs and benefits. Your job, at this stage, is to help these individuals see the value in your product or service.
Whether through a conference call, video chat, or face-to-face meeting, now is the time to reach out to your customer and help them clarify any underlying questions they might have about your product or service. Reaching out is really important. A demo video, a FAQ section on your website, or even a chatbot (and everything in between) can all help to educate your lead and move them to the next stage in the sales cycle.
The fourth stage in the sales funnel is engagement. You would have made some sort of light contact with your prospective customer in the previous stages, but in the fourth stage, you need to eradicate any questions or roadblocks a potential customer might have to ease them through to the final stage and close the deal.
Find out what mitigating circumstances might make your lead back off from a sale. Research and prepare yourself adequately before any prospective client meetings or interactions. Often, you can respond to concerns and move the sale back on track. In some cases, leads won’t turn into sales – that’s okay, and you need to expect it. Part of being a successful entrepreneur is accepting rejection, learning from it, and moving forward.
Congratulations! You’ve made to the final stage, and your customer has decided to purchase your product or service. At this stage, you need to ensure a client knows how to purchase your product or service and make the payment process as easy, secure and efficient as possible. Building in different payment options for clients can help to build trustworthiness and reliability between you and your customers.
Some sales funnels don’t include this stage, but we think it’s critical, especially for startups. This stage is the post-sales support. At this stage, you need to make sure that your product or service delivers on everything you promised in the previous stages of the funnel. Building up rapport with your customer could mean repeat purchases in the future. Don’t forget, it’s easier and cheaper to retain a paying client than to acquire a new one, which is why post-sales support and communication is so critical – especially for startup businesses.