Photo by Roo Reynolds at flickr.com

Every year I hold a deep data dive with my clients, and we focus on their ideal customers. We want to see who or what sends us our best customers and which factors influenced the sale. Once we know that, we can build a sales process so we can successfully close a higher percentage of referred business.

If you’re not in sales, I’ll tell you that a sales process is a repeatable and predictable set of steps that you use for taking a prospect from an inquiry or an initial meeting all the way through to a closed sale.

To build a sales process, we gather and analyze data from the sales database or CRM (customer relationship management) system.

Here’s how we get started:

From our CRM, we extract this portion of data and create a spreadsheet:

  1. Name of customer,
  2. How customer found out about us,
  3. Other factors that influenced the customer to buy (these could be multiple fields in your database if your customers have a long decision curve).

In my post last month “Ask These 3 Questions to Drastically Improve Future Print Sales” I said that many of us in the printing industry are susceptible to making incorrect assumptions about how customers found us and which factors moved the sale along.

Print professionals, especially salespeople, have a lot of data swirling around, and we can multitask like a star.

For this reason, we are more likely to bypass the data collection part of building a sales process because it’s all “right up here.” (I’m tapping my head right now.).

However, to build a predictable system for tracking and generating sales, we can’t shoot from the hip or rely on intuition.

As I mentioned last month, it’s critical that we ask customers right away how they found us. Just as important, we need to know why they chose us over our competitors.

After we create the initial spreadsheet, we sort the information by category.

Who is the top referral source? This could be a person, business or website. What are the top influencing factors? These could be mini trade shows, an email campaign, Every Door Direct Mail, or a contest.

Once we isolate the top referral source and influences, we construct the sales process.

Here’s an example:

REFERRAL SOURCE:

>> Director of regional trade association

INFLUENCES THAT THE CUSTOMER MENTIONED:

>> The quality of our website content

>> The atmosphere and high caliber people manning our booth at a trade show

>> A personal consultative visit from our salesperson

Basic sales process based on that data:

  1. Thank referral source in a three-way email with prospect and introduce yourself to prospect.
  2. Meet with client in person. Make a point to find out what types of events the prospect enjoys attending.
  3. Gather information before making a sales recommendation. Do not try to close the sale during that visit.
  4. When writing the recommendation, include links to relevant pages on our awesome website (add these pages on website or freshen if necessary).
  5. Re-visit prospect to sit down and go over the recommendation together. Identify any issues, answer all questions, and clarify anything that seems less than transparent.
  6. Invite prospect to an exclusive meeting at trade show or special event with our management team to sign the final paperwork.
  7. Circle back and let the referral source know how everything turned out and thank them again for the referral.

See how these steps can be very predictable and applied to each new referred prospect?

Without a sales process, a salesperson might be inclined to rush to close if he or she received buying signals from the prospect. However, we know from our data and research that our IDEAL clients are MORE LIKELY to buy from us because they experienced the entire package.

Trying to save time or rush a close is shortsighted if your odds are higher with a tested and proven sales process.

As you construct your sales process, keep in mind that every step should be something that is easily repeatable and comfortable to do. You are much more likely to follow the sales process if it is enjoyable.

Okay, back to testing the sales process. Once we’ve built a sales process, then we test it on prospects. Cool! We get to test a new system, and we make a sale in the process. Win-win!

When testing, we need to follow the steps in the sales process as best we can. We also need to document the places where a sale has a tendency to “go off the rails” or where a prospect goes silent. 

I’m going to hammer this home one more time: assumptions in sales can lead us astray.

With our newly-created sales process, we can’t assume that it doesn’t work just because we can’t complete the entire process and close a sale. If testing shows we are losing a sale at a certain point in the sales process, it’s important to pinpoint that exact place and add extra steps so the prospect is comfortable moving ahead.

Testing all the steps, from referral to closed sale, ensures we put our effort and dollars into a sales process that gives us the results we want and expect. 

Remember, the easiest way to find new customers and close sales is to build a predictable and repeatable sales process based on true and current data from referrals and influencing factors.

You have the data…now use it! 

See more from Sandy


Sandy Hubbard is a marketing strategist for printing companies. She builds marketing programs that can be sustained over the long haul, with affordable tools and your own people…and without stress! Find @sandyhubbard on Twitter each Wednesday at 4 PM ET, assisting #PrintChat host Deborah Corn @PrintMediaCentr  with a lively online discussion for printers and those who love print.

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