As a company grows, it may become apparent that a documented sales process becomes essential to effectively scaling your business. The goal of a good sales process is to build trust and confidence in the mind of your prospect while demonstrating your professionalism and expertise over a reasonable period of time. This “period of time” will allow both parties to determine if there is a “good fit” for working together. Remember, the sales process should be a two way street - signing the WRONG client can place a drain on valuable resources which your business should work to avoid at ALL costs!
The sales process should be a little like dating - if you are too aggressive, you could spook the prospect - if you are too soft, you could lose the prospect’s interest and they may find another suitor - but finding the ideal client can create a long-term relationship!
In staying with the dating analogy, properly nurturing a relationship until the prospect can establish trust and confidence in you and your business is the key to winning deals with today’s savvy buyers. No one wants to be sold to, but everyone LOVES to buy when they feel it provides them value in some manner! Taking the time to outline, build and implement a proven sales process will yield predictable results and help you reach your overall growth goals. A good sales process should answer several questions:
What are you selling? To whom are you selling it to? What process will you use to build relationships & close deals? What resources will you need to support the process?
And last but not least, what results should you expect?
Sounds easy right? Actually, it’s not super difficult if you have the patience to document and refine your process while building the resources to support the process. Our goal here should be to outline a systematic, repeatable sales process where all team members understand what is going to happen next as we work to build and nurture relationships with potential new clients. Yes, the modern day sales process is about building relationships, NOT about “closing” as we were all once taught!
OUTLINING A LIST OF SERVICES
Okay, now explain to me what amazing services you will be selling? The concept of taking the time to sit down and write out a list of the services your company plans to deliver to paying clients sounds like a function in common sense to some, but in many cases, it’s not! Over the last decade or so of my career I’ve met with numerous business owners that DO NOT have a documented list of the services their business offers. This approach generally has two challenges:
Issue #1 - as a company begins to scale, it’s no longer a good business practice to “make shit up as you go”. This approach will only hinder your potential growth and delay your timeline for reaching your overall goals. In my experience, being everything to everyone is NOT a sustainable business model!
Issue #2 - it becomes challenging for your client services team to deliver on the expectations your team set during the sales process. As you add team members, it will also become more difficult to find that awesome “jack of all trades” that you are! Remember, Henry Ford’s impact on manufacturing stems from creating a process that was streamlined and highly repeatable - ultimately leading to higher profits!
Taking the time to document and clearly outline your core competencies will help you build a working list of the services your company plans to deliver to paying clients (yes, it may change over time and should remain fluid in nature). This exercise should be done by the leadership team and shared with both marketing and sales teams. Once you begin to outline and build your list of services (also referred to as a “menu of services”) you’ll find commonalities in the services to be delivered.
Building sales & marketing initiatives around the service offerings where you can scale deliverables WITHOUT adding resources would be a solid plan to help you reach your overall growth goals.
TARGETING THE RIGHT LEADS
Now that you’ve outlined what you are selling, to whom will you be selling it to? Unlike selling projects, selling ongoing services (often referred to as “retainers”) is most effective when we take the time to discover which clients (current & future) are most likely to see value in your unique “menu of services” AND to whom you are most likely to provide outstanding service to most consistently - based on our current infrastructure and current core competencies. Now ask yourself this question, who can you best serve with the services outlined in your “menu of services” and who would also be a “good fit” for working with you and your team?
In my experience, when a company is in "start-up mode" they need to get clients that are willing to pay for what they do. Once a company moves into "scale-up mode", they need to shift their focus to clients that are a "good fit" and have the potential to become long-term, well paying "ideal" clients. If these "ideal clients" are properly sourced and eventually commit to long-term engagements, your chances of reaching scalability increase exponentially.
The marketing department is tasked with the job of generating quality leads the sales team can quickly close, right? Now for a reality check! The process of generating quality leads requires an alignment between marketing and sales. Targeting the right contact, with the right message, at precisely the right time will generate leads the sales team can close with more frequency and predictability. Taking the time to define your target market and properly identifying your ideal clients will prove to be crucial to long-term success. But the sales & marketing teams should work together to identify “good fit” leads!
DOCUMENTING THE PROSPECT’S JOURNEY
Okay, now that you’ve outlined what you will be selling and to whom you will be selling it to, what process will you be using to build relationships & close deals? In the marketing process, we often refer to the buyer’s journey as the process in which a contact goes from a stranger to a paying client. At some point throughout that process, the “buyer” transitions from a lead, to a prospect (or opportunity), to a paying client. The “prospect’s journey” is a subset of the “buyer's journey” which begins to take place the moment a marketing qualified lead (MQL) becomes a sales qualified lead (SQL) or “prospect”.
So, what is the most effective way for a prospect to become a client? It has been my experience in selling digital marketing services that true success is achieved when using a consultative sales approach, supported by a proven sales process. This sales process is made up of a multi-step approach whereas you attempt to control the potential client’s path through their prospect’s journey by first understanding their needs before presenting a solution. Done correctly, this sales process should be an exercise of systematic, repeatable steps. Here are several steps to complete the sales process:
Connect Call - a 20-30 minute conversation to meet the contact, briefly learn about their business, quickly “qualify” the lead using a predefined set of criteria (a prospect fit matrix), then set an Exploratory Call to dig deeper into the potential client’s goals and challenges (pain points) once you determine the contact is a “good fit” lead.
Exploratory Call/Session – this is a 45-60 minute call or in person meeting (as needed) to learn exactly how your team can help solve THEIR challenges by allowing the focus of the call/meeting to center on the prospect’s goals and challenges FIRST. Once their goals and challenges (pain points) are uncovered, you would then connect their challenges to solutions you have implemented for similar clients - this is where you utilize the art of storytelling!
This “storytelling” approach is an effective way of sharing your expertise, as well as a few examples of how you’ve helped other clients in a similar situation achieve their desired goals - get them excited about working with you! You should begin to close the call by discussing what budget they feel is appropriate to meet their desired goals they’ve outlined AND attempt to set up another call/meeting. THIS IS IMPORTANT - before closing the call, I find it incredibly helpful to schedule the Solutions Call to discuss your recommended solutions while everyone is still on the current call - this approach will prevent you from having to track down the prospect to hear your sales pitch on the next call.
Solutions Call/Session – this is a 45-60 minute call or in person meeting (as needed) to recap what you’ve learned about their goals, challenges and potential pain points while checking for alignment. If this is done correctly, you would then “present” the solution you have outlined to help them reach their goals and solve their issues. This is done in a presentation format – followed-up by a formal proposal (preferably in electronic format). Done correctly, the prospect begins to talk themselves into your solution, rather than you having to “sell” it to them… trust me, it works like a champ!!
Proposal Q&A Call/Session – this is a 45-60 minute call or in person meeting (as needed) to review the formal proposal and discuss any questions they may or may not have. You should be very close to a signed agreement at the close of this call. Additional follow-up emails and/or calls may be needed if the solution is a complex project or larger retainer - the more you help, the less you need to sell!
I’ve found this approach to be highly effective and will help build confidence in your team’s expertise in the mind of the prospect. This approach also positions your team as trusted advisors with prospects in a reasonable timeframe. In my experience, the sales cycle for selling digital marketing services is usually completed within 30 to 90 days – depending on the size of the project/retainer and the number of stakeholders involved in the decision making process (general rule of thumb - the more complex the deal, the longer the sales cycle).
CREATING RESOURCES TO SUPPORT THE SALES PROCESS
Great job in outlining what you will be selling, to whom you will be selling it to and what process you will be using to build relationships & close deals, now consider what resources you will need to support the process? You’ve seen old sales videos where the “gurus” teach everyone to build a “script for selling” your services - well the “script” is an example of a resource to support the sales process. But there are ample resources that may be helpful in building trust and confidence in the mind of your prospect while demonstrating your professionalism and expertise - let’s consider a few!
In today’s digital world, your website should be your #1 salesperson!
Too many business owners and marketing managers don’t consider their website as their #1 salesperson - and trust me, NO ONE on the sales team believes the company website is involved in the sales process, let alone considers it a salesperson! But it is - let me explain...
Let’s face it, in today’s modern world, when people have a question, they “google it”. If your business is lucky enough to provide a solution to their query and gets found through a search engine, your website would be their first interaction with your team - NOT a physical person on your sales team!
So maybe it’s time to treat your website as if it were part of the sales team?
Creating an online presence where people enjoy interacting with your engaging content and finding answers to their questions would be a great way to build trust and confidence in the mind of your online visitor before they talk to your sales team. Your website should be a digital relationship builder, not just a billboard offering insights to how awesome you and your business happen to be. Building a “resources” section on your website where people can download engaging content could begin their buyer’s journey while doubling as resources used by your sales team to support your sales process.
These resources could become “assets” shared between steps in the sales process to help determine a prospect’s interest if their engagement activity were “trackable“ - this is referred to as sales intelligence. These resources (or sales assets) could include eBooks, whitepapers, case studies, client success stories, checklists, calculators - the list is practically endless and limited only by one’s imagination!
Once an online visitor downloads a “free resource” from your website, you could further their engagement by offering a free webinar, a free audit (website, SEO, software, etc.), a free consultation, etc. If your online visitor is a marketing qualified lead (MQL), continuing to guide your website visitor through their buyer’s journey online could possibly help them become a sales qualified lead (SQL). If your online visitor has already engaged your sales team, returning the “prospect” to your website for further information about your business and its services could very possibly shorten the sales cycle.
Whether it’s turning your website into a sales tool with great resources to engage your prospects, sharing your proposed solutions as a presentation during the sales process or making your formal proposal an electronic work of art, creating resources to support the sales process will pay huge dividends and help your sales team close more business while working towards reaching your goals!
CREATING MEASURABLE AND PREDICTABLE RESULTS
You took the time to answer the questions to build your sales process, now what results should you expect? The measure of any good sales process is usually determined by the number of closed deals. Over time, the relationships you build and nurture through your proven sales process will create a sales pipeline of “good fit” leads and high quality prospects you can rely on when you need to land new clients. Having a solid opportunities management process is all about creating a predictable number of potential deals and eliminating the ebb and flow usually found in an inefficient sales process.
Once you fully understand what services you are selling to the proper target marketing and ideal clients, you can implement a proven sales process which will in turn allow you to “sell by the numbers” so you can reasonably predict when and how many resources to add to your team. Creating a measurable and predictable sales process will eliminate many sleepless nights previously encountered by your leadership team! But the process takes time, patience and practice to get it just right!