The 7 Steps to a Sale is a framework for converting leads to a sale. This is not a one-sized fits all approach. You can change the order of some of these steps, but for the most part it should be followed as it is laid out.
The Steps are not tips and tricks. These are proven tactics within a proven strategy to allow sales reps to improve their conversion rates.
1. Build Rapport
Establishing trust with each prospect to allow for a natural bond to occur. Earning trust is much easier to do than you might expect. Below is a list of practical ways to build rapport and earn the trust of a potential buyer.
You will need to establish your expertise in your field, and this is not hard to do.
Do your research and understand that you know all about the prospect’s company, pain points, strengths, and weaknesses. You’ll need to convince the buyer that they are coming to their solution on their terms, so allow them to tell their story.
Share the pain
Asking questions about them allows a prospect to express the current pain that they need resolving. There are a few types of questions to ask, and each puts the client in a different situation.
After they tell you their pain and the history of the problem, get them to use their imagination and paint a picture of how your product or service is the solution.
For example, your prospect has a family, and you know your product will help him get his family to a new country for a new life.
Don’t– Hey, Amir. If you do not join our course, your children will suffer much.
Do– Hey, Amir. The price does seem expensive now, but imagine your life in a new country with a new well-paying job. When you look back, do you think this one-time fee is too costly?
Showing empathy is a way to build trust with anyone, and it is quite useful when interacting with a buyer. Misery loves company.
Show that you are listening intently and commiserate with the lead. Everyone loves feeling listened to with a sympathetic ear (e.g., Facebook/Instagram likes)
When dealing with a prospect, always empathize with them to show that you genuinely understand their pain.
Trust-building is critical and aim to establish a key connection with the buyer.
Find common ground
Lastly, if you cannot commiserate with a buyer, the best alternative is to get on the same page by understanding their intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. If you have done your research on this client and collected all of the intelligence, then you should be ready to fall back on this as needed.
A few months ago, one of my sales reps (in Ireland) built a rapport with a Nairobi client. Their unlikely connection was because the sales rep was able to collect the right intelligence and realized that the lead worked for at the same phone company as his father.
Take the time to get to know your leads and do your research. Gathering intelligence can seem painstaking at first, but it is vital to understand who they are, so you do not waste their time.
2. Qualify the buyer
There are many different options we have to contact leads in today’s connected world. Email and instant chats are taking over communication and e-commerce, so it is integral that you reach out to the right buyers, but you must ensure they are right for you and your company. You don’t want to get stuck with a problematic client and will resort to social media blasting.
It’s simple to qualify a buyer over text or email to ensure you want to work with them, and they want to work with you. Here is a list of questions compiled for an imaginary online tutoring company that focuses on examination prep.
Could you please answer the seven questions below so we can decide if you are right for our course and the course is right for you?
- How many years have you been preparing for this exam?
- How many times have you failed to achieve your desired score?
- When do you plan to sit for the exam next?
- How will your life change once you get the scores you need?
- Are you willing to trust our expertise and take our feedback?
- Are you willing to sacrifice time with friends and family to stay focused on work?
- Are you ready to invest in yourself?
This method does three things:
- It allows you, the seller, to collect valuable intelligence to use later.
- You can start applying different tactics to capitalize on feelings of exclusivity, urgency, regret, hope, and pain.
- Weeds out those that are unrealistic or demanding like the examples in the first paragraph.
Letting them come to their conclusions by painting a vivid picture of what their life was, is, or is going to be like once they take a chance on the product or service you are pitching. You are here to help them resolve this never-ending pain that they have been living with day in, day out. Gather the necessary intelligence as seamlessly as possible.
3. Build Value
One of the essential steps of converting a lead to a sale is not just to close them but also to build the value of the product or service you are pitching.
The best way to build value is to use your company’s core principles, ideology, ethos, mission statements, etc. to show a prospect that you are grounded in best practice. If you do not have any clearly stated principles, then create some. I recommend Ray Dalio’s book Principles.
Starting with the statement ‘We believe X, so we do y’ is an attempt to humanize you and melt that icy shell. These statements should relate to everyone on the planet. Much like the ‘golden rule,’ not many people can disagree with ‘do unto others…’. Create statements that are sincere and fit your company’s ethos.
Show your social proof. If you don’t have any, build some.
If you are working for a company that collects testimonials, that is great. If you are a freelancer who needs testimonials start here. Testimonials allow the buyer to see real people who have had success with your product or service. Social proof is one of the most powerful tools to use, so it’s vital to collect reviews and testimonials as much as possible. Store them, categorize them, and publish them.
4. Create Desire
One of our primal emotions is desire. One aspect of a good sales rep is that they can create a relationship between the buyer and the company. They need to build desire for the product or service offered and the idea of working with the company and its employees.
With a buyer’s effective-factor already lowered, it’s up to the rep to be consultative and build value, and desire.
One way to understand desire is by getting the owner to open up by sharing the number of disappointments that they have experienced (getting personal is essential). Ask them, ‘Do you have any idea why you are struggling?‘. This dialogic approach allows the buyer to realize that they have been failing and need your help. You are the expert, so now use tactics to create wantonness.
Desire manifests in many forms in the sale cycle. It is all about how you tailor the message and to whom. Suppose you have the necessary intelligence about the customer.
The only exclusive membership I have is to Costco, and that ain’t saying much. Find the angle that makes your product/service exclusive to the buyer. Here are some examples:
- We only have a few places left on our course, so you’ll need to act now.
- I wish I could keep your place, but due to the high demand, we won’t be able to.
- We can only work with select individuals, so let me know if you want to accept this offer.
Another analogy for this concept is being the ‘hot chick in the club.’ The idea is that everyone is attracted to her, and she only wants to be with a select individual. You are the hot chick, so let your buyer know they are the lucky individual to be chosen.
Letting the buyer know that they need to make a prompt decision is always right.
If you are reading this, it is because you want to help customers with their lives and grow your own company. It’s a win-win.
It may be a big decision for the buyer, but if they continue to hum-and-ha, their problems will never go away.
Build this through the sales process. Once you qualify the buyer, tell them that your product can help them, and go from there. Emphasize this point repeatedly in every touch.
Offering discounts is never the best option. a) you lose revenue, b) it ‘cheapens’ your product, which can make it look unattractive to the buyer. However, whenever you offer a discount, make sure there is a clear timeframe for how long the offer will be on the table.
Building desire is more than showing how the product can help them. It’s about establishing rapport, building trust, and overall ensuring that this person wants to work with you.
5. Overcome Objections
Before any negotiation starts, ensure that you know the potential objections that a buyer might have. Having an answer for each objection is essential so that you can control the conversation. Write them down and practice your rebuttals.
A straightforward way to deal with objections is to ask them to tell you exactly how you can help. “How can I help you?”. It sounds quite apparent, but this question goes a long way in the negotiation process (as well as other stages). Let them dictate the terms, and from there, you can refute their requests. Here are a few examples of common objections and my rebuttals.
Too expensive. Please lower the price
We wish we could further reduce this price; however, the cost is the rock-bottom we can offer and still breakeven. If we offered this product any lower, then the company’s financial health is unsustainable. We won’t be able to invest our revenue back into the company to make a better product/service. We hope you understand.
Asking for a discount
We are offering a 10% on all accounts that sign up today. This means if you purchase the enterprise package within the next 24 hours, you’ll get a nice discount. How does that sound?
“I’ll pay tomorrow”
Is there something about the offer you don’t like? (Use the line from #2). We only have a few products left, and I won’t be able to hold yours until then. It’s on a first-come, first-served basis. We do this to ensure the customer success team can support our paying clients without being overwhelmed.
Return to the intelligence you’ve already collected and used this to your advantage. Capitalize on this information and teach by tailoring the message to them. Here are some sample answers from the questions above.
1. How many years have you been preparing for this exam?
Over five years now.
2. How many times have you failed to achieve your desired score?
3. When do you plan to sit for the exam next?
In about three months
4. How will your life change once you get the scores you need?
I’ll be able to pursue a career abroad and move my family to a safe environment.
Now let’s tailor the message to this individual.
Too expensive (logical statistics)- I know the course seems costly, and you aren’t sure if you are ready to invest in yourself. However, consider how much money you’ve already spent on the exam? The exam costs $350 each time, and you’ve taken it eight times. That means you’ve paid nearly $3000 preparing, and you don’t even know why you are failing. With our product, you can alleviate the pain and disappointment of failure with a one-time payment of $799.
Too expensive (emotional)- The product/service does seem costly, but how much more time do you want to spend in your current situation? The longer you stay here trying to achieve your desired scores without our expert guidance, the longer you and your family have to stay in the same country. How much are you willing to invest in a course that will be able to get you the scores you need to move your family abroad.
I’ll pay tomorrow– You’ve been preparing for this exam on your own for quite some time, and it is apparent that you aren’t sure where you are going wrong. We can help you find the reason for this. If you plan to take the exam in 3 months, you’ll need to start your preparation today. The longer you wait to join, the longer it will take you to get the scores you need.
In summary, collect intelligence and use it in rebuttals of a buyer’s objections. You can use all of their information like a mirror to reflect the pain that they have been experiencing. You are there to help.
Closing the deal is not the last item in the 7 Steps to Sale, but if you do this one successfully, then you will not need to follow Step 7, Follow up.
Reaching an agreement requires the ability to take control of the conversation and use all the intelligence you’ve gathered. Your last shot to show the buyer how you can solve their problems. Here are a few closing questions to use when a buyer is on the fence.
1. Do you believe we can help you improve your situation?
2. Are your problems going to go away without our help?
3. How much will it cost you to solve this problem without our help?
The idea here is to get them to understand how you can help and give them no reason to reject the offer.
If they answer ‘yes’ to #1, ask them why they are holding back. If they answer, ‘no’ then ask them to explain in detail why and deal with those objections.
In #2, if they say ‘yes’ then tell them, that’s great, and you’ve wasted their time. Unlikely. What is more likely is that they will say ‘no,’ so ask them what are they going to do now. How are they going to solve this problem without expert guidance?
In the last example, get them to give you an exact number, but it will be more likely that they will look confused and embarrassed. Let the buyer visualize a reoccurring problem unless they invest in solving it.
Three words that you never want to hear: I’m not interested because it sounds so permanent. The following question can be used in any step of this process, but I’ve often used it as a last resort.
‘Is there something about the offer you don’t like?’
The question above requires the buyer to be honest and upfront with you about why they are not going forward. It’s a win-win situation if they cut ties here and remain friends, you can allocate your time somewhere else. If they start stating specifics, start thinking of freebies to offer, discounts to suggest, or rebuttals to objections. The process might continue if they are genuinely interested.
Advise to persuade– Play the role of the educator. If a prospect says ‘no thanks’ and moves on, offer your time to consult them in finding the right product or service.
Let your buyer know that you want to help them find the right partner if you are not. I know this sounds counterproductive but the
Getting the win is not only good for your bank account. Intrinsic motivation is beating the buyer in the negotiation while maintaining poise and professionalism.
If you don’t get the ‘W’ this time, try back again as a courtesy follow up to see if their problem was resolved. I’ll do this a month or two after the last correspondence with the lead.
7. Always follow up
Following up with all leads is critical. I’ve seen hundreds of solid leads fall through the cracks. There is no excuse for poor follow-up, so if your KPIs are off, take another look at your current system.
Lack of training– Standardize a system and have regular QA and training scenarios.
No systems in place- If you don’t have a standardized system in place, this is priority number one.
Systems should be fluid and flexible and act as an overall framework. Sales reps should be able to work within this outline and have the freedom to add their touch.
Get familiar with CRM software if you are not already. A Customer Relationship Management tool is a staple in most companies. There are many to choose from, but they almost all function the same. HubSpot has a free CRM that you can use and learn how they work, and there are loads of tutorials and free support. These are quite user-friendly and don’t require too much technical knowledge.
If your team is lazy, then you won’t earn profits for them or the company. Your organization must be full of grinders. People that will go the extra mile and spend the extra hour or two to close the deal. When 5 o’clock hits, they are not clocking out.
If they are disorganized, train them. If your team isn’t good with technology, teach them. If they are weak with any of the steps above, educate them. Always train your team to the standard you want to hold.