Selling, like most endeavors you want to succeed at in life, requires a disciplined process, sharp skills, and good planning. Just as there are specific sales skills that need to be honed through continuous learning and practice there are parts of the sales cycle that require attention and planning. Sharpening your sales skills and refining your sales process are great ways to ensure success over the long haul.
I will be devoting a series of nine posts to exploring the sales cycle, looking at which principles of influence are most appropriate to focus on at different points in the cycle. My goal for this series is to help you understand how to get the most “bang for the buck” when you’re selling.
Let’s start with the sales cycle. Other sales trainers may combine some of these steps and in some businesses the cycle might look a little different. I see the typical sales cycle as an 8-step process, which includes the following sequence:
- Prospecting – Looking for new potential customers or clients.
- Initial Meeting – The first contact with a prospect.
- Qualification – Fact finding sessions primarily designed to assess whether or not you can – or want to – do business with the prospect.
- Presentation – Presenting your service or demonstrating your product to the prospect to show him or her how it meets some need they have.
- Objections – Dealing with reasons the prospect might bring up that indicate a hesitancy to move forward.
- Negotiating – Potentially altering pricing, terms and/or other aspects of your product or service in order to reach a final agreement.
- Closing – Getting the prospect to agree to do business with you and your organization.
- Referrals – Getting the names of people or organizations you can approach using the client’s name as a lead-in.
The six principles of influence, as popularized by Robert Cialdini, we’ll look at in conjunction with the sales cycle are:
- Liking – We prefer to do business with people we know and like.
- Reciprocity – We feel obligated to give back to those who first give to us.
- Consensus – We look to others to see how we should behave in certain situations.
- Authority – We often defer to those with superior knowledge or wisdom (i.e., experts) when making decisions.
- Consistency – We feel internal psychological pressure and external social pressure to be consistent in what we say and do.
- Scarcity – We desire things more when we believe they are rare or diminishing.
Another psychological concept that will come into play throughout the series is the contrast phenomenon. This isn’t a principle of influence but is a psychological concept that works in conjunction with the principles of influence at different times. Contrast, sometimes known as “compare and contrast,” alerts us to the reality that two things will appear “more” different depending on what was presented first.
I encourage you to stay tuned because if you do, your ability to sell, and getting to yes, will be much easier when you add the science of influence into your sales approach. Next week we’ll start with prospecting.