So far in this blog series we’ve discussed why it’s important for your sales team to have a comprehensive understanding of your sales pipeline related to these stages: Lead Generation, Research/Fact Finding, Initial Communication, Lead Nurturing, and your Solution. In part 3, I will wrap up the last couple of stages in a typical sales pipeline to complete the walk through of “attaching” us to a lead to gain a deeper understanding of the importance of each step.
Negotiation – Be prepared to lead the negotiation process effectively and confidently to help you achieve the winning results for your company. Present a case that will benefit the customer and make sure to be honest, open and transparent. Don’t try and hide things from the prospect during the negotiation of the agreement. This will only result in an unhappy customer that will doubt your truthfulness and integrity. Your sales team needs to have a clear sense of how their negotiations relate to the overall, long-term goals of the company. Also, try to keep a positive tone throughout the negotiation process. Rather than saying, “No, we can’t do that because of XYZ”, try approaching it differently with, “If we do that, then we will run into an issue with ABC. That will result in the need for additional resources. Are you prepared to deal with ABC’s impact on your workflow and budget?” Instead of saying “No”, present a question to help them think through the process and come to the conclusion on their own. This will keep the negotiations flowing in a positive direction and towards an agreement between both parties.
Purchase Order – Once you’ve reached an agreement during negotiations, it will be time to finalize the purchase. Communicate clearly, both verbally and in writing, what the customer is purchasing. Make sure all parties have a copy of the agreement in case there are questions later. Follow up with the customer after the agreement has been signed and thank them for their business. Just because a new customer signed the contract doesn’t mean you just wash your hands of them. Even if they have been transitioned to an account manager, it’s important to continue a good working relationship as their sales representative.
Account Maintenance – This stage of the sales pipeline is ongoing and may be performed by the sales team or a separate customer care team within the company. If it’s performed by your sales team, then you should have a good understanding of what your responsibilities are for taking care of your client. However, if the account maintenance is handled by an account management or customer care group, then it’s a good idea to understand what is involved in the account maintenance phase. Having knowledge of what’s needed in order to maintain a good working relationship with the client during the account maintenance phase will help your client make an easier transition from the sales person to the account manager. It’s important for the sales team to pass along as much information as possible to help the account manager keep the client happy. If the client’s happy, then they’ll be more likely to buy more from your company in the future and potentially refer you to other new customers. Understanding what it takes to keep a client happy on an ongoing basis from the account manager’s perspective is important so that the sales person can properly prepare for the handoff to the account manager. Providing the appropriate information will help to keep all parties informed and on the same page.
In a nutshell, all stages of the sales pipeline are vitally important to the entire selling process, no matter how small the stage may seem. These phases all play a role in building relationships with prospects that will hopefully turn to new customers and more sales. If you’re not familiar with each stage in your sales pipeline, I suggest you make an effort to gain more knowledge of each stage. It will help to attract prospects, create new customers for life and bigger profits!