Facilitating the buying process can be very straightforward and fairly uncomplicated. Yet most professionals have no idea what it takes to guide a potential client through a decision making process. They are completely lost when it comes to effective follow-up and unsure how to best get prospects to take the "next step".
If they are lucky to get to a face-to-face meeting, they "show-up and throw-up." They spew all there is to know about their product or service and leave the meeting hoping for a favorable decision sometime in the near future.
Their follow-up consists of a few phone-calls that go somewhat like this: "Hi, remember me? We met last week? Anyway, I just wanted to know if you've made a decision yet? No? Oh, OK, I'll call again?" Soon they discover their prospect got stuck in a "12-month meeting" (every time they call over the next 12 months the prospect is in a meeting). Sounds familiar?
What's missing is clear, consistent and easy to duplicate sales process. In a nutshell sales process is a sequence of steps that predictably moves potential clients along the decision-making path.
While your unique process will be based on the type of product or service you are selling and who the buyer is, here is a simple five step model that's guaranteed to help you close more deals.
STEP ONE: Generate Leads
The number one reason most promotional efforts don't get the desired results is trying to make a sale too soon. Advertising should be designed to generate leads - inquiries about your product or service from qualified prospects ? not to get an order!
Generating leads is relatively easy - there are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways to get potential clients to contact you. Speaking, publishing articles, referral systems, press releases, internet marketing, networking, print ads and direct mail are just a few ways that work well for attracting prospects interested in your professional services.
STEP TWO: Pre-qualify Prospects
Your promotional efforts are bound to create some responses from tire-kickers. Unless you have unlimited resources (namely money and time) to follow-up with people that will never make a purchase or create a referral ? you want to eliminate the least ideal "prospects" right from the get-go.
The best way to separate lookie-loos from genuine prospects is to ask them to invest a small amount of effort or money before they can receive more information. Have prospects fill-out a short questionnaire or request a small fee to cover your expenses of giving them additional information and only the serious candidates will move to the next step.
STEP THREE: Send Positioning Materials
Depending on how you generated the lead in the first place you may need to send out "fulfillment package" ? the information promised in your advertising efforts.
You can't give someone a "test drive" of your service ? but you can illustrate your expertise through the materials you send out. White papers, special reports, articles, audio CDs and videos can give prospects a good insight into your level of expertise and "whet their appetites" ? compelling them to ask how you can help them.
This is a critical step but professionals often skip it altogether. I recommend that you never meet with a prospect unless he or she had a chance to read a special report or an article you wrote, listen to an audio-program you created, participated in a teleclass you facilitated, or had a chance to "experience you" in some other form.
This gives you a chance to demonstrate your understanding of their problems, prove that you have the know-how needed to provide an effective solution, and position you as the expert who will not waste their time.
STEP FOUR: Get an Appointment
If you've done a good job in the first three steps ? this will be easy. Your best prospects will actually look forward to meeting with you and exploring ways you can help them.
While scheduling an appointment you can further qualify the prospect's level of interest and determine if you want to invest your time in getting together with them. However, avoid the pitfall of giving away too much information at this point. Remember your goal as this point is just to get the prospect to meet with you.
STEP FIVE: Face-to-Face Meeting
The content of your in-person meeting depends on the service or product you are selling and your target market. It could be a simple consultation that results in closing the sale or an elaborate presentation designed to moved the prospect to the next step in the process ? like an "exploration meeting" with the purchasing committee or an "in-depth needs assessment".
This is obviously a simplified model, but it identifies the five critical elements of the selling process. There are countless variations and tactics you could employ in each step, but each of those elements has only one objective ? to move prospect to the next step!
(c) 2004 Adam M. Urbanski
The Author, Adam Urbanski, The Marketing Mentor, helps Service Professionals and Small Business Owners attract more clients. For more free tutorial articles, hot how-to tips and a FREE 32-page marketing guide go to http://www.themarketingmentors.com