The Breakdown of the Sales Flow to 5 Simple Steps

Ed Abel

There is no way to predict an exact flow of the sales conversation. It’s important to have a sense of how you want it to flow, however, so that you can keep things on track if the conversation gets derailed. Prepare by following your own version of this universal guideline:

  1. Establish rapport.
  2. Uncover the client's situation / problem / needs.
  3. Propose a solution and describe the benefits.
  4. Discuss the next steps.
  5. Ask for client’s buy-in to move forward.

Establish rapport.
Rapport is about connecting with your potential client in a way that builds trust. Begin your sales conversation with a smile on your face and warmth in your voice. Think about how much you appreciate your potential client taking the time to meet with you, and express that appreciation directly.

In addition to smiling and conveying warmth, build rapport by finding something in common with the potential client, and discussing it briefly. Examples are: someone you both know, a common organization to which you both belong, a common interest like music or sports, or parenthood. Avoid talking about controversial topics – like religion and politics – unless you know for sure that you share similar beliefs on those topics.

Continue building rapport throughout the sales conversation by listening actively to what the other person is saying and responding appropriately. Instead of focusing on telling your prospect all about you and your services, make the conversation about tending to your potential client’s needs.

Another strategy for building rapport is to encourage the potential client to do most of the talking. You should be trying to do only 20% of the talking. There’s something magical (and counterintuitive) about encouraging the other person to do most of the talking. If you notice that your prospect is talking a lot, you are doing something right! You are building a sense of trust and rapport with your potential client.

Uncover the Potential Client’s Situation / Problem / Needs.
Before you start talking about the services you offer, ask open-ended questions to uncover exactly what your prospect needs. These questions encourage long answers, and give you lots of insights about your prospect. Here are some examples:

  1. “How would you describe the situation you are facing?”
  2. “What is the hardest part of that situation?”
  3. “If you could make things different, how would you prefer them to be?”
  4. “If you were able to make those changes, what else would change for the better?”
  5. “What kinds of solutions have you already tried?”

Focus, and as you listen, make mental notes about what’s most important to this person. Then, when it’s time for you to offer a solution, you will know exactly how to present your offer to this potential client because you will know exactly what the problem is and how to frame your solution to meet the unique needs of this person.

Propose a solution and describe the benefits.
Up until now, you have mostly listened and asked questions. Once you are clear about your potential client’s situation, problem, and needs, you can offer your solutions. Show how your solution can address the client’s situation. Keep referring to what you know about the client’s needs and focus on the benefits of what you offer.

Watch for over-promising and under-delivering as you describe your solution. Promise what you can actually deliver, and deliver more than you promise.

Preparing to offer a solution includes being ready to respond to an objection. If you find yourself feeling defensive, notice it and set your feelings aside. Replace any defensiveness with curiosity. This will allow you to show respect for the client’s perspective, and will continue to build rapport as you uncover what’s really behind the objective and address it calmly. Treat the objection like a “gift” because it actually is a benefit to you. Use your questioning skills. “Will you tell me more about your concern?”can lead to your addressing the client’s concern and turning the conversation around.

Discuss the next steps.
It is a natural progression to describe what you offer and then discuss what needs to happen next. Here are some examples:

  • The client needs to talk to the other decision-makers.
  • You prepare a written proposal that describes the details of your proposed solution.
  • You research more possible solutions and make another appointment.

You want to present the next steps in such a way that the potential client will say “yes” to something. For example, it is clear the client is ready to buy from you, then ask: “Are you ready to finalize the details?”

If it’s clear the client is not ready to buy from you, move the client forward through the sales process by giving them an option to which he/she is compelled to say “yes,” such as “May I call you next Wednesday at 1 pm or Thursday at 5 pm to follow-up on our conversation?”

Ask for client’s buy-in to move forward.
If you offered the potential client a next step to which they are compelled to say “yes,” then getting the buy-in is easy. Your sales conversation is nearly over. To get buy-in, ask a closed-ended question that either implies a “yes” response or allows for a yes-or-no response. Here are examples:

  • It looks like you’re ready to fill out the application. Is that correct?
  • Shall we order the card stock in tan or green?

Now that we've laid out 5 steps to follow in the sales process, it's up to you to be able to handle and be prepared for any questions or adversities that could derail your conversation. Remember to keep it positive, focused on the potential client, and moving in the general direction you have planned. Good Luck!

Ed Abel is founder of ABEL Business Institute, and author of Roadmap to Success
Copyright 2012. Author retains ownership. All Rights Reserved.

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