The sales cycle can be divided into several different steps. Since the potential customer needs different handling at each step, this only makes sense.
The sales cycle can be divided into multiple steps in different ways and the steps are called by different names. One common distinction in the first couple of steps of the sales cycle are leads and opportunities.
Leads are the first step in the process. A lead means that someone, somewhere has indicated an interest in your company and its product or service. The person expressing interest may not have purchase authority, or any other authority. His or her connection to the process may be quite nebulous. But it establishes a relationship between you and their company
CRM comes into the process early. The information on each lead needs to be entered into the CRM database This includes not just contact information such as name, address and phone number, but also all the additional information on the prospect, including an estimate of readiness to purchase.
Leads need to be nurtured. Typically this involves staying in contact with the lead, either by phone or email and judging where the lead is on the ready-to-buy spectrum.
The problem with leads is that most of them are nebulous. They may never go anywhere. You need to keep in touch with your leads to move them through the process, but you can’t put much time or effort into each lead. A prospect at this stage is best handled by the sales automation features in your CRM system. This means using things like canned emails to handle contact and other steps to cut down the effort put into each lead.
It’s also important to have a life cycle for leads. If the prospect doesn’t respond to your overtures in a reasonable amount of time, you need to have a process for moving them to the inactive file – or dropping them completely.
The next level up in the sales process (or the next stage down the sales funnel) is the opportunity. This is a prospect who has indicated a definite interest in your product or service.
Obviously, an opportunity is worth more effort than a simple lead. Opportunities require more personal attention and less reliance on sales automation. At this point you have the opportunity to establish a personal relationship with the would-be customer.
Flexibility is the key to the opportunity stage. At this point the prospect may be anything from mildly interested to in a mood to purchase. You can have a major impact at this stage depending on how you respond to the prospect. You need to be aware of the subtleties in the developing relationship and to react to them appropriately.
If you come on too strong you may turn the opportunity off or at the very least move backwards across the sales funnel. On the other hand if you don’t indicate an appropriate level of interest you may lose the prospect all together.
Experience plays a crucial role in handling sales opportunities. You need to listen carefully to the response you get and pitch the person appropriately.
This is also the stage where you may want to initiate personal contact, both to move the sales process forward and to judge the real level of interest and overall situation.
The deeper the prospect moves into the sales funnel the more important it is to establish a personal relationship. Your CRM system’s sales automation tools are still important but more and more of the sales process shifts to establishing that all-important relationship.
About the Author
Rick Cook has been involved with computers since the days of punched cards and magnetic drum memories. He has written hundreds of articles on computers and related technology as well as a series of fantasy novels full of bad computer jokes.
Source: SANS ISC SecNewsFeed @ March 6, 2017 at 06:09PM