Understanding the Sales Cycle: Step 1, How to Prepare

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Last week, I talked about how a Google Engage video outlined five sales steps for selling AdWords services that are nearly identical to the ones we use. Here’s my slightly modified version that incorporates some of the steps in our sales process:

  1. Preparation
  2. Introduction
  3. Fact Find or Needs Analysis
  4. Recommendation
  5. Overcome Objections
  6. Close
  7. Finalize

Let me start of by saying that while selling advertising and closing a web design or development project is a different type of sale, both fall under the category of consultative selling, in which you assume the role of a consultant by identifying the buyer’s needs and recommending a course of action to satisfy those needs. As I stated earlier, that process can take 10 minutes or 10 months, depending on the nature (and cost) of what’s being sold. I’ll be covering each step of the process in detail over the next few articles, so let’s get started with Step One.

Being Prepared—the Critical First Step in Your Sales Process

The sales process begins in one of two ways. The first is when the prospect contacts you, such as through a referral or an inquiry from your website. The other is when you directly contact someone by prospecting them. I mention this because how much preparation you do will depend on the situation. If you are prospecting or cold-calling, you’ll need to be prepared in case that call leads to a conversation. So at a minimum, take a few minutes beforehand to visit their website and find out what they sell and to whom.

What Exactly is it You Do Here?

When you do have an appointment in advance, there’s no excuse for not learning as much as you can about the company and their products, services, and customer base beforehand. The most ignorant question you can ask when the two of you first sit down is, “So what exactly is it you do here?”

Consider what other information you’ll need to support your sales proposition. You may want to do some preliminary research on a few of their keywords or have some Internet usage statistics about their target demographic. For example, did you know that purchasers of industrial products like collets and wire harnesses are heavy Internet users? Neither did I, until I pitched online advertising to a collet manufacturer and discovered the insane number of searches for those keywords.

Know When to Quit

Beware of over-preparing! How will you know when you are? If you find yourself spending an hour or more researching a company you’ve yet to even call on, you might be over-preparing. Just saying …

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Taken by Surprise

As you prepare for your meeting, here’s one last suggestion. Resist the temptation to pre-judge your prospect. If you do, you’ll pitch a program based on what you think he’ll go for or can afford, rather than what he actually needs. The classic sales story is the guy dressed like a bum who walks onto a car lot and asks about a Cadillac. The sales person, judging him by his attire, tries to redirect him to something more affordable. Offended, the “bum” stalks off to another dealership and proceeds to buy 10 Cadillacs to use as company vehicles for the executive sales team of his multi-billion dollar company.

When I sold Yellow Pages, I’d often be assigned an account who had a bold line listing in a crowded heading filled with display ads. My job as a consultant was to recommend a program designed to bring him the most customers. That often meant presenting something that might cost 10 times more than he was currently paying. The temptation comes when you start imagining how the client will react to that, and you scale back the program to something you’re more comfortable presenting. But it’s not about you. And it’s presumptuous for you to make that decision for the client. Present the program you know will bring about the results he wants. It’s his business. He’ll decide if he wants it or not.

So much for Step One. In the following article, we’ll talk about the next few steps, and I’ll show you how having a clearly-defined sales process (at least in your own mind) keeps you on track and helps maintain some semblance of control over the sales call.

This is the forth installment of the series “Understanding the Sales Cycle,” which consists of:

What’s a Buying Cycle and Why Should I Care?
What’s a Sales Cycle and Why Do I Need One?
Your Client is Ready to Buy, but Are You Ready to Sell?
Step 1, How to Prepare
Making a Good First Impression

John TabitaJohn Tabita
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Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.

Businessfreelancingsalessellingselling your servicessmall business
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