If you regularly follow our blog you will probably know who Paul Atherton is by now. Paul is a leading expert in the world of sales training and coaching and has achieved some rather incredible goals in his career to date. As well as personally achieving sales of over £57M, Paul has trained and mentored more than 5000 top sales agents along the way. In 2012 he also led a sales team to achieve record sales of £102M for that year.
We are very fortunate that Paul believes in our mission here at CommissionCrowd, and that he is happy to contribute his valuable content to our readers in the lead up to our launch. If you have missed any of Paul’s previous posts, we will include links for you at the end of this article.
How To Create A Successful Buying Process By Paul Atherton
We sales people can be an egotistical lot!
We talk like we know it all and while we might even believe some of our own hype, secretly deep down inside we know that we haven’t got it all cracked!
When it comes to the sales process there seems to be several ways in which professional sales agents describe it. The type of sales agent is commonly referred to in the industry as a ‘sales process junkie’. This type of person usually displays a “Know it all, been there, done that, got the t-shirt” type of attitude, while their opposite number will tell you that because the sales process differs from client to client, the correct sales process requires a flexible approach depending on who you are selling to.
As a successful sales team leader, sales director or business owner – all of which I have been, or still am – we may often find ourselves struggling to determine the correct sales process to implement for our sales team to follow. Do we simply leave them to it, encourage them to seek out ‘better leads’ somehow, or should you even consider incentivising your sales people differently in the hope they suddenly start to perform better?
The Three Rules Of Creating A Successful Buying Process
Rule No.1: A sales process is a buying process
Rule No.2: The whole sales team needs to create, build, launch and lead this process
Rule No.3: The sales team need to meet every week to continue to evolve and improve on the process
Over time, sales conversion rates will show that some members of your sales team are potentially skipping vital steps of your sales process, but as sure as Sunday comes after Saturday, most of those who are taking shortcuts won’t admit it. Therefore a uniform, measurable process needs to be put in place without running the risk of turning my sales team into a “robotic” sales force. In order for it to work the process must have the input of the sales team. If we empower our team by asking them to help build the sales process that they will be using, we then encourage their buy-in right from the word go. An involved team is an evolved team. Remember that one.
Now I’ll show you how I turned a direct selling kitchen business with a £5 million turnover p.a., and a Lead/Sale conversion rate of 1 in 17, into a £10 million turnover business with a Lead/Sale conversion rate of 1 in 8.
This change took 24 months to accomplish and we were the envy of our industry. All of our leads were cold and we didn’t have a recognisable brand at all—you couldn’t start with a more basic model than we did. The team I built to accomplish this turnaround is the best team I have ever worked with and we are still very close to this day. What we achieved may seem like the stuff of legend, but it’s cold, hard fact!
Rule No. 1: A Sales Process Is A Buying Process
Grab a blank piece of paper and forget everything you know: all your sales experience and all the data inside your head and get into a headspace of “I know nothing of selling”. Rather than focusing solely on selling your products, become the buyer. Get yourself into their head and try to see your product through their eyes, hear about it through their ears and think like they might about what you have to offer them. Write down as quickly as you can and in no particular order ALL of the things you want to know, see, feel, touch, taste, experience and get – before, during and after making a decision to purchase your products. If you are a left brain ‘analytical’ thinker, you’ll probably want to make a list of these items. If you are more of a ‘creative’ right brain thinker get a load of post it notes in a bunch of different colours, write each item on an individual note and stick it on an empty wall. Whichever method you choose, keep going until you can think of nothing else the “buyer” (aka YOU) needs before, during and after buying your product.
When your list is as complete as it can be, or your wall is a rainbow of post-it notes, start putting them in order. Begin with obvious categories: appointment preparation, meeting the client, the first few minutes, things you want your salesperson to understand, what’s most important to you and your company, the things you want buyers to hear and see about your products – their options, specs, testimonials, guarantees, prices, offers, services etc.
Once you have the obvious categories, start to populate them with all of your individual items and take the time to stop and re-organize the groups as necessary. Once this process gets close to being done you will have the created the beginning of a “buyer’s process”.
Example buying process for the kitchen business we built
Here is step one of twelve buying process steps that we created for our sales team to follow when visiting a customer at their home. Remember, we created our buying process in conjunction with our sales reps:
- Complete your pre-meeting routine in FULL – scrub up well, smell great, feel great
- Be slightly early so you are able to knock on the door right on time
- Have a friendly knock / bell ring (not 3 hard knocks or 1 long ring)
- Stand back from the door at a 45 degree angle
- Smile and humbly introduce yourself
- Wipe your feet on the mat for just a few seconds longer than normal
- Take your shoes off (& no silly socks!)
- Don’t try to “schmooze” the prospective buyer; don’t try to sell yourself—be yourself
- Be sincere in your comments and compliments in order to build rapport
- Remember F.R.O.G.S. (Family, Recreation, Occupation and Goals) to find out what your prospect cares about in life as well as business
You’ll want to complete this process on your own, in full just for you to start with. As you come to the end, notice how motivated you are about all the possibilities opening up in front of you. You should feel excited knowing that IF all these steps happened on every lead, your customers would benefit from the “buying process” that they want and need.
Not only this but your sales team would also have a “sales process” to help guide them towards consistent successful negotiations. You should be feeling extremely motivated but remember, this exercise is just for you at this moment in time. It is NOT something for you to force on your team! This preliminary exercise was to give you, their intrepid leader, a taste of its power and potential. The point is to get you into a state of excitement where you can’t wait to get your team together and start to include their feedback for the final process.
Rule No.2: The Whole Sales Team Needs To Create, Build, Launch & Lead This Process!
When you decide to undertake this process, book a full day on the calendar and get everyone in the office. All sales people should clear their appointments for the day to be part of this exercise and ideally, every person in your whole organisation should be involved as this is a cultural change you are creating. If you really want to transform your sales, the hypothetical “losses” of this day spent in the office will be recouped beyond measure as your transformation takes root!
Tell your team the story of what caused you to want to do this exercise and the goals you hoped to achieve upon completing it. Go over the process with them, discuss any revelations you had while doing it, how you felt about your discoveries and what you think, hope and feel they will experience as they all do it together today as a team. Explain the goals and motives for the exercise. Keep your own list close to hand so you can volunteer ideas or steer the process as needed, but ultimately, let your team be the creators of this process.
The drill will be the same – split your sales team into groups of list writers and post-its fans with designated leaders, scribes and presenters. Run the process right to the end and decide as you go along on every every single step & any sub-steps. Make a list of any materials or tools your team might need to help accomplish their goals and make this exercise a success.
Watch the change in your people as the day goes along and observe the dynamics as they interact with each other. Prepare to be amazed. Simply encourage their ideas and steer as little as as you can – you want your team to claim full ownership in the creation of the end product.
When you have assembled your final ‘Buyers Process for Sales Closers’ manual, make sure to praise your team sincerely, thank them for their hard work and ask them for feedback. How did they feel when they heard what you had planned for the day? How did they feel at the start of the day, as each stage was discussed and the guidelines for the process took shape and then how they felt at the end of the day. The motivation and buzz after a successful session should be massive as this is entirely created by the team – they should be excited at the potential for increasing sales and exceeding their quotas!
Agree on a launch date and set up group/team rules to make sure the process is followed out of the gate. You’ll also want to set up guidelines to measure success as you implement the strategy as well as how to adapt and evolve the process as you receive feedback from both clients and your sales team.
Rule No.3: Meet Every Week To Evolve And Improve On The Process
Now that you’ve created the and implemented the ‘buyers process’, you have to manage it – otherwise all of your hard work to this point would be for nothing!
This is how my team did it:
- Daily calls before and after every sales call with each team member—100% of the time
- Weekly training session on the process/chosen steps—100% of the time
- Weekly conference call (nationally) to give and receive feedback and to develop and evolve the process—100% of the time
Make sure you are open to feedback and before you give opinions on what you hear, throw it open to the team and get their responses. Create a team group text to spread good news and share when people are successful at selling using the newly created sales process. Make sure to spread great stories throughout the team as soon as they happen as that positive feedback helps encourage others to also buy in.
Have a group E-mail or similar kind of forum for all members to post, risk free, their thoughts on the process and their experiences in using it. Make sure to monitor this forum and guide/steer discussion towards positive development of the sales process as needed. You should see the process evolve and improve it little by little each week from the feedback received from your team and potential clients.
You should also involve all of the non-sales staff in your office so they understand HOW your team is now selling and what they can do to help make the process even more succinct throughout the company. They should start to see the sales team as their selling heroes and feel satisfied/proud knowing that they also play an important part in helping the business succeed.
There you have it: what to do, why you should do it, how to do it, how we did it and how you can do it for your company also! Don’t wait: implement this process now and avoid losing out on all of those leads that could become sales as a result of an improved Buyers Process!
Or why not get me in to do it with you and your sales team!
Train like you’ve never won, sell like you’ve never lost