Stages of selling:
1) Identifying prospective customers: At this stage, companies do research to determine whether a particular set of people qualify as prospective customers or not. In other words, it is verifying whether the product manufactured by the company is able to address any need of the customer.
2) Pre-interaction preparation: The sales rep who will be planning to visit the prospective customer, prepares marketing content or product description at this stage with an objective to convince the potential customer to buy the product.
3) Interaction: There are many different ways to gain the attention of the customer as the customer may not be aware of the brand or the product. Hence, sales reps try to create interest in the customer by either by gifting him or by providing him with a sample of the product. Majority of the times, this interaction would be a face-to-face interaction as companies need to introduce the product to the customer. The interaction stage can again various sub stages based on the product that is being introduced and also based on the type of the customer. During the course of interaction, the prospective customer will initially go into a listening mode where he tried to listen and understand the features of the product. After gaining knowledge about the product, prospective customer may come up with questions that he might have. He might also oppose some of the benefits associated with the product because of lack of complete knowledge about the product.
4) Closing the deal: At this stage, prospective customer is convinced about the benefits of the product and he is willing to buy the product. If there is further push required from sales rep to convince the prospective customer to buy the product, he might adopt techniques such as offering discount or offering a free product etc.
5) Maintaining long term relationship: This stage may not be part of the actual selling process. However, it is part of the Sales Strategy wherein companies want to retain their customers so that they can make a future purchase. As part of the retention process, they maintain a long term relationship by with customer. Different companies adopt different techniques to maintain that long term relationship. Some of them could be reaching out to customer to enquire if the product is meeting their requirement.
The above given stages of the selling process, are very generic and not very elaborate. However, in reality, the actual process of selling may have multiple different sub process within it. But for understanding sake, based on the above stages, let’s quickly see what parts of the selling process can be automated and by what means. Automation of sales process can be done with the help of CRM tool.
A CRM is Customer Relationship Management software that has various aspects of business such as tracking customer information, automating sales process and tracking customer interaction etc. Now that we have known about CRM, let’s try to understand how automation can be brought into selling and what stages of sales process can be automated.
- Reaching out prospective customers: Reaching out to prospective customers is a tedious task for sales reps considering the fact that they would have to reach out to large number of population. Calling them and interacting them is extremely time consuming. A best CRM can automate the process of calling sending emails to prospective customers.
- Scoring the leads: It is not possible to have an interaction with each and every lead as there is no guarantee that all the leads will get converted to sales. Further, it is quite possible that some of the leads may not be right fit for the product. Scoring the leads based on various geographical, behavioral and professional factors can help company prioritize the leads. Feeding the CRM system with scoring criteria will be a onetime effort which is definitely worth the time.
- Automating Report generation: Report generation for analysis and review purpose is very common in organizations. CRM software has the ability to generate various reports that cater to the needs of different departments in the organization.
- Deal closure: Once the sale is made, it is time to complete the deal, the process which might involve contract signing and payment. The contract may need to go through various departments for review and approval. The soft copy of the contract can be routed to all the departments via CRM. The system provides the ability to different departments to review the contract the to provide their signoff. The contract can be shared with customer via email and can be stored internally within the CRM application.
Companies can achieve great savings in time, cost and man power when they successfully automate their sales process.