Professional selling, unlike many other disciplines, is often thought of as an imprecise process, but nothing is farther from the truth.
The first task a territory sales representative must complete in order to have any chance at success is assemble a target list of potential prospects. How that list is obtained depends upon the nature of the product or service being sold and the nature of the sales assignment.
General Geographic Territory
A sales representative with a general zip code driven territory that sells a product that has general application has the advantage of being able to call on every target in his or her geography. Sales representative should divide the territory up into logical sections and cover it in a fashion that allows for a rotation back through from the point where they started after they completely canvas the area an initial time.
As a sales representative makes calls, either in person or on the telephone, they are gathering information from each call as to the nature of each target contacted and their interest in acquiring the product or service being sold.
A sales suspect is simply a target on a sales territory list that fits the profile likely to need the product or service that is being sold. A suspect has no solid data indicating that they actually need, want or can afford the offering a sales representative is tasked to sell.
Suspects in a sales territory become prospects after a sale representative has gathered enough information by a direct call, referral from someone else or research to know they need the offering being sold. The next thing a sales person has to determine is what kind of prospect each former suspect is, long, medium or short term in regards to the timeframe they are likely to acquire the offering.
As prospects for future sales are categorized by a sales professional, according to the decision timeline they are likely to make an acquisition decision, it creates what is known as a sales funnel. Many sales funnels are set up based upon probable buying decisions being made by prospects on a 30, 60 and 90 day plus time line. Sales funnels are termed so because usually there will be more prospects for sales further out on a time line, a medium amount about 60 days out and fewer within the shortest time frame such as within 30 days.
Building Sales Competencies: Where to Start?
A sales funnel such as the one described prior will change based upon the price, complexity and scope of the product and process. Taking a prospect through the entire sales funnel is described as completing the sales cycle.
Staying organized is critical for successful sales people. Keeping track of prospects and where they are in the sales funnel will determine next-step activities. Prospects will move around on the timeline based upon time and changing circumstances.
In the past prospects were tracked by using collected business cards stapled to index cards with notes on each prospect written down. The index cards were filed and separated by dividers with respective decision time frames written on tabs. Today sales funnels are tracked by software systems such as Salesforce.com and sales people are expected to input daily sales activities into such systems.
There you have it. Something that seemed to have little structure is in fact quite a process. The question on whether sales people are born or made may still be open, but the sales process is made.
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