While the business of selling goods and services has been around for thousands of years, it is important to note the history of the sales process. It is thought that the first structured sales process was developed by John Henry Patterson, of National Manufacturing Company (later National Cash Register, or NCR) in Dayton, Ohio. He applied his philosophy on developing "scientific" methods and procedures that led to great efficiency in manufacturing to other aspects of the business such as sales. By the late 20th century, Patterson had developed a huge sales force motivated by sales quotas and complete with territories. Patterson organized and created the first sales training event in 1884, and established the first sales training school in 1893. He taught a very simple sales philpsophy which is still used to this day and is the underlying framework for the seven step sales process:
- Indentify the client's problems
- Develop a specific value proposition
- Demonstrate how the solution will fit
- Ask for the order
Intellegent Enterprise, the parent company of MSP University, utilized the Seven Step Sales Process to sell millions of dollars of managed services agreements as one of the first "pure-play" MSPs in Southern California.The Seven Step Sales process is a step by step methodology to ensure consistency and predictability in selling a product or service. The Seven Steps are:
- Overcomming Objections
Each step in the process is equally important to increase the odds of earning a prospect's business. When the steps are executed out of order or not followed through correctly, the prospect can feel pressured or uncomfortable with making a commitment. For example, a prospect will not buy a product or service (Close) and certanly not continue to buy (follow-up) without first knowing how that solution or service will provide value (objection). Most objections are simply misunderstandings or a lack of information which may be the result of and improperly conducted client meeting or demonstration (presentation). It is very difficult to present value without first understanding and uncovering what pains the client is facing and whether or not the proposed solution will make sense (qualifying). It is impossible to get answers to some of the tough questions asked during the needs development or qualifying phase of the process without first developing rapport and credibility (warm-up). The most successful first impressions/warm-ups are developed from understanding and forecasting what the prospect might need in advance (preparation).
A successful sales process provides the framework for continuous improvement and growth. While simply executing the steps of the sales process will not ensure success, it will allow for more consistent results and the ability to forcast growth and scalibility. The Seven Step Sales Process works more effectively when combined with consistent practice of sales skills through role-playing each phase of a sales engagement. Sales professionals who practice regularly are more able to navigate a client from introduction all the way through earning commitment by reducing risk and positioning their value proposition according to prospects' clients' specific needs.
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