3.3 The Seven Steps of Selling

Let’s do a quick review of the 7 steps in the selling process (but each step will be covered in detail in the next chapters).
Selling steps: Prospect and qualify Preapproach Approach Presentation Overcome objections Close the sale Follow-up

Step 1: Prospecting and Qualifying

Before planning a sale, a salesperson conducts research to identify the people or companies that might be interested in their product. In the B2B example, before the salesperson called the company, they had to find the company’s information somewhere—probably in a local business directory. This step is called prospecting, and it’s the foundational step for the rest of the sales process. A lead is a potential buyer.

A prospect is a lead that is qualified or determined to be ready, willing, and able to buy. The prospecting and qualifying step relates to the needs awareness step in the buying process and is described later in this chapter. In other words, in a perfect world, you are identifying customers who are in the process of or have already identified a need. Undoubtedly, when the salesperson called the target customer to discuss their ovens, they asked some questions to qualify the prospect. Qualifying is the other component to step one. What happens if the customer is not interested in the salesperson’s product, or they are interested but their business is struggling financially and doesn’t have the resources for a big purchase? Perhaps they are only an employee, not the manager, and they do not have the authority to make the purchasing decision. In this case, they are no longer a prospect, and the salesperson will move on to another lead. Salespeople qualify their prospects so they can focus their sales efforts on the people who are most likely to buy. After all, spending an hour discussing the capabilities of your company’s ovens with a lead that is about to go out of business would be a waste of time. It’s much more fruitful to invest your time with a qualified prospect, one who has the desire or ability to buy the product or service.

Step 2: Pre-approach – Chapter 5

The pre-approach is the “doing your homework” part of the process and is outlined in Chapter 5. A good salesperson researches their prospect, the market, familiarizing themselves with the customer’s needs, and learning all the relevant information regarding the product and service (Lucidchart, 2020). Remember that in the B2B example, the salesperson knew important information about the restaurant beforehand. They came prepared with a specific idea as to how their service could help the prospect and gave a tailored presentation.

Step 3: Approach – Chapter 5

First impressions (e.g., the first few minutes of a sales call) are crucial to building the client’s trust (Brudner, 2017). If you’ve ever asked someone out on a first date (yes, this is a selling situation), chances are you didn’t first meet the person and start the conversation off with the question, “Hey, do you want to go out on Saturday night?” Such an abrupt method would turn most people away. Similarly, as a professional salesperson, you would almost never make a pitch right away; instead, you would work to establish a rapport with the customer first. This usually involves introductions, making some small talk, asking a few warm-up questions, and generally explaining who you are and whom you represent (Cherry, 2006; Rackham, 1996). This is called the approach.

Step 4: Presentation – Chapter 6

There’s a good deal of preparation involved before a salesperson ever makes their pitch or presentation, but the presentation is where the research pays off and their idea for the prospect comes alive. By the time they present their product, a salesperson will understand their customer’s needs well enough to be sure they are offering a solution the customer could use. If you’re a real estate agent selling a house and your customers are an older, retired couple, you won’t take them to see a house with many bedrooms, several flights of stairs to climb, and a huge yard to keep up—nor will you show them around a trendy loft in a busy part of town. The presentation should be tailored to the customer, explaining how the product meets that person or company’s needs. It might involve a tour (as in this real estate example), a product demonstration, videos, PowerPoint presentations, or letting the customer actually look at or interact with the product. Presentation specifics are covered in Chapter 6.

Step 5: Handling Objections – Chapter 6

After you’ve made your sales presentation, it’s natural for your customer to have some hesitations or concerns called objections. Good salespeople look at objections as opportunities or as a good thing to further understand and respond to customers’ needs (Boyette, 2015). For instance, maybe you’re trying to convince a friend to come camping with you. “I’d like to go” your friend says, “but I’ve got a big project I need to finish at work, and I was planning to spend some time at the office this weekend.” “That’s no problem,” you tell him. “I’m free next weekend, too. Why don’t we plan to go then, once your project’s out of the way?” The objection was not a roadblock to camping but an opportunity to create a solution which is covered in Chapter 6.

Step 6: Closing the Sale – Chapter 7

Eventually, if your customer is convinced your product will meet their needs, you close by agreeing on the terms of the sale and finishing up the transaction (Freese, 2003). This is the point where the potential gym member signs their membership agreement, the restaurant owner decides to purchase the ovens, or your friend says, “Sure, let’s go camping next weekend!” Sometimes a salesperson may have to try several trial closes before the prospect is ready to close (Cardone, 2017). Different closing techniques are covered in Chapter 7.

Step 7: Following Up – Chapter 7

OK, so you’ve completed a landscaping job for your customer or sold them a car or installed the software that meets their needs. While it might seem like you have accomplished your goal, the customer relationship has only begun. The follow-up is an important part of assuring customer satisfaction, retaining customers, and prospecting for new customers. This might mean sending a thank-you note, calling the customer to make sure a product was received in satisfactory condition, or checking in to make sure a service is meeting the customer’s expectations. Follow-up also includes logistical details like signing contracts, setting up delivery or installation dates, and drawing up a timeline. From the buyer’s perspective, follow-up is the implementation step in the buying process. Good follow-up helps build trust and more sales, customer referrals, positive word of mouth and actually leads you back to the first step in the selling process because it provides the opportunity to learn about new needs for this customer or new customers through referrals (close and follow-up, 2009).

“7.2. The Seven Steps of Selling” from The Power of Selling by Dr. Michelle Clement is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.


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