How to Develop a Sales Process for Your Small Business

DiannaGeairnLP2Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Dianna Geairn. Dianna is The Irreverent Sales Girl. She and her team provide a transformational sales message to your sales and business development personnel in highly entertaining and interactive formats. For more information, visit: irreverentsalesgirl.com.

SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORANT QUALITY OF A GOOD SALES PROCESS FOR A SMALL BUSINESS?

Dianna Geairn: A good sales process is simple and is something that you will actually use. If you make your process too fancy, you are likely to get overwhelmed and start to procrastinate. Your process should fit your style and be something you are reliable to do.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE KEY COMPONENTS THAT A SALES PROCESS REQUIRES?

Dianna Geairn: Good sales processes have at least three things:

1) A consistent schedule. You should know when and how often you are going to be performing your sales activities.

2) A strong message. You should know what you are going to say and at what point in the process you are going to say it.

3) Mixed media plan. Use multiple channels to convey your message and mix it up – emails and phone calls are the most common, but perhaps it’s appropriate to reach your potential customers on a favorite social channel.

SmallBizLady: WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO SCHEDULE YOUR SALES ACTIVIITES?

Dianna Geairn: Optimal times for professional salespeople are between 9 and 4. These pros do their research and call plans before and after business hours and their sales activities during business hours. However, I find that the “right” answer for small businesses is to pick the time that you are most likely to do it. And then, stick to it. It is more important to be consistent than it is to do a lot of it.

SmallBizLady: HOW MANY TIMES SHOULD A SMALL BUSINESS REACH OUT TO A PROSPECTIVE CUSTOMER?

Dianna Geairn: If you are absolutely certain that someone should become a customer, do the initial outreach and then put them into a “drip” system until they respond. For the prospects that you suspect would be a good customer, but it may not be the right fit or the right time, you should build a ‘cadence’ or a set of different types of outreach you are going to use as you work to get their attention. It usually takes 6 to11 “touches” to get a conversation going, so don’t stop too early.

SmallBizLady: WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENTS OF A GOOD SALES CADENCE? 

Dianna Geairn: A good sales cadence allows your prospect to experience your brand in multiple ways over a period of time. A good cadence reaches out over a series of weeks. It includes email messages, voice messages, and sometimes even social media (if your prospect is active on a particular platform). Each email and voicemail is brief, to the point, and demonstrates what it is like to work with you. If you are fun to work with, be fun in your outreach.  If you are serious and deliberate, communicate that in each message. Make sure you have an “end” to your cadence where you communicate that you will not be trying to reach them anymore, but you are always available if the time is right for them.

SmallBizLady: WHY WOULD YOU PUT AN “END” TO YOUR CADENCE, DON’T YOU WANT TO TRY OVER AND OVER UNTIL YOU REACH YOUR PROSPECT?

Dianna Geairn: No. A prospect does not want to feel like you are a predator tracking them down until they succumb. If you send an email one day, call them the next day. Wait a few days in between and do it again. After seven or eight tries, let them know you won’t be reaching out anymore. This accomplishes three things. First, you have much more fun reaching out – because there is dignity in ending the outreach on your terms. Second, many people DO respond when they think you are going away! Third, you need to move prospects out of your pipeline if they are not responding to make room for the many customers who will.

SmallBizLady: WHAT TOOLS DO YOU RECOMMEND TO SUPPORT A GOOD SALES PROCESS?

Dianna Geairn: Of course, you will need a phone and some kind of device that allows you to send emails. A computer is ideal because you can write so much more quickly on it. It’s probably a good idea to have access to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to find your prospects and learn more about them. It is absolutely critical to have some kind of tool that keeps track of your activity and your sales funnel. I recommend a CRM (Customer Relationship Managers.

SmallBizLady: WHY WOULD A SMALL BUSINESS USE A CRM WHEN THEY CAN USE AN EXCEL SPREADSHEET OR SOME OTHER KIND OF SOFTWARE?

Dianna Geairn: CRM’s used to be expensive and complex. Today, there are options that are simple, easy-to-use and extremely affordable – like Insightly. CRM’s allow everyone in your organization to see what is happening with new business development and with current customers. You can get a full picture easily of all the aspects of your customer’s journey – in one place.

SmallBizLady: HOW DOES A CRM SUPPORT A GOOD SALES PROCESS?

Dianna Geairn: There are four ways a CRM will support your sales process. First, it gives you a place to store everything so that you can quickly remind yourself where you are in the conversation when you reach out or connect. Second, a CRM allows you to see in one glance where each of your deals is and it keeps deals from falling through the cracks. Finally, a CRM allows you to set up your cadence as tasks. So, every day when you sit down to prospect, it is clear what action you are supposed to take next. A real time-saver!  Fourth, a CRM allows you to evaluate how effective your processes are. Businesses who win don’t run their business on assumptions or anecdotes. They use real data to learn what works and what doesn’t.

SmallBizLady: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE SMALL BUSINESSES MAKE WHEN IT COMES TO SALES PROCESS?

Dianna Geairn: The biggest mistake small businesses make happens when they feel they have “enough customers” or they don’t have any more bandwidth to bring on new clients. So, they stop prospecting and stop bringing in new leads. To guarantee longevity EVERY business must always be reaching out for new business – even if they can’t bring it on right now. A business is either growing or contracting and there is no substitute for having a full pipeline – no matter how busy you are.

SmallBizLady: IF A BUSINESS IS AT CAPACITY, SHOULD THEIR SALES PROCESS BE DIFFERENT THAN IF THEY ARE TRYING TO GROW?

Dianna Geairn: Absolutely. If your business is lucky enough to be at capacity, it is time to take a look at your existing customer base. First, look to see if any one client makes up more than 15% of your revenue or profits. If the answer is yes, this is a red flag. It is time to stop selling to the smaller customers and start selling to potential customers who have similar qualities to your super-sized account.

SmallBizLady: WHAT OTHER SALES PROCESSES SHOULD BUSINESSES BE USING IF THEY HAVE ONE OR TWO OVER-SIZED CUSTOMERS?

Dianna Geairn: These businesses are in an excellent position to re-evaluate their entire customer base. Often, when we start in business, we bring in small and less profitable clients because we need them. As we grow, we often find that the smaller clients require just as much work as our big clients, but are far less profitable. Part of your sales process should be focused on gently moving those small clients out of your business and replacing them with bigger accounts. You may even be able to generate referral income by sending them to another business who can better serve them. A good sales process will help you do this consistently over time.

If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9 pm ET; follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter.

Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/1hZeIlz

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