Installing a Selling System

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weakest link
Image Credit: _-=Dreemreeper=-_ via Flickr

When asked to consult with a business, and challenged to make the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time, I always go to work on lead conversion first.

Lack of any resemblance of a systematic approach to selling is the biggest weakness for most small businesses. The focus of marketing is almost always on generating more leads. While leads are certainly important, the obsession with generating them consumes a significant amount of time and money.

Installing a sales system, one that everyone involved in selling in the organization operates, is the fastest way to improve overall marketing results. (I’m assuming you’ve also narrowly defined your ideal client, created a significant way to differentiate your business, and are consistently building trust through educational content.)

The end result with every business I’ve ever worked with was that we dramatically reduced the number of leads they were chasing (decreased expense) while also dramatically increasing the number leads they were converting to customers (increased revenue.) I’ve seen lead conversion rates go from 3% to over 50% when all of the parts of a total marketing system work together.

If you’re moving prospects logically through what I call the Marketing HourglassTM you will see that by the time they get serious about a buying decision they’ve already sold themselves. This approach almost makes selling a non issue and delivers stunningly high conversion rates.

Below are the essential ingredients needed to operate your lead conversion system

  • Discovery – You must have a planned response when a lead asks for more information. I know this sounds obvious, but few businesses do more than react. In order to move prospects you must have a call to action, education plan, and filter that helps qualify and direct leads to the next step. This is a significant step and one that can help you stop chasing the wrong leads while also giving your an opportunity to create a unique experience. Interrupt the norm for your industry here and you’ll help further cement how you’re different.
  • Presentation – Once a prospect determines they need to know more about your specific offerings, either by way of a demo or sales call, it’s important that you have a set way to present your organization. This is a point where many sales folks go out and try to answer the questions that prospects have. The problem with this approach is most prospects don’t know what questions they should have; so it’s really up to you to start adding value in the relationship by presenting what you know is useful, while also discovering their unique challenges. This is part scripted, part art, but it should be practiced consistently across the organization.
  • Nurturing – Depending upon the buying habits of your ideal customer or sales cycle for your particular industry, you will need a systematic approach for keeping leads that are starting an information seeking process warm as they move towards a buying decision. This is a place where technology can certainly help you make automated contacts via email or snail mail. Creating planned education events such as online seminars and peer-to-peer panel discussions is also another very effective way to nurture leads and continue to educate.
  • Transaction – For many in selling, the game ends when the customer says yes. Your lead conversion system must be created in a way that delivers the same experience once a prospect becomes a customer as was delivered throughout the courting period. The best way to do this is through a planned orientation process where you continue the educational approach by teaching the customer how to get the most from what they’ve agreed to buy. This can be through simple training video or a more elaborate new customer process, but this important step leads to a smooth transition from prospect to customer and often sets the tone for additional purchases and referrals.
  • Review – Your selling system won’t be complete until you create a process that allows you to measure and communicate the results your customers are experiencing. One of the best ways to do this is through some form of a planned results review process. By setting the expectation for this process up front you send a very strong signal that results matter, but you also get the opportunity to address issues that didn’t go as expected and collect client success stories and testimonials from your happiest clients.


Marketing Hourglass

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  1. John,

    I think that Review is very often overlooked. I know it was by our organization for a long time. You accumulate business but aren’t exactly sure what is working best. We have started to really track what venues provide us with the most new business vs tracking leads… I hate the word Lead. We have started to focus our effort on those revenue streams more vs other methods that we thought were crucial but didn’t provide the conversion we would like.


    Ryan H.

    1. That’s a biggie Ryan – I’ve worked with folks that found that half of their “lead” efforts were producing nothing – sure was nice to cut that bill in half!

      The other aspect of this though is the after the sale review – if you can measure the real impact you or your products are making it gets a lot easier to justify and raise prices.

  2. I love the idea of creating a system out of this process that can be implemented over and over. It’s something I think too many small businesses don’t bother to do.

    Systems seem “too corporate,” but in reality they offer a lot of freedom. Why reinvent the process each time? Figure out what works, create a system for it, rinse, repeat … and watch your sales increase.

    Thanks for breaking it down and explaining it so clearly, John. This post is now featured in my Evernote files as a great reference piece.

  3. I totally agree that you need a systematic way to do business. You can’t just bumble your way to a new customer… you need to acquire the lead, make a presentation, etc. through making the sale in a very methodical way. If you are trying to customize yourself for your prospect, you probably won’t make the sale because you’ll be in uncharted territory way too much.

  4. Thank you for talking about the concept of a selling system. It’s not something I often hear talked about but a functional sales system is as essential to a business as any marketing strategy or set of internal operation procedures.

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