Even for the most experienced sales professionals, turning a lead into an actual sale is never easy. It requires some quick thinking—and some real creativity. How can you amp up your creativity in sales to see actual results? It all starts in your selling process. No matter what you’re selling, a creative selling process will help you convert leads and move potential customers through the sales funnel.
All selling follows the basic set of seven steps of the creative selling process. This process of the sales life cycle is tried and true, but it always helps to know how to best implement it—and when to break it. This guide to the seven steps of the creative selling process will help you up your selling game and get real results.
What Are the Steps of the Creative Selling Process?
This seven-step creative selling process is the bread-and-butter of any successful sales professional. It can be applied in a variety of industries, including both B2B and B2C. These steps will help you find customers, close the sale, and keep more business coming down the pipeline.
Step 1: Prospecting
This is the first of the steps of the creative selling process. The goal at this point is to get things started by finding potential customers—that involves determining if a customer or client could benefit from what you’re selling and if they can afford it. This determination process is called qualifying. Before any sales lead converts into an actual buyer, you’ll need to find and qualify many buyers in the hopes that at least one will go through the sales funnel to the end.
In a B2B industry, prospecting may involve researching companies online and in business directories to find clients who could benefit from your product or service. In your conversation with a point person at this company, it may become clear that while the company could benefit from your product, they are undergoing some financial strain. At that point, it is best to move on to a more qualified prospect who has both interest and financial means to pay.
Step 2: Preparation
Once you’ve identified qualified potential customers, the next step is to prepare for the initial pitch by doing some research. A sales pitch should never be a one-size-fits-all gig—for best results in the creative selling process, customize each sales presentation to each potential customer. Familiarize yourself with the customers’ needs, background, and industry. Come prepared with specific ideas for how your product or service can help.
Step 3: Approach
It’s time for your first official contact and sales pitch with a potential client. First impressions are meaningful, so take the time to make a good one so you can build trust and rapport with a client. Focus on this relationship-building before getting into the pitch, getting into some small talk and introducing your background. Try approaching the sales pitch by asking a question that may lead to offering your product as a solution, or offering services as a gift or opportunity for the client to evaluate your services.
Step 4: Presentation
The goal of the presentation is to demonstrate how what you are selling meets the needs of your potential client or customer. This is where all of your research and preparation pays off—by the time you get to this stage, you have a good knowledge of your customer’s needs and have built some trust with them. The presentation will be tailored exactly to these needs. If you are a real estate agent working with a growing family, you won’t show them a small condo on a busy street, but a single-family home near a good school. The presentation will explain how what you are offering meets the needs of your individual client. But avoid a monologue—ask questions and respond to their comments.
Step 5: Handle Objections
When a person is listening to a sales pitch, it is natural for them to think of reasons they don’t need or can’t afford your product or service. They will have concerns and questions regarding anything they aren’t familiar with using, especially when it involves a serious investment. The key is to listen to the concerns your client brings up—don’t abandon the sale after one, two, or even three objections. All customers will have them, so be prepared and willing to discuss their objections and help come up with solutions. Objections aren’t deal breakers, but opportunities to be creative: use them as a chance to further respond to customer needs and show them why the product or service is so valuable.
Be prepared for objections connected to competitor offerings, timing of the offer, cost, and resistance to change. In responding to objections, you may draw on comparison to competitors, statistics, and case studies. If a customer is concerned about the price of a software package, or seems reluctant to let go of a familiar system, for example, you can show a demo, compare competitor prices, and offer a free trial. If a client is worried about the timing of purchasing a timeshare at a resort, offer a limited-time deal. If a potential gym member is worried about the price or likelihood of attending regularly, point out the features and related cost savings bundled into the membership fee. The skill with which you handle objections can make a big difference in whether or not you can clinch the sale.
Step 6: Close the Sale
Once your potential client or customer understands how what you are selling can benefit them or their company, and you’ve thoroughly addressed their concerns, it is time to close the sale. This is the point where contracts are drawn up and clients sign on the dotted line. Sometimes the closure will happen in the same conversation as the initial approach and presentation, but often you may need to make several attempts at closing the deal before a client feels ready to buy. To help clients make up their minds faster or feel more comfortable making a decision, add some urgency by putting a time limit on the offer or throwing in a freebie, such as a free month of service.
Step 7: Follow-Up
No, your job as a sales professional is not quite done yet. The last of the steps of the creative selling process is to follow up with your client, even if you’ve passed them along to the implementation team. A follow-up can be as simple as a thank-you note or phone call to check how things are going. A gift is always a nice touch—a realtor might send clients a pass to the local zoo near their new home, for example. Keeping an ongoing relationship with customers builds opportunities for repeat buys and new customer leads, plus strengthens the reputation of your company.
What Are the Stages of the Sales Cycle?
What is the sales life cycle? It is the process, or cycle, every sale needs to go through, bringing a potential client all the way to the buying and following up stage. To review, the stages of the selling cycle, described above, include:
- Handle Objections
- Close the Sale
As a sales professional, following the steps of the creative selling process will help you connect and build trust with customers and clients, successfully converting leads into sales, no matter your industry.