Sales is a key part of any business, helping companies grow while building a strong customer base. Learning about the selling process can help you find potential buyers or prospective clients, increase your overall sales and nurture your relationship with consumers.
In this article, we explain the selling process and provide seven common steps for making a sale.
The selling process is the interaction between a salesperson and their potential buyer. There are seven common steps to the selling process: prospecting, preparation, approach, presentation, handling objections, closing and follow-up.
The first three steps of the selling process involve research into prospects’ wants and needs, with your presentation midway through the selling process. The final four steps include addressing any questions or concerns, then closing the deal and maintaining your connection.
Both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) salespeople follow the same general selling process to connect with prospective clients and build a strong customer base.
What is the selling process?
The selling process is the interaction between a seller and a potential buyer or client. It’s generally a method businesses can replicate for consistent performance among salespeople. Businesses use the common seven steps of the selling process to complete sales and ensure continued profits.
7-step selling process
Here are seven steps that are typically involved in making a sale:
Preparation or pre-approach
Prospecting involves finding and qualifying potential buyers or clients. At this stage, you determine whether your prospective customer has a particular need or want that your business can fulfill. You might also decide on varying factors such as affordability.
This stage of the selling process often involves research to identify your ideal customer. You can start compiling a list of leads or potential clients. You might screen them based on qualifying questions, such as whether they’re a business owner or homeowner or if their average monthly profits or income are suitable for the product price. This helps narrow your buyer pool.
You can also use the screening process to determine buyers’ current needs. For instance, if you’re selling insurance to individuals over age 65, then you probably won’t target someone in their 30s.
2. Preparation or pre-approach
Before making initial contact with your prospects, you want to prepare. It’s important to have all your information ready, such as product descriptions, prices, payment options, competitor rates and dates for specific sales. You also want to know as much as possible about your prospects so you can better connect with them.
This stage of the selling process might also involve preparing your initial sales presentation. Be ready to answer any questions your prospects could have with supporting data. Practice what you’re going to say out loud, and have someone present you with potential questions so you can rehearse your response.
During the approach stage of the selling process, you’ll make your first personal connection with your prospect or prospects. This step involves getting the potential buyer or client to interact with you by personalizing your meeting or otherwise establishing rapport. Ask questions to get the client involved in the conversation.
Example: For instance, if you sell skincare products or services, you might ask:
Do you currently have a daily skincare routine?
Is there anything about your daily skin regimen that you’re unhappy with?
What are your top skin complaints?
Have you heard about the skin benefits of our specific product or service?
You can also offer a gift, such as $10 off the first skin treatment or a sample of the product so your prospect can experience the benefits firsthand before making a greater investment. This also helps to confirm confidence in what you’re selling.
At this point in the selling process, you have established an understanding of your prospect’s individual needs and wants. You can then tailor your presentation or demonstration to show how your product or service can best fulfill those needs or wants. To complete this step effectively, focus on personalizing it and frame your product as a solution to their problem.
Your presentation might involve a tour, product demonstration, video presentation or other visual or hands-on experience. This step is when you can apply all your research. For instance, if you’re trying to sell a house to a growing family, you likely would show them a larger home with a yard in a family-friendly neighborhood rather than a second-story condo.
5. Handling objections
After you complete your presentation, your prospect might have some questions, concerns or objections. This is a normal and important part of the selling process. View objections as an opportunity to learn more about your prospect. When you research and prepare appropriately, you’ll have all the information needed to overcome objections.
This step might involve listening to your prospect’s concerns and asking additional questions to better identify and understand their objections. You might want to then reframe your sales pitch to address those concerns.
Example: If a customer says they won’t be able to make an investment until next month, you could offer them additional savings or promotions if they follow through with their purchase. While in the handling objections step of the selling process, you might also reiterate the cost or loss of value if the prospect decides to completely forgo the purchase.
Once you’ve convinced the prospect that your product or service can meet their needs, it’s time to close the sale. It’s important to actually ask the prospect if they want to make the purchase and ensure they fully understand all the terms of the sale.
Closing the sale might involve drafting a proposal, negotiating terms or pricing, signing contracts, completing a monetary transaction or even overcoming additional concerns or objections. You want to make sure your buyer understands the terms and restrictions included in the contract, such as any refunds, guaranteed customer satisfaction clauses or ongoing purchases or billing for monthly memberships.
At this stage, you can also use upselling techniques, such as offering additional products that complement their original purchase, upgrades or a higher-end version of your product. After completing the transaction, always thank the customer and be sure not to instantly drop the connection.
The follow-up, which takes place after the sale, is one of the most important steps in the selling process. It’s a continuation of the relationship between the seller and the buyer that ensures customer satisfaction, retains customer loyalty and helps prospect for new customers. The idea is not to continue selling at this stage, but instead to nurture the existing relationship.
The follow-up might involve sending a thank-you note or calling the customer to ask about their experience with their new product or service. You might also ask your customer to rate your service or post a review on one of your social media or business pages. Sometimes, the follow-up includes completing the logistics of a sale, such as signing additional contracts, making deliveries or installing products. When done well, this stage can often lead you back to step one in the selling process with additional sales, referrals or reviews that bring new customers to you.
Types of sales
There are two primary types of sales: business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). Understanding the similarities and differences between these types of sales can help you improve your use of the selling process when approaching prospects.
B2B sales involve selling products or services to other businesses. When you work in B2B sales, you often work with a professional buyer who is very familiar with the selling process. Examples of B2B sales include:
Wholesale: A coffee bean manufacturer sells large quantities of coffee beans to a cafe that then sells those coffee beans in smaller quantities to consumers.
Supply: A paper goods company sells paper cups and napkins to restaurants.
Service: A marketing firm works with businesses to increase their presence online.
B2C sales involve selling products or services to consumers. The selling process for B2C sales is usually much shorter, with many customers making a purchase soon after the prospecting stage.
One example of B2C sales is a representative selling a laptop to a customer at a tech store. Another example that usually involves more research and prospecting is an insurance salesperson selling a life insurance policy to an individual.