Understanding the 5 Stages of Every Sales Process

Even in the smallest companies every employee is an ambassador for a business. We all are involved in the sales process whether we know it or not. That’s why it helps to understand sales from a process standpoint even if your job normally doesn’t involve selling. 

There are five stages in every sale, whether you are selling a hamburger or a Caterpillar tractor:

1. Attention. This is the first stage of every sale. At this point your only goal is to get the prospect’s attention so that you can determine what kind of product or service best fits their needs.

2. Interest. The is the point when you have the prospect’s attention, and they are interested in learning more about whether your product will help them meet their needs. 

3. Conviction. There are actually two parts to this stage. First the prospect must know they have a problem, and then they must believe your solution is the one that will best help them solve it.

This may be the hardest stage of the sales process. You must ask your prospect probing questions — and get affirmative answers — to make sure they are actually at this point of the sales process and ready to move ahead.

The conviction stage is usually where you must overcome a buyer’s objections. Typical objections are that your price is too high or that your solution only handles some of the buyer’s problems. Overcoming objections takes practice because the easiest objection to overcome is price, yet no one wants to sell their product or service solely based on price.

In addition, buyers will often tell you one objection, but further probing reveals their true objection is really something entirely different. The most important thing to remember is to ask as many questions as necessary during this stage so you can be sure you have met both conditions to advance the sales process.

4. Desire. This is the stage in the sales process where the buyer has made a mental decision to buy your product or service. It is the “fun” stage because the buyer has done all their homework and passed through the conviction stage. Once a buyer is in the desire stage, the rest of the sales process should go easily — but don’t count the sale closed until you have delivered the product or service.

5. Action. This is the last stage of the process. It is where a buyer issues a purchase order for your product or service, or where you deliver it.

Some products and services are simple enough that a buyer goes through each of the stages of the process in a very short period of time while others may require days, months, or even years to move through.

If your sales cycle is a long one, it helps to review your notes from your last encounter with a customer. Decide which stage of the sale they were at when you last spoke with them. Use a few questions to make sure you are still at the same stage. Often a prospect will slide back one or two steps, especially if they are evaluating multiple solutions for solving their business challenge.

Sam Thacker is a partner in Austin-based Business Finance Solutions.

Direct E-mail: sam@lesliethacker.com.

Twitter: SMBFinance.