Many of us think of selling as one “thing.”
Either you’re selling or you’re not.
But the sales process is a lot more complicated than that.
(By “sales process,” I’m referring to everything that happens from the moment a client finds you to the moment they sign your fee agreement.)
In fact, you can break the sales process into three phases. And by looking at each phase separately, you can see where you’re coming up short—and where you may need to refocus your efforts.
The Three Phases of the Sales Process
We can break the sales process down into three phases:
#1: The “before contact” phase
This is the research the client performed on you (either by looking at your website or LinkedIn profile… or both) to determine if they wanted to respond to your prospecting email or reach out to you.
Think of this as the “preselling” phase.
#2: The “conversation” phase
This is everything from the initial email exchange to your first phone conversation.
#3: The “quoting” phase
As the name implies, this is everything that happens once you have talked money and you have sent them a quote, fee agreement or proposal.
Analyzing Your Sales Process
Now that you know the three stages, give this exercise a try. Make a list of the past six prospects you’ve engaged with. And for each one, describe how each stage of the sales process worked out.
First, remember how those prospects came to you.
Were they referred? Did they respond to a prospecting email? Did they come across your name while doing a search on LinkedIn?
In other words, what was the source of those leads?
Second, remember the first email exchange and conversation you had with them.
What did they say about you and why did they decide to reach out?
What was it about YOU that caught their eye or impressed them enough to contact you or reply to your email?
Third, recall how the quoting process went.
Did it go smoothly? Did they quickly accept your offer?
Was there pushback or delays? Was there a long approval process? Did they have questions about your approach or reasoning?
How eager were they to move forward after getting your quote or proposal?
How Convinced Are Your Prospects?
What’s the point of this analysis?
Glad you asked! Here’s what I’ve discovered over the years: You want most prospects to be keenly interested in hiring you even BEFORE you have a conversation with them.
How keen? I’d say in the realm of 70% convinced. Meaning, you want prospects to feel 70% sure that they want to hire you before you even correspond or talk (i.e., phase one, the “pre-selling” phase).
Hiring you isn’t a certainty. But they’re genuinely interested and engaged.
This is important. Because once they’re 70% sold, the process becomes more about confirming that you’re a fit rather than coming to an agreement on price.
It can also make the difference between a sales process that’s plagued by indecision, hesitation and negotiation, and one that’s marked by quick agreement and less friction.
In my experience, when a prospect reaches out and they’re only, say, 30% convinced they want to hire me in the “pre-selling” phase, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get them to 100% convinced during the “conversation” or “quoting” phases of the process.
So how can you get them 70% convinced before you even have a conversation?
There are several ways, but the most obvious is your website. Having a website that clearly and persuasively communicates your best positioning is critical.
Of course, this 70% number is somewhat arbitrary. We can’t actually measure how “pre-sold” a prospect is.
But most of us have a pretty good idea—especially after the fact, once we’ve had a chance to analyze how everything went down.
My challenge to you today is this: Spend a few minutes evaluating how your past six prospects performed during each of these three phases.
Look for patterns. Look to see who turned into a client and how well the process went.
And I bet you’ll uncover some interesting insights.
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1. Grab a free copy of my book.
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If you’re a 6-figure writer who’s trying to earn more in less time, with less stress, I might be able to help you get there faster than you think. Just email me at [email protected] and put “Breakthrough” in the subject line, and I’ll get back to you with more details.