How to Master the 7 Stages of the Sales Cycle

No matter what you're selling, every sale follows roughly the same pattern. Each one almost always includes seven steps in one form or another. Salespeople don't always think in terms of certain stages of a sale as being different events, but, in fact, they are – and they're all necessary to advance the sales process. For example, qualifying often happens as part of the cold call, the sales presentation, or both. 

Mastering each one of these stages is essential if you're going to succeed in sales. If you're weak in one or more areas, you might survive as a salesperson, but you won't thrive. Most salespeople are chronically challenged in one or two areas, so identify your weak points and keep working on them to improve your sales results.

Prospect for Leads

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Prospecting refers to the process of finding new potential customers. Your company might take care of the first part of this process by giving you lead lists to work with, or you might be responsible for finding leads on your own.

Set an Appointment

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It's time to use those leads you collected in the first stage of the sales process. Many salespeople prefer to cold call on the phone, but you can also call in person, send emails, use social media or even mail out sales letters. Whatever method you use to set appointments, you'll usually want to set one up face-to-face rather than try to sell over the phone.

Qualify the Prospect

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The qualification stage usually takes place at the appointment itself, although you can also qualify customers briefly during your initial contact. The idea is to confirm that your prospect is both able and potentially willing to buy your product before you spend a lot of time trying to pitch to him. 

Make Your Presentation

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The presentation is the core of every sales cycle, and it's probably where you'll invest the most preparation time. Keep in mind that you're not just selling your product – you're also selling yourself as a person to trust. You represent your company, so appearance counts. Dress the part. 

Address the Prospect's Objections

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Here's where you get to deal with your prospect's concerns. Objections can actually be a positive sign because they mean that your prospect is at least considering buying or he wouldn't be trying to work out the potential problems. 

Close the Sale

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When you've made your presentation, answered your prospect's questions and addressed his objections, it's time to ask for the sale. This is the second-most neglected stage of the sales cycle, which is sad given that it's one of the most important. Even highly interested prospects will rarely close themselves.

Ask for Referrals

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This is hands down the most commonly neglected step. Too many salespeople are so relieved to get a sale that they grab their things and race out the door the second as soon as possible for fear the prospect will change his mind. Wind the sale down gradually rather than cut it abruptly short. Give the customer your business card. Ask if he knows of anyone else who might be in the market for the goods or service you provide.