As so many businesses make 20 to 40% of their sales in the final quarter of the year, I’m really impressing upon my clients the importance of running an efficient – and effective - sales process. HOW I MAINTAIN A CONSISTENTLY HIGH SALES CONVERSION RATE

We invest a lot of time, effort and resources into our marketing and promotion plans. So it makes no sense to have a sales process that works as efficiently as a leaky bucket. Yet too many business owners lose valuable prospects who, with a better sales process, might have turned into customers.

During the three years I've run my own business, I've honed my sales process so that I have a conversion rate of between 80 and 90%. This means for every 10 people who express an interest in working with me, 8 or 9 of these 'prospects' will become paying clients. It's hugely reassuring to know that as long as I keep my pipeline filled with quality prospects, I'll always have the number of clients I need to have a healthy business.

But in the very early days of my business, it wasn't like this. I've become skilled at sales because I've worked at it, not because of any innate talent. In fact I used to dread sales conversations. The first step to changing how I felt about sales was joining Catherine Watkins’ ‘7 Steps To Yes’ programme, and learning how to have structured sales conversations without feeling icky or pushy.

Since then, I've learnt what works for me and follow this simple sales process to maintain a consistently high personal sales conversion rate.

1. Maintain A Sales Pipeline

A sales pipeline is quite simply a visual representation of your sales process where all your potential customers are displayed and neatly arranged according to their phase in your sales cycle.

In my first few years of business, I maintained my own sales pipeline on a simple Excel spreadsheet that I created myself. Some of my start-up clients use this exact same spreadsheet because I don’t want them wasting time and money on fancy CRM systems at this stage of their business journey. On my sales pipeline, I logged how the prospect had heard about me and how ‘warm’ the prospect was. I had a notes section which I updated every time I had contact with the prospect so that I knew what action I needed to take next.

I used a traffic light system to manage the prospects on my pipeline. Once I’d made initial contact with a prospect, I turned them amber to denote that I was in discussion with that person. If a prospect decided not to work with me, I turned them red. And if a prospect decided to work with me, I turned them green. Every time I turned a prospect green, I’d experience a feeling of immense satisfaction.

I now use Hubspot Sales, a free resource which integrates with email. This tells me when emails I send are opened so that I can follow up in a timely and relevant way.

2. Track Your Sales Conversion Rate

The data you record on your sales pipeline will help you work out:

  • Your sales conversion rate. (The percentage of prospects who take a specific action I want).
  • At which stage of your sales process you’re ‘leaking’ prospects.
  • How long it takes on average for a prospect to go from initial enquiry to becoming a client. (The lead time).
  • Which marketing activity delivers the best results.

My own sales conversion rate is high because I use the information my pipeline gives me to make improvements to my sales process. For example, I focus my marketing efforts primarily on those channels that deliver the warmest leads and therefore the best results.

When I’m working with clients, I get them to set up a sales pipeline so that they can track their results. We then use this information to continually make improvements to their sales process so that their sales conversion rate is as high as it possibly can be. And of course stays that way!

3. Follow A Simple Sales Process

My own sales process is very simple. Somebody enquires about working with me. We meet to discuss what help the person is looking for, either in person or over Zoom. I explain how business coaching and consulting with me works. The person makes a decision about whether this is what they’re looking for. We fix a date to start work together.

For some of my clients, their sales process is a little more complicated. This is usually because they’ve been asked to provide the prospect with a quote – which may take some time to put together. That prospect is probably seeking other quotes and weighing up the pros and cons of using other providers. Factor in that prospect taking some time to get back to my client, and the whole sales process is far slower than my own.

At this point when and how frequently you follow up with the prospect becomes a consideration. Too frequently and you risk coming across as pushy. Too infrequently and you risk losing the prospect to another supplier. I coach all my clients to follow up a quote within 48 hours – ideally 24 hours – to (a) check that the quote has actually been received and (b) see whether the prospect wants to clarify any aspects of the quote. How frequently my client follows up with a prospect thereafter depends on what suits their particular business best.

What is essential is that you have a system for following up. See point 5 for some rather shocking stats!

4. Hold A Structured Sales Conversation

Again the structure of my own sales conversations is simple, although I allow a reasonable time for discussion. This, in a nutshell, is how I structure my sales conversations:

  • I ask the prospect to tell me a bit about their business, which is not only vital information for me, but gives the prospect some time to relax.
  • I then probe more deeply to find out what specifically the prospect is looking for help with. During that conversation, I’ll almost certainly offer a few pointers.
  • Then I segue into how I can help the prospect to solve their problem - provided I think working together is the best course of action.
  • I ask the prospect if this sounds like something that will benefit them.
  • Finally I move to ‘the close.’

I follow Catherine Watkins’ ‘7 Steps To Yes’ process which has helped me to conduct sales conversations with confidence, whilst making them a relaxed, non-pushy experience for my prospects.

5. Follow Up, Follow, Up, Follow Up!

The following statistics will I hope prove that the sale, and therefore the money is in the follow up.

  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect..
  • The average sales person will only make 2 attempts to reach a prospect.
  • 80% of sales are made after 5 or more follow ups.
  • Up to 50% of sales go to the company that responded first.

When it comes to sales, these statistics explain why persistence is key to improving your results.

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Question: How do you keep your sales consistently high? I love reading your feedback so please do take a moment to let me know in the comments box below.

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Work With Me

I’m Denyse Whillier, a Sussex and London based business coach and consultant. I work with responsible business leaders to build profitable and successful brands that do good, make money and help to change the world. I draw on Built To Succeed™, my proven success system, developed during my 8 years in the trenches as a CEO, to help my clients to achieve their goals.

I’d love to start a conversation about whether we’re a good fit to work together. Simply use this link to arrange an informal Skype coffee chat. There’s no hard sell. Just solid advice and a straightforward, honest assessment of whether 1:1 business coaching (or business consultancy) would be right for you.