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This article was originally featured on the Connect2Sell blog. It is republished here with permission.

It seems that every organization has invented its own sales process stages. Some of them are extremely complex; Others are as simple as three steps. Whatever your process looks like, the most important thing is to understand where your buyer is. You need to align your sales process with your buyer’s process to be relevant and to create value.

Sales Process Stages

No matter how you’ve constructed your sales process, it essentially covers five steps. First, you have to open a sale. Then you determine the needs of the buyer. Next, you deliver a proposal, and, after that, you address any objections or handle any negotiations. Finally, you close the sale. Whatever your sales process is, it includes:

  • Open
  • Assess
  • Propose
  • Address
  • Close

Your job is to lead your buyer through these steps. The word “lead” originates from “leden,” which means “to guide.” As a leader, to advance the sale, you’ll guide your buyer through all the stages of the sales process. You'll be more successful in doing this if you’re aligned with where your buyer is in his or her own buying process.

That’s the first part of bringing value. Next, you’ll incorporate value into every single step of the process. Value belongs at the forefront, no matter what stage of the sales process you're in and no matter where your buyer is in their own journey.

The Value in Each Process

Let's take the five steps of the sales process and see how value belongs in each one of them.

1. Open

When you open the sale, you demonstrate the value that proves you're worth talking to. You differentiate yourself so you're not like every other seller that’s disrupting the buyer’s day. You know what your buyer values because you've done a little research to find out the mission, vision and values of their company. You may also know what’s important to this individual. You open by referring to what’s valued, showing how you can dignify and align with what your buyer values. That way, value is established right from the start.

2. Assess

In the next phase, as you assess the needs of the buyer, you're going to create value purely by asking questions. The questions themselves will create value out of thin air. These need to be purposeful questions that open up a two-way dialogue. The best questions will make your buyer think. They'll be thought-provoking. Your buyer will be engaged because they'll be so interested in the conversation. The more engaged and interested they are, the more they're going to buy in to whatever solution you bring back later.

3. Propose

When you’re proposing a solution, you still need to be creating value. It’s not just the value of the product that makes the sale. You’ve got to bring additional value to the table in the form of an experience that the buyer enjoys and participates in. You're going to use the buyer’s own words (that you captured during your needs assessment). You're going to be showing that you understand the buyer’s needs and make clear and compelling links to every part of your solution. The solution is wrapped around the needs of the buyer as if they could no longer be unbundled. Along the way, your buyer is involved to shape the solution and leave their own personal imprint on it.

What’s more, you're going to be co-creating a vision. Together, you’re crafting the big picture of the ideal future state for your buyer. You'll be creating value because you're the person guiding them to that future state with a solution that you have conceived and created together.

4. Address

When it's time to negotiate and overcome objections, you're still going to put value at the forefront. Remember, anything they offer as an objection could be a clue about what they value, so be sure to incorporate it and respond to it as something that's important to the buyer. As you answer the objection or work through the negotiating, don’t forget the primary, most important values the buyer has shared with you when you assessed their needs. That's the one thing that's bigger than the objection — even the price objection.  We will all find budget for the things that matter most to us. Be sure to talk about what they value and to explain how what they value is bigger than the objection. You can ask, “Which matters more to you — the improvements in data security that will help you avoid future breaches or the savings you might get on a less effective solution?”

5. Close

At the close, put that spotlight right back on value. What does it mean to the buyer to wrap this up and begin with the solution you've proposed? Be sure to link that action to the vision you created ­— that ideal state of the future and all the value that comes with it. Be sure to wrap up by including the value of YOU — that you're here to help bring this to fruition and to help your buyer through every stage that they might have internally as they complete their own buyer’s journey.

Now Deliver—in All 5 Stages!

Value is absolutely essential in every step of the sales process. Don't ever let price become the focal point because it shouldn't be — not for you and not for the buyer. What matters most at all times is the primary value to your buyer, the one they acknowledged as the most important benefit. Deliver it and showcase value throughout the sales process.

For more on this topic, read NewVoiceMedia’s whitepaper, Inside Sales Survey: Why you can’t afford to ignore customer emotion when making a sale.

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About Deb Calvert

Deb Calvert, Keynote Speaker, Top 50 Sales Influencer, UC Berkeley Instructor, and author of the DISCOVER Questions® bestselling book series, has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. Prior to founding People First Productivity Solutions in 2006, Deb was a Corporate Training Director for a Fortune 500 Media Company. Deb’s early career included a variety of inside, outside and major account sales positions.

As President and Founder of People First Productivity Solutions, Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes Sales Training, Team Effectiveness Consulting, and Leadership Program Design. Deb is a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge® and a Certified Executive Coach. Additionally, Deb is a Certified Practitioner with the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and other assessment tools.

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