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What is a Sales Process?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Sometimes referred to as sales pattern or approach, the sales process is a systematic and logical progression through a series of defined steps that are reasonably expected to result in the completion of a sale. The ultimate goal is to secure new business for the company while establishing rapport with the client that may prove useful at some future point in time. While sales processes may vary from one situation to another, just about every model for this type of procedure will include a few basic elements.

The beginning of the process is usually considered to be the sales lead. The basic lead is simply general contact information that the salesperson can use as a basis for investigating the potential for making contact and possibly generating interest in the products and services offered by a business. Leads may be obtained in any number of ways, including the purchase of direct mail and email addresses, organizational listings of businesses and other entities, and even picking up business cards at a convention.

The next step involves the conversion of a lead into a prospect. This is accomplished when two events take place. First, the salesperson determines that the lead is a viable candidate to purchase the products offered. Second, the lead is contacted and expresses an interest in learning more about the goods and services offered. Once interest is established, the salesperson begins to establish rapport with the prospect and looks for ways to increase interest in making a purchase.

Cultivating this interest leads to the third general step in the sales process, which is normally known as identification or orientation. At this point, the salesperson is providing the prospect with specific applications for the products that are sure to result in a cost and/or time savings for the potential customer. Here, the salesperson is learning more about the culture and business model of the prospect and relating those functions to the products for sale in such a way that they become increasingly attractive to the prospect.

The next step has to do with the extension of a formal quote or proposal for the purchase of the products. This can be very complicated in some circumstances, or as simple as preparing a simple one-page document. Often, the prospect determines this part of the process, based on the purchasing procedures that are part of the prospect’s corporate culture. The quote or proposal is often followed with a formal contract that includes all the terms and conditions that apply to the business relationship.

Closing is simply the completion of the business sale. At this juncture, the prospect becomes a customer of the salesperson and has authorized the creation of a vendor/client relationship. The closing includes the placement of the first order along with the acceptance of the quote or proposal, and the official signing of the contract. At this point, the salesperson has completed the sales process and passes the new client off to support personnel who oversee the order fulfillment and also work to keep the customer happy.

While all these elements are found in one form or another in any sales process, there is no one definitive diagram that is used by all salespeople. The exact structure is usually determined by the market sector and industry, the policies and procedures of the vendor company involved, and even to a degree any type of governmental or trade restrictions that may apply. It is also important to note that the process may be completed within a matter of minutes or take months, depending on the circumstances surrounding the sale.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including SmartCapitalMind, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon157506 — On Mar 03, 2011

I was confused about leads, but this site helped me.

Thank you. --Harpreet

By anon131645 — On Dec 03, 2010

very useful information. i like it. all information we can use in our daily sales activity.

By anon78579 — On Apr 19, 2010

This is so very helpful. Thank you!

By anon75630 — On Apr 07, 2010

Come on, folks. The sales process is simple, direct and consists of seven distinct, logical steps:

1. Prospecting for new business from current and former customers and new prospects;

2. Assessing product and service needs;

3. Confirming product and service needs with decision-maker(s);

4. Creating a viable value-added proposal;

5. Presenting the proposal to the appropriate decision-maker(s);

6. Asking for the order; and,

7. Providing extraordinary after-delivery service to protect the customer’s investment in purchased products and services.

Nice article, I guess, but it fails to spell out the sales process in usable terms.

By anon54595 — On Dec 01, 2009

Nice information.

By anon49033 — On Oct 16, 2009

The details given by you is really informative and useful. We can really make use of it for our sales process.

By anon30231 — On Apr 15, 2009

Depends on how much influence that gatekeeper has on the decision maker. Dismissing an administrative assistant or other so called gate-keeper because you think he or she won't have some influence on what the CEO/CFO/ISM etc will do and you are sunk before you have the chance to build rapport with the decision maker.

By anon30185 — On Apr 15, 2009

*Lead=Deal*, but make sure that your leads are qualified and you're able to talk to the DM's only, not to gate keepers.

By anon21902 — On Nov 24, 2008

A lead by its very nature is not qualified. At that point, the salesperson has a name and contact information. It is during the contact that the salesperson will endeavor to uncover if the contact is simply a gatekeeper or is either the decision maker, is willing to introduce the decision maker to the salesperson, or has some influence over the person who will ultimately make the decision. While some sales processes would then identify any contact who met this criteria as a qualified lead, other processes would move the contact into the prospect category, since maintaining the contact would be ultimately helpful in obtaining more information that could help with making the sale.

Some sales people only want to deal with the VIP or very important person, also known as the decision maker. While it is important to establish rapport with the decision maker, many salespeople lose an opportunity because he or she considers an administrative assistant or other people who interact with the decision maker to be unimportant and therefore not worth the saleperson's valuable time. Cultivating advocates as well as building rapport with the decision maker can be extremely helpful in the long run.

By umptee — On Nov 21, 2008

How do we determine whether a lead is a viable candidate to make the decision?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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