Everybody is selling something. Be it in a 1-1 meeting, or a gathering, or a seminar, at least one is selling, and others are expected to buy in; buy into an idea, product, service. The process of sales involves 10 basic tenets and let's learn more about them.

10 tenets of sales

So a process of sales involves a buyer, seller, and a product (replace it with the idea, or service, as required) to sell. Let us dissect the sales process. It all starts with the sellers' understanding of the product and the prospecting of a buyer for it. So first tenet is a product to sell.

Tenet 1 - Understanding the product 

Most often we confuse the product for its look and feel, the features it has, how it can help the buyer. But the important thing is not what the product is, what problem it is solving for the buyer. It starts with understanding the story of why it exists in the first place.

We should have clear answers to the following questions 

  1. What was the problem this product was intended to solve in the first place
  2. Who has such a problem
  3. How the solution helps solve this problem

The origin story is more important, as most products change course, pivot, and change, but the core problem according to the founders is somewhere there in the current product. The first job of a salesperson is to get to know the product, its origin, the story so far. 

It takes an effort, and an essential one, so multiple questions on multiple occasions, digging some dirt, talking to founders, early engineers, product leaders when possible, maybe documenting it for your sake, and leaving it for others to find is always a good idea. It is one of the important tenets to live by. 

Most often when we do not understand the product well, when discussing with a prospect/customer, who cites a competing product, or similar product, you will not be at a loss of words while explaining to them how this product is different and why this product is what they should consider. No amount of battle cards or competitive research material is helpful if one does not know the product well.

Spend the first few weeks of joining a company to understand the product, among other things.

Tenet 2 - Knowing who must have/need this Product

In the process of understanding the product, you will have a fair idea of who the product is intended for - your ideal customer. Most products may start with selling to a specific type of customer - (Box - storage for enterprises) and some to almost everybody (Dropbox - storage for individuals). There is no right or wrong. 

Over a period of time, based on usage of the product, customers who pay, when a concentrated effort is made to understand why and how people are using it, why people are paying for it, who are these people who are paying for it - a cohort of people/companies are found with a lot of similarities- This forms ICP - Ideal Customer Profile. 

So understanding the ICP for a salesperson is very important, and if you can learn how the company arrived at that ICP, you will have better insights while selling too. Knowing ICP helps one save a lot of time from going after non-ICP customers. Going after customers who must have your product vs need your product makes all the difference. 

Tenet 3 -  How the product is solving problems for them

There are 2 ways any product can solve a problem for a customer - save time or save costs. There could be other things, but usually, most products fall into one of these - time savings or cost savings. 

Pointed surveys, going through logs of product usage, one can ascertain the true problem the product is solving for the customer. Though it might not be a huge deviation from what the product is set out to solve, people often find a product, a better solution for a different problem. So understanding all the problems the product is solving is very important during sales conversations. 

Tenet 4 - Use the product as a consumer of the product

No, not just as a demo, or to understand how to navigate the product, but as how the customer is expected to use it. 

Most companies that have arrived at ICP, usually build a persona of a user/users of the product - with name, some demographic data, role, interests, etc. and most often used to identify the potential customer.

No two people are alike and think alike. So are your buyers. Especially when you are selling to medium-sized organizations to enterprises, one will encounter multiple personas.  According to the RAIN group, there are 6 distinct types of buyers and one has to learn how to talk to each one of them and get them on board. 

Tenet 5 - Prospecting them right

Knowing the product, the problem it solves, ICP, and the Persona you are after, you will be able to craft a very effective outreach message, be it on cold Email, SMS, LinkedIn, or over a cold call. You know what ticks them, so you will know how to pitch them right.

One of the best cold outreach is a well-researched mail or LinkedIn connection request that highlights a common school, or company you shared with them. The second best outreach is mentioning genuinely an article they have written and quoting something that you liked. The third best is a LinkedIn group/ Slack channel where you found them. Then ease in to pitch them for time.

In the world of automation to send mass emails, LinkedIn connection requests, we tend to ignore the power of personalizing the message, but sometimes it is a necessary step in outreach. At this level, the message should be so crisp that hits the chord and should make the person hit reply. 

In outbound, it is very important to have a clear CTA and equally important to provide them with a way to opt out of such outreach. A clear no is a very good indicator for optimizing the further outreach as we might have been targeting the wrong persona. 

Interesting things happen when we get a reply, accepted connection requests, or booked a meeting - it shows Intent!

Tenet 6 - Capitalize on the Intent and Convert

People buy from people. Period. So, show them you know them. Show them that you are not a random person that they were trying to reach (though, it might be so in a few cases of automation). 

Usually, SDRs (Sales Development Representatives) take these calls/meetings. Most often it is 3-5 minute call or 15 minute online meeting. However short or long the call or meeting is, one should do research the person and company quickly.

Going through their LinkedIn, knowing their profile, companies they have worked in, roles they held, schools they have been to, interests,  places they have been, last few posts/articles they wrote or liked, their interesting tweets and retweets from Twitter - will help you with conversation starters or conversation fillers.

Researching the company is equally important. Knowing the size of the company, the revenue they made, funding announcements, the latest and relevant blog posts, leadership changes, job postings, etc., helps you with more conversation starters and conversation fillers. You can gather some of the best insights from many sources like Crunchbase, Buzzboard, InsideView (now part of DemandBase), Slintel (now part of 6Sense), Owler, ZoomInfo, Standard & Poor  among others, ​

Now that the prospect has shown interest, the first question should be on the lines of - What made you book the meeting? What interested you in the mail I sent? or What are you expecting to hear on this call or know in the next few minutes we have? Reiterating and reconfirming the intent is very important to drive the next part of the meeting or even all future meetings. 

The next thing is to start with one of the most interesting conversation starters that relates to them and if not, their company to show them that you have done your research. Once they open up, start with your questions based on your company's sales methodologies - to qualify the prospect to the next step or to say that this is not an ideal product for their needs. 

In some cases, prospects might be eager to see the demo if what they heard in the first pitch matches their expectation. Without proper qualification, dwelling directly into demo might have a few interesting or unpleasant side effects like - more questions on features, requesting features that might be costly or time-consuming, or something that deviates from what the product is all about, etc., thus leading to lost opportunity. 

So, it is imperative that we qualify them before we start a demo. Based on the intent, show the most relevant demo to get their interest and then move to other features. Once they see what they are looking for, showing other important features keeps them interested. Keep the demo simple and make them want to see more - in the next meeting or call.

The goal of any SDR meeting is not to close in that meeting - but to get the next meeting. 

Tenet 7- Always end meeting with next action 

Three things to make sure you end the meeting with the next action item.

Ask what more they want to see in the next demo? When is the right time for it? Who else has to be in that meeting to decide? Double confirm their email/phone number/emails of people who will be joining the email - send invite before closing the call.

Out of 100 calls, 1-5 calls might be ending with such happy outcomes - next meetings. So always strive for the next meeting.

Tenet 8 - Get buy-in early

Usually, SDRs hand off to AEs (Account Executives) for more targeted demos. Unlike SDRs who have to use their person and company research in 3-5 minute calls or 15 min meetings, AEs need to do more in-depth research and should have more conversation starters and fillers.

Apart from this, they should have all past conversations with SDR, their notes, research, discovery, qualification notes, etc. Also having Email threads of past communication, CRM data about the company/account, contacts, opportunity/deal size, etc.,  documents,  case studies, spreadsheets, and presentations one might need during the meeting must be kept open for quick access.

The goal of the AE meeting could be to get early buy-in and set up meetings either for a larger audience or to start a trial. In any case, setting up the next action item is of paramount importance, and setting the date and time during the meeting itself helps in early closure.

If there is a need for a proposal, do not say you will send a proposal, ask for a time to go over the proposal in the next meeting and ask for a suitable date time. 

If there has to be a trial, it is nowadays important to engage a CSE (Customer Success Executive) to the meeting, so that they can handhold the prospect/customer during the trial phase, to make sure it goes as expected, collect as many metrics as possible to show either cost savings or time savings, by end of the trial - to show in trial closure meetings and start the actual onboarding for users. 

Tenet 9 - Always Be Closing

Every meeting or call has a clear outcome- always be closing. 

For every salesperson - closing means different things. For SDR - it is qualifying the lead as a prospect with a deal/opportunity. For AE - it is the starting a trial/collect payment. For CSE - successful trial to paid user conversion, or upsell/cross-sell completion. 

Tenet 10- Building Relationships

Though the expected end outcome is a sale, every meeting is an opportunity to connect, start a business relationship however small it is, build on it, grow it and nurture it. 

There are many reasons, deals do not move forward - no budget, competing product already in use, time is bad, etc. But keeping a relationship alive is very important. Even a disqualified lead, could be potential lead gen for your next customer. So it is imperative that we show that person on the other side of the call, that you know them well, you have made enough effort to research them and their company.

A simple hello mail once in a while, congratulating them on some of their achievements, changes in roles, company announcements, sharing some relevant industry articles goes a long way.

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In conclusion, a sales process starts with the seller understanding the product, the problem it solves, the customer who wants it, prospecting them, and getting them across the finish line - a sale. All along the research of a person and company play an important role, as sales involve a buyer who needs to be acknowledged, feels important, and knowing their needs and solving with the product completes the sale and based on how well the relationship is nurtured, opens up for more referrals and introductions for new business. 

1Page helps salespeople prepare for meetings faster with curated research, all relevant data from various applications they use, so that they can spend more time selling, than researching. To know more about 1Page, and how it can help with your sales process, book a meeting now!