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What Is The First Step In The Sales Process?

first step in the sales process

A sale can only be made when the seller has the attention of the prospective buyer.

Your Business Professor had been regularly calling on the hospital account making dozens of sales presentations. I had known the decision maker, a nurse, for years. She asked me, “Do you have a 26-gauge?”

I stared at her. My small business was the only company on the market that did. And I had told her that dozens of times in dozens of sales pitches.

She had been paying little attention to me, and I couldn’t begin to tell the story as small business marketer [1], Sujan Patel reminds us. I was little more than a professional visitor. All of my company’s marketing efforts and budget, and my personal selling genius were dust in the whirlwind that was her Intensive Care Unit. My glossy, four-color direct mail piece did not catch any attention; she did not hear me.

I was selling the Good News of teeny-tiny catheters for intravenous therapy, but no one had ears to hear. No one was buying my copy.

Recent literature and studies confirm ancient understanding. In a 1898 issue of Printers’ Ink, a writer noted, “The mission of an advertisement is to sell goods. To do this, it must attract attention …” (Wikipedia 2015)

Later, in the June 2, 1921 publication of Printers’ Ink, sales trainer C. P. Russell, wrote How to Write a Sales-Making Letter. He said that selling could be best done after the salesman has first gained Attention from the customer, then Interest, Desire and Action. This popular formula has made its way into countless modern marketing textbooks under the rubric-acronym AIDA. (Wikipedia 2015 citing Russell 1921 [2])

Management of the sales process is successful when a deal is done, the sale is closed and the account opened. Sales representatives as Account Managers are the best communicators: they accomplish organization goals with the active support of their company’s customers. They get attention.

These small business owners and sales managers, like all leaders, get noticed. People listen.

Your Business Professor, as a teenager, once sold vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I was acting as a Rainmaker where I performed all the actions of both marketing and sales. I studied under an experienced sales trainer, George, whose last name is lost to the decades.

He encouraged a simple method to catch the attention of the prospect and provoke some action with — literally — a sales pitch. He threw an attachment, usually a lightweight nozzle, at the customer. Now, it was a gentle, high arch toss, released after George had his catcher’s eye. The baseball pitcher assault and battery analogy always caught the buyer’s attention. And when the prospect had made the catch, it was easier for him to see and feel the product features to — most importantly — hear and understand the customer benefits.

My decision-making nurse was distracted by a beeping monitor. But I answered her question, “Yes, we have the 26 gauge.” My hands were full. I clumsily pulled a product sample from my bag and asked her, “Can you open this for me?”

She didn’t drop the ball.

I had her active attention; she finally heard the message and the deal was done.

Related reading: Creating a Sales Process for Your Business [3]

Steps [4] Photo via Shutterstock