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The Typical Commercial Sales Process
There are a number of theoretical models about the stages you should go through when you sell business-to-business, but while these provide useful pointers, in practice the process often goes more like this.
Although sales people may find leads themselves, in large organizations these often come from the marketing organization which promotes products and receives interest. This is often from existing customers but can use acquired from exhibitions, websites and so on.
At this stage the interest is often a general inquiry, looking for more information than seeking specific quotes.
Starting from the lead, the sales organization may make a number of phone calls with the prospect. This includes further discovery of what the customer is seeking plus qualification of what kind of sale might realistically be achieved. When it makes sense, appointments are then made.
Sooner or later, the sales person will meet the customer in person, often on several occasions. Exactly when this happens depends on a range of factors from the importance of the customer to how quickly the right information about them and their needs can be acquired.
These meetings may start with further discovery and qualification but will at some point move to presentations and demonstrations around the product offering.
Note that not all sales lead to face-to-face meetings, which are more common for larger orders from commercial firms. If it is not needed, then direct selling over the phone or internet may be a far more cost-effective method.
After and between the face-to-face meetings there will likely be all kinds of follow-up, including providing more information, handling objections and helping buyers persuade other people in their organization.
At some point a price may need to be agreed. This may be discussed from an earlier point but is likely to only be finally agreed near the end, once the full requirement has stabilized and bartering is done.
Closing the sale, if the stages before were completed well, is something of a formality, with orders being placed and contracts being signed (although the customer may want to squeeze the price right at the last minute). There may also be some follow-up work to keep things on track until delivery and installation.
Important customers may need regular contact between sales to sustain the relationship so your company will be considered next time the customer wants to buy. This may include keeping up with their business situation and helping them resolve product issues.