Advancing the Sale - the steps of the [B2B] sales cycle

In any sales and business development role one of the biggest traps that salespeople fall into is the confusion between activity and results - the "busy work" syndrome.  They are busy doing sales activity with little regard to effectiveness.  In other words, they are confusing activity with results.  When we run our solution sales courses or during coaching sessions we talk about Advancement versus Continuation where  Advancement = any action you take, or you get the customers to take, that moves you nearer to the order and Continuation = sales activity but no real progress towards the order.  Advancement versus continuation is a real light bulb moment for many of our participants.

What helps is to consider your sales cycle and your sales approach and understand what exactly you have to do to complete a sale.  Here are the steps in a typical solution selling sales cycle where you need to be advancing to the next stage.


  • Selecting where the best potential lies in your territory
  • The salesperson identifies / reviews the territory customers, non-users, businesses and industries, market trends, applications, opportunities, competitive installations
  • They decide which companies represent potential, how many exist, order they should be tackled
  • The salesperson ends up with a list of organizations to target and contact, advancing to:


  • Contacting people, we "suspect" may want to have the need for what you sell
  • The salesperson and/or their company make contact
  • Cold calling, mailers, e-mailers, seminars, exhibitions, web marketing
  • Leads are handled and responded to
  • Initial fact-finding calls and low-level contacts are made, the salesperson advances the sales by identifying how to qualify the suspects into prospects:


  • Initial engagement with the prospect
  • Is the company worth spending time with?
  • Do they really have a need for our products and services - now?
  • Will or does the decision maker recognize that need
  • If not, can they be educated?
  • Can you identify the people who will influence the decision?
  • Have they got; can they find budget?
  • The GO/NO GO decision stage
  • GO - the salesperson plans the approach call
  • what products, prices, services etc. will most likely satisfy the prospect's needs?
  • is the information enough that he/she will want to see me?
  • is the information enough that I can justify the time he/she gives me? If the decision is a GO, the salesperson advances to the next stage:


  • Salesperson opens the sales call and offers a reason to be heard (benefit statement)
  • The salesperson uncovers and develops the need
  • Buying criteria is identified, decision making processes are defined
  • Further qualification is undertaken
  • Prospect and salesperson agree what criteria must be met and what other actions must take place
  • Products, services, concepts are presented to match the prospect's needs


  • The salesperson together with the customer carry out the agreed actions
  • The salesperson continues to qualify the prospect
  • They sell to the decision influencers and obtains their commitment
  • Information is collated to present a cost/benefit justification
  • The sale is advanced by, for example: -
  • applications/usage surveys
  • identifying critical, time vital information
  • determination of whether to offer leasing or outright purchase
  • demonstrations
  • determining locations for deliveries, use, installations
  • proof of concepts
  • trials and pilots
  • VIP meetings
  • top level calls
  • The salesperson proves to the individual decision makers and influencers that: -
  • There is a real need for the products and services now
  • The suggested products, pricing, service etc. will satisfy his/her needs
  • The customer can rely on you and your company to implement the proposed solution
  • That your products and services are worth the money and that they can afford it


  • The salesperson has done enough justification
  • They have sold each individual involved in the decision and satisfied their needs and buying criteria
  • Terms are negotiated
  • They summarize the solution and the agreements reached previously
  • They obtain mutual agreement that the buying criteria have been met
  • They ask for the order


  • The salesperson obtains a signed agreement
  • Together with the customer they agree on the implementation plan
  • They schedule their own and the customer's personnel required to implement the proposal


  • The salesperson does everything required to get the proposed solution operational
  • They stay in contact to ensure delivery of the promised benefits.  
  • They ensure
  • the physical deliveries take place
  • that installations occur on time
  • that users are trained as suggested
  • that applications are developed and used
  • supplies are available
  • service requests can be placed
  • that the invoice is understood and paid
  • The salesperson establishes a smooth customer interface in the areas of:
  • sales and sales support
  • technical service
  • administration
  • supplies
  • training


  • The salesperson re-justifies the installed configuration to the decision makers and influencers.  
  • Account management reviews and customer (external) reviews are held
  • The salesperson makes it easy for the customer to re-order
  • They ensure customer satisfaction with the products, pricing, service, and support


  • The salesperson develops an account plan
  • Objective to ensure an on-going mutually beneficial business relationship
  • To ensure the customer has the best price and product configuration for their needs based on current and anticipated needs and financial requirements
  • To generate a prospect for additional and/or on-going profitable business

Don't fall into the trap of confusing activity for results.  Get into the habit of asking your prospect advancement style questions - "what is the next step?", "what do we need to do to move this forward?", "who else should we involve getting this to the next stage?".   Advancement is as much about attitude as it is technique, you need to be assertively pushing your prospect and moving the sale towards closure.

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