We've spent time this last month discussing where entrepreneurs "lose" time in their days - leading to the false beliefs that they are incredibly busy and making it difficult for them to concentrate on the systems and processes they need to really grow their business.

With that in mind - when do you make the sale?

That's an easy one if you have a retail establishment - the customer comes in, has a look around, and makes a decision. That decision may be guided by a salesperson, but you have, at the very least, a prospect right there in your business.

On the other hand, there are millions of small businesses that are involved in more intangible industries - copywriters, web designers, air conditioning repair companies - and "the sale" is a much different process.

What does your sales process look like?

That may be a lot harder to elucidate than you think.

In my experience, most small businesses are worried about the client fulfillment - "getting the Job done" - and lead generation far more than they are in how the sales process flows.

These folks have plenty of advertising (that may or may not actually work) and they have all sorts of "products" dependent upon their industry, but a clearcut path on how they convert a prospect into a client?


Now, it's fashionable to use terms like "sales funnels" to describe the sales process for many companies and it is true that the funnel design is very appropriate for the digital world, but despite all the prose written on sales funnels and the like, my question is still the same - when do you close your sales, and how long does that take?

That process could be as simple as documenting that all prospects will have been in a half-hour strategy call, then a proposal will have been created for them, and then, another half-hour call will be booked to discuss the formal proposal that your company uses. All the prospects that go through this system will have been generated online, while any referral or networked prospect will have an extra half-hour integrated into the first call to properly vet them into your system.

Total time to convert- perhaps two hours, including drafting the proposal.

From there, you, as an owner, are able to understand how your company is, or isn't, able to scale the business. What is the average closing rate of your sales staff and what is the average value of each sale? Since we're talking about the lifeblood of your business, taking the time to discover these metrics and outline a process is one of the most important things you can do.

At the same time, having a true system by which all sales can happen also allows you to identify what products and services are easiest to sell while at the same time understanding which ones offer your company the highest value for the time spent taking care of the client.

Have you ever studied the origin of where your best clients came from? Were they referrals? Did you meet them at specific networking events? Do they all live in the same part of town (or state, or region?). What is the lifetime value of one type of client versus another type of client?

All too often, small business gets caught up in "making the sale" and not understanding how the sale actually got made. Take the time to create an easy-flowing process that makes the sale, saves time, and gives you the best chance to scale a system that can pay off as you grow and scale.

Published on: Aug 31, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.