Process components

Author Kelsey Sampson, University of San Francisco

Posted: June 20, 2016

Tagged: Sales process

There are several important components that make up a successful sales process. The components include preparation, building rapport, qualifying the buyer, building value, closing the sale and following up with the customer. In order to dig deeper into each component, each one is described below.

The first component of a successful sales process is preparation. This typically requires training, gathering information, strategic planning and developing a sales pitch. “If a salesperson comes off as an expert in their field then it will translate to trust and influence with the customer” (Holmes, 2008, p. 195). Shapiro (2015) also states that a critical step in preparation is weighing alternatives. Alternatives make you less dependent on one option or customer and therefore create leverage, which is particularly useful when negotiating from a position of relative weakness. If the salesperson is highly knowledgeable in their product or service then alternatives allow them to sell to any type of customer because they can reference several types of relevant research. Once a salesperson has mastered this first step they are ready to move on to customer sales.

The second component of a successful sales process involves building rapport with the customer. This involves breaking the ice and creating a relationship with each and every customer. Holmes (2008) suggests, “getting personal, having a sense of humor, being empathetic, finding common ground, and mirroring their body language” (p. 196). Shapiro (2015) agrees with the advice of getting personal by reminding us, “people make decisions emotionally and justify them rationally” (para. 5). If you have not built credibility and engaged the other side emotionally, logic is not as compelling. Therefore, even if a salesperson completes step one of a successful sales process, they may not get the opportunity to share this knowledge if they don’t connect on a personal level first. Cousens, Babiak & Bradish (2006) also suggest that relationships are as unique as the partners are and that they change over time. This means that rapport is not a one-time step. A customer relationship must be continually developed and nurtured, similar to a friendship.

The third component of a successful sales process includes qualifying the buyer. Holmes (2008) describes qualifying the buyer as “finding out what the customer is looking for in your product or service and what factors will influence them to buy” (p. 198). By asking enough questions, a salesperson can qualify what specifics the buyer is looking for and what price range they are willing to buy at. Shapiro (2015) agrees that a “salesperson can rarely ask too many questions. The more you know you know about a customers’ interests, motivations, goals, and needs, the better equipped you are to sell or negotiate” (para. 8). Cousens et al. (2006) also recommends assessing a customer’s external and internal needs before even starting a negotiation. Therefore, with several recommendations from industry leaders, qualifying the buyer is a critical step in the sales process.

Fourthly, the next step a successful sales process involves building value. Holmes (2008) says building value “involves more questions after you qualify the buyer and find out what they are looking for. This is the time that you’ve got your pitch that builds value and lets them know your reputation in the marketplace” (p. 202). One way to do this is by presenting your organization’s core story and integrating research data into the conversation. A stronger impression can be made if a customer knows how you compare to similar organizations in the industry. Skildum-Reid and Grey (2014) suggest completing a Venn diagram of your organization and your two biggest competitors to highlight attributes you share and those you don’t. This strategy will give you a better idea of how your organization excels when compared to competitors and allows a salesperson to focus on those attributes in their sales pitch.

The fifth component of a successful sales process involves closing the sale. Closing the sale is all about advancing the sales process to ultimately get an order. Holmes (2008) notes that salespeople “need to help prospective clients make a decision and its okay to make them feel a little pressure” (p. 205). There are several ways to close a sale but two in particular I want to highlight. One way involves only giving the customer YES options. This could mean ending the conversation by directly asking them what color they prefer or where they want their order shipped. Holmes (2008) also recommends “another way to induce people to buy faster and with greater enthusiasm is by offering a free product or service” (p. 207). Everyone likes free stuff and if a customer can have a trial run with a product or service to better understand how their money is being spent then they may feel more comfortable to buy.

The final component of a successful sales process is the follow-up with a customer. Holmes (2008) describes, “the period after a salesperson interacts with a customer is known as the cool down period” (p. 211). If your sales pitch ended with a sale then you want your customer to stay hot on your product or service. Therefore, it is important to request their feedback to ensure satisfaction and promote referrals. On the opposite end, if you completed the first five components of the sales process and your customer did not initially buy, follow-up is still important because the customer may have needed time to consider. Holmes (2008) also suggests, “offering something additional that can help their business like networking or another product or service” (p. 222). The follow-up component is a continuous process because if you are persistently building your relationships then customers are more likely to come back.

The six components of a successful sales process described above are equally important. Some salespeople may focus on certain components more than others but they all provide significant advantages to those in the sales industry. Components may be altered to fit the product or service being sold but it is imperative that preparation, building rapport, qualifying the buyer, building value, closing the sale and following up with the customer are all involved in making a sale.




Cousens, L., Babiak, K., & Bradish, C. (2006). Beyond sponsorship: Re-framing corporate-sports relationships. Sports Management Review, 9, 1-23.

Holmes, C. (2008). The Ultimate Sales Machine. New York: Portfolio.

Shapiro, R. (2015, March 2). How to sell and negotiate more effectively in sports. SportsBusiness Journal, 17(44). Retrieved from

Skildum-Reid, K., & Grey, A. (2014). The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit (4th ed.). Boston: McGrawHill.

About Kelsey Sampson, University of San Francisco

Kelsey is a Sport Management graduate student at the University of San Francisco and will graduate May 2017. As a former collegiate athlete, Kelsey’s passion lies within collegiate athletic administration and the student-athlete experience. Her professional experience includes work at Coe College and the University of California, Berkeley athletic departments. Twitter: kc_sampson, LinkedIn: This is an edited version of a paper Kelsey prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales class at the University of San Francisco.

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