“Staging” is a term used in many endeavors, from getting a house ready to sell to producing a play. It’s typically the last step before something goes live. So, what does that have to do with your selling efforts? A lot!

Staging in your selling efforts is a critical step in ensuring success in that sales opportunity.

As I shared in the first article in this series for creating your roadmap to sales success, a sales process is a roadmap that guides you through the journey from the introduction to a new client to growth of that client.

Let’s take a look at the stages of a sales process, which can be thought of as the key points in your sales roadmap.

The Stages of Your Sales Process

The stages of the sales process serve as the guideposts for the milestones that let you know that your sales journey is on the right path with the right people involved.

Many financial advisors ask me about the number of interactions or conversations they should have with prospects, and the reality is that it doesn’t matter as much as the actual stages of that journey. We’ll dive more into the number of conversations in the third article in the series. For now, we’ll focus on the stages and their objectives.

This graphic illustrates the sales process.

Note that the graphic is a circle because selling efforts are a cycle of bringing people into “your world”, moving them through their decision-making process, and then often cycling back to the top with either new services or an introduction to another prospect.

Your final process may include all these five stages, or you may combine one or two of them, but these are the typical stages that allow you to have meaningful and measurable guideposts along your journey.

Stage 1: Connect

The first stage in the Sales Process is Connect. This is where your prospects or leads enter the top of your funnel. Completion of this stage occurs when you have met the objective of the stage: the prospect has scheduled a time to talk with you.

The Convert stage may take minutes or months to complete. Why? Because people enter your world at different states of readiness to engage. They could just be interested in receiving your newsletter or watching an event you have, but they’re not really willing to engage in a conversation about what’s going on with them and how your services might potentially fit as a solution.

The Connect stage outlines the way that you nurture that lead and stay top of mind and engaged with them. Then when they are ready for more information or to discuss their situation, you are ready.

Stage 2: Qualify

Once the lead is willing to have a conversation with you, they move to the next stage in the sales process: Qualify.

In the Qualify stage, the objective is to learn about the prospect to make sure that they are a viable client, or even better, an ideal client.

Whether you use loose or tight criteria, qualifying early allows you to know that you’re spending your time, energy, and resources with people who have a good or high probability of becoming a client.

How do you qualify them? In several ways! Many advisors use a questionnaire or information form before a conversation and qualifying also occurs as part of your conversations. When you are focused on the fit of the prospect early, you will ask better initial questions and look for behaviors that make them right for you…or not.

Once you determine you have a qualified prospect, you move into the third stage of the sales process.

Stage 3: Convert

Stage 3 is Convert. The objective of Convert is to secure the decision for you and your new client to work together. 

Conversion might occur after one interaction or conversation, or five, or more. It could involve a lot of follow up or not. It depends on how you set it up and, more importantly, what that person needs during their decision-making process to move forward.

Once they have committed to working together, you’ve now converted that prospect to a client and you move to the fourth stage.

Stage 4: Onboard

Stage 4 is Onboard with the key objective of transitioning into working together.

This is normally a stage in the process that is very well understood and executed by advisors. It often involves numerous processes, workflows, tools, and technology.

Once everything is in place, it’s time to move into the final stage of the sales process.

Stage 5: Grow

Stage 5 is Grow and its main objective is to grow the relationship with your client.

Unfortunately, this is the stage that is most often not included in someone’s sales process. This is especially unfortunate for financial advisors, since so often I hear advisors saying that they grow their firm through referrals. Yet they don’t really have growing the relationship and gaining those referrals as a tangible part of their sales process.

A secondary objective for the Grow stage is often to move another opportunity to the top of the funnel again. This could be an opportunity with that client or through an introduction or referral to somebody else, and then you start the sales process over with that new lead.

There you have it: Five stages, milestones that you can track to ensure you are efficiently and productively using your time, effort, and resources to convert prospects and then grow those relationships.

In the next installment of this series, I’ll share the components to map out in each Stage with the specific key actions that you should outline for each stage to avoid gaps or redundancies.

This is one you’re not going to want to miss!