How do I build a winning sales process?
What is a sales process?
When you get into your car you have a destination you want to go to and an idea of the steps involved to get there. When you want to write a piece on a topic you usually outline it, the beats of the narrative and once you have that then it's just painting in the space between. It’s a lot easier than having no idea of what you’re doing and making it up as you go along.
Sales is no different, you need a plan of action otherwise you’re going nowhere.
A sales process allows you to have standardised set of actions so your sales team know what to do next to close the deal. It also allows you to improve measuring and forecasting and the general management of your sales. In most cases you'll have a formal sales pipeline which can evenn help offer follow up activity and provide ready made templates to use to move the opportunity along.
If you want to write you need a topic, if you want to sell you need a customer. The very first thing you need to think about is therefore your ideal customer profile (ICP).
Your ICP is a description of the business or organisation that would greatly benefit from your offering. We’re not trying to be too granular here that’ll come later with the buyer persona but what you want to know is their industry, size and budget.
Once you’ve got those basic details down you will have narrowed down the field considerably allowing you to begin to tailor your sales process for these ICPs.
That is hugely important because otherwise you’ll be lost at sea trying to figure out how to appeal to everybody but in the end appeal to nobody.
The next thing you’ll want to know about these ICPs is where they congregate? Are there networking events that they go to? Industry specific events? Linkedin or some other directory. Find that watering hole and stake it out and find your targets.
Once you know what your ICP is then you’ve got to come back to thinking about yourself. What value are you providing them? This means having a frank and open discussion around what your USP is, the advantages of your offering but also the cons and what competitors are offering as well and how you differ from them.
In what ways are you better and worse. When you step through the door or get on that first call you’re not speaking in isolation, in the back of the buyer’s mind they’ll be comparing you to what else is out there. That’s their benchmark so you need to know that benchmark too.
It also means figuring out how you fit into their business. A set of features divorced from their context is meaningless. If you know their pain points and can place your offering as a solution to these problems then you’ve demonstrated utility to them. Basically, you did the thinking part for them as they don’t need to think about how your offering would fit in.
Part of that also means being able to speak their language, are there certain phrases or motifs they’re likely to use. If you know them too and can display that knowledge it signals competence and will garner respect. That’s hugely significant in an effective sales process.
Creating a buyer persona
You have a general idea about the organisation you’re targeting, now it's time to deal with the people within it.
A buyer persona (BP) is a pretty simple concept. It’s a fictional profile of an ideal customer who would use your product or service, it could be John the accountant or Betty the marketing consultant. Its purpose is to allow you to craft a message specific to that person.
If you don’t know who you’re selling to then you don’t know what your message is going to be so all of your marketing is up in the air. This is about creating focus.
If you’re selling a sales CRM software for example you’ll probably be looking at the sales team within an organisation, and who is likely to be the decision maker within that? What’s their job title? Years of experience? What are their specific needs?
If the ICP is the macro level analysis then the BP is the micro level analysis, both are critical to success.
How to reach them
Once you’ve got an idea of who your target is and how your offering can fit into their needs - you have to move on to figuring out how to effectively reach them.
The key bit is effective. A lot of people love doing work to feel like they’re doing work but it doesn’t mean its effective. You’re just wasting your time.
Take ‘Omotenashi’ for example which is defined as “the Japanese mindset of hospitality … an implicit understanding that there are no menial tasks if the result ensures a great experience for a guest”.
Which results in more people hired to do something than is necessary, what they’re doing doesn’t necessarily add any value but it creates the impression that they’re doing something and so they look highly competent.
If you’re spending all your time doing cold calls in an industry where cold calls are a bust, sure you’re doing work but its not effective work.
So you’ve got to do your research ahead of time, what channel is the best way to reach your targets? Is it email, Linkedin or do you have to go to industry specific events to sell your wares?
Often, the answer will not be obvious so you’re going to have to try multiple channels and A/B test them. You should be keeping track of them and if you see one that’s a dud cut it out and double down on the winners.
At the beginning you don’t need to worry too much about scaling that’ll come later but whatever you do make sure you keep things personal rather than generic in any communications you make, there is nothing worse than receiving generic sales crap. It gets deleted or ignored near instantly. You should have put in the work through the ICP and BP so making your approach more personal shouldn’t be a huge problem.
Record your interactions
You should record what you’re doing because not only does it stop you from duplicating work but it helps the future you. What do I mean by this?
Your memory is finite, you can’t remember everything but by recording your interactions you’ll know what works and what doesn’t and it’ll prove an invaluable resource as hopefully you succeed and grow bringing in new people.
These new people don’t know but because they have access to this great resource you’ve built they can stand on the shoulders of giants and be way further ahead on day 1. You want to build that training resource up as quickly as possible. A really simple way to start doing this is implementing software like RealtimeCRM so that all the relevant information is in one easy to access place.
Culture, Motivation and Scaling Up
Building a healthy sales culture is difficult but not impossible. Having the right incentives takes some thought.
Think of this hypothetical. You want to maximise the number of sales your reps make. So you set that as the overarching goal but they achieve it by giving away the house with giant discounts. Now all of a sudden those sales don’t look so great.
What you need is to create clear success indicators and rewards that make sense and that allow people to evaluate how well they’re doing, and be able to provide real and honest feedback so they can improve. Creating a culture where that can occur without bruised egos is important. Sales is ruthless it does not care about your feelings but at the same time you don’t want a whip in your hand - it’s a fine balance.
Hopefully as you grow, you’ll begin to expand your sales team, people will be promoted and now its about having in place the proper processes, structure, rules of engagement and organisational discipline to make sure it doesn’t spiral out of control.
You’ve got to avoid a rotten culture of egos from festering and growing where all of a sudden office politics start sucking up more and more energy.
Avoiding a lot of that will come from the top. Leading by example to show what is and is not acceptable and having the right set of policies to deal with people who just don’t fit for whatever reason.
It’s going to be difficult but it’s also going to be fun and if you succeed the sense of satisfaction will be immense.
That's easier said than done though. It's easy to give advice but difficult to follow and then to live with those decisions. Sometimes you're just not ready to live with the consequences of those decisions. There will be many moments where you'll despair at the numbers and think this isn't working and feel like giving up. That's where the real test of character will be.
This winning sales process is going to be the backbone of your business. Building it will be the challenge around which to rally your team. Even when things become difficult and they will just remember the glory doesn’t come in the final achievement but in the struggle to get there, if you have that mentality you’ll have the personal motivation to march onwards and lead your team.
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