Build a Sales Process in 5 steps
What is a sales process?
A sales process is a set of repeatable steps that a sales person takes to move a potential customer from an early stage unqualified lead to a closed sale.
You want to build a standardized sales process that has a repeatable set of actions that reflect the buyer’s journey.
This should be obvious. If your sales process does not address the buyer’s journey then they’re not going to buy from you.
This is your foundation, this will allow you to map your sales process. You just have to ask what does my lead need to become a paying customer?
You’ll notice it’s not about the seller, it’s customer-centric.
What we’ll cover:
- Why you need a defined sales process
- Sales Process vs Sales Methodology
- The 5 step sales process template
- Measure your sales process
- Putting it all together in your sales pipeline
Why you need a defined sales process
Sales is a lot about numbers, so let’s look at some numbers from research from the Harvard Business Review on sales organizations that use a defined sales process and those that don’t.
Of the businesses that are rated as high performing fifty percent responded they had sales processes that were closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated. On the other hand fourty-eight percent of the participants from under performing sales organizations indicated they had nonexistent or informal structured sales processes.
I assume you want to be in the high performing group which means you’re going to read the rest of this and build your own standardized sales process.
By taking time to figure out the buyer’s journey of your customer you can match them step for step. You won’t rush them or go too slow and you’ll have what they need at each stage. That’ll increase customer satisfaction and increase your close rate.
The other advantage of having a formal sales process is that it allows you to onboard rookie sales reps quickly. If you’ve already got a sales process then they can follow the steps in it. They have a resource that intuitively explains what the buyer’s journey is for your customers.
Plus over time you analyse what you’re doing well and where you’re falling down. This allows you to refine your sales process and make it better at converting customers.
If you’re not recording your actions then you can’t iteratively improve your sales process. You’re letting money slip through your fingers which is not a smart move.
Just as importantly if you have a formal sales process then you can more accurately make sales forecasts. If you don’t have clearly defined sales process stages then you don’t know where each of your deals are in your sales cycle.
This means you can’t accurately predict what you’re likely to close in a given period. That is a really bad place to be because if you can't make accurate sales forecasts then you can't intervene so you’re likely to miss your sales quota.
Lastly, it allows you to build a sales pipeline so your sales team are always following up promptly. This will help keep the desire to buy alive and push the deal towards being won.
The difference between Sales Process and Sales Methodology
The difference between sales process and sales methodology is similar to the difference between strategy and tactics.
Sales methodology deals with the tactics you’ll use to achieve a certain objective or step within the sales process.
The sales process on the other hand is the overall campaign to close the deal, it incorporates all of the steps from beginning to end.
There are a host of different sales methodologies out there with their own pros and cons, a few examples are:
- SPIN Selling: A sales methodology coined by Neil Rackham. SPIN stands for situation, problem, implication, and need-payoff. It explains consultative selling scientifically. How, based on systematically identifying the clients pain-points using the SPIN framework you can make a compelling offer.
- The Challenger Sales method: Being a challenger is about bringing commercial insight–to teach somebody something about their business that they did not know beforehand.
- Sandler Sales Methodology: It says that the buyer and seller are equally invested in the sales process. Sales reps address customer objections early saving time and creating a desire in the buyer to go ahead because the sales rep seems more like a trusted adviser than a pushy sales person.
Check out our sales glossary for further resources on these.
The 5 step sales process template
We’re now going to break down the sales process into 5 steps. We’ll define each stage and what you need to do to move the prospect through each step of the sales process.
Prospecting is basically lead generation - it’s all about identifying your potential customers at the top of your sales pipeline.
Before you go about finding prospects you have to know who you’re looking for so you should have developed a buyer persona.
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 and find out where they are.
For example, if I’m selling a sales CRM software then I’m going to focus on sales managers and sales reps. With that information I can then look for places they congregate. I can attend sales events where they’ll be or search databases like Linkedin for contact information.
This is important because you don’t want to waste time on someone who will never buy from you. Afterall, time is money.
So how do you qualify leads?
You have to ask qualifying questions.
One of the best qualifying frameworks is BANT:
- Budget - What is the prospect’s budget?
- Authority - Does the prospect have the authority to green light the purchase or can they influence that decision?
- Need - What are the business needs and pain points?
- Timeframe - In what timeframe does the prospect want to implement the solution?
By asking questions that answer the above you’ll have an understanding of whether the prospect is a good fit for you and therefore likely to become a customer. If they don’t fit then you know not to waste their time or yours trying to push a square peg into a round hole.
This is where you pitch to the customer. The key here and it is often forgotten is to demonstrate value to the prospect.
You don’t sell features!
The prospect has needs and pain points so you have to couch your product or service as a solution to those needs and pain points. Remember, it’s not about you - it’s about the prospect and their needs.
What will help inform your presentation is what you learned back in the needs assessment when you were qualifying the prospect. Doing further research and bringing up examples of similar businesses your solution has helped is another easy win you should have in your pocket.
Lastly, most businesses care about two things - time and money. They want to reduce the time they spend working whilst increasing revenue. If you can demonstrate achieving either of those things with your product you’ll be in a great place to win over the prospect and other relevant stakeholders.
Sales objections are normal - don’t be disheartened.
They allow you to reframe your sales pitch to be even more relevant to the prospect. It can help you find out what really matters to them and if you can address it greatly increase your chance of turning them into a paying customer.
You should through your prior research have come up with a few possible objections they’d bring up. Then off the back of that produce an objection management document with answers prepared so you’re not caught out like a deer in headlights.
Common objections revolve around price where you’d reframe the conversation towards value, and if you’re offering multiple tiers find out what really matters to them and perhaps a lower tier will meet their needs and allay their cost concerns.
This is the late stage of the sales process that all sales reps want to get to. Here you complete any final activities such as producing a quote or getting the approval of other decision makers to make the final sale.
It might involve some last negotiations but the goal here is simple. You want to get their signature on the dotted line.
There are tactics to induce a prospect to sign such as creating a sense of urgency by having limited capacity or prices are going up after a certain date. It’s up to you to judge what if anything you can do to move things forward faster but even at this stage nothing is a done deal.
Measure your sales process
If you want to improve at something you need to know where you’re at currently. If I want to get stronger on the bench press then I should record over time how much I’m lifting and for how many reps.
You should do the same thing for the results of your sales process. Some basic metrics you should record are:
- The average time prospects stay in each step
- Any steps where prospect stay for too long
- The percentage of your prospects you qualify
- The percentage of prospects who request a presentation after your email or cold call outreach
- The percentage of prospects that close after your demo or presentation
If you know the answers to the above then you can experiment to improve those numbers and therefore increase sales over time.
The worst thing you can do is have no idea how effective your sales process is and allow it to become stagnant.
Putting it all together in your sales pipeline
Once you’ve figured out your sales process and the steps involved you’ll want to build a sales pipeline that your sales team will push the leads down.
This will make it clear and obvious what tasks you need to do at each stage of the sales process. It’ll allow you to gather the data you need on the metrics we’ve mentioned above.
For that, we’d recommend using a CRM like RealtimeCRM where you and your sales team can assign tasks, upload templates and record all the interactions with your prospect throughout the sales process.
It’ll be the central hub where you’ll coordinate and plan your sales activities. But if you’re not quite ready for a CRM why not try out our free sales pipeline template in the meantime.
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