Every business must a have well-defined sales process and a clear understanding of the opportunities in its sales funnel.
However, many sales executives neglect to regularly revisit and review the sales process. Instead, it becomes a mere ‘one and done’ action.
If there is a review, that time is typically spent revising each end of the sales funnel – and sometimes in painstaking detail. The ‘black box’ of the sales process is left to stagnate, and revenues plateau.
Whether this is due to a lack of experience, genuine oversight or just shirking the task, failing to audit the sales process is a naïve and costly mistake.
Why Audit Your Sales Process?
There are several reasons for regularly auditing your sales process: your company, team, and product or service changes over time; insight and understanding of your customers deepen and matures; and most importantly, it transforms results and is key for business growth.
Regularly reviewing and updating your sales process enables your business to be nimble and prepared: to offer new products or services; to move into new customer categories, markets or geographies; to easily add new salespeople; and to embrace more ambitious growth targets.
So once you have a sales process in place, how should you begin auditing it? Well, we suggest beginning by focusing on four cornerstones
The truth is that many businesses never map out their ideal sales process, and if they do, they rarely ‘remap’ it.
Each map of the sales process should consider a variety of entry points for prospects, then detail triggers, content, and conversations that will move prospects through the process – all the time identifying potential obstacles and objections that may delay or derail them.
Whether it requires nine or 39 steps, spending quality time mapping out your ideal sales processes will provide invaluable insight.
The benefit this will bring to your business is further amplified through regular review. We recommend scheduling this at least every six months, and including feedback from both won and lost accounts.
While some businesses do review their sales process to some extent, they invariably focus on just two areas of the funnel:
- Top of funnel – Where opportunities enter and are managed by marketing.
- Bottom of funnel – Closed or failed sales, managed by the sales team.
Later, there may be sales-to-marketing ‘pass back’, as prospects that become unconverted sales opportunities are passed back for re-marketing and nurturing.
Many businesses lack definition at these sales/marketing interfaces, but it is important to clarify these parts of the process and to share the definitions to ensure that marketing, sales and management teams each understand demarcation.
Actions to takeaway:
- Examine your funnel stages – Confirm the milestones and attributes that are most likely to occur during each stage. Also ask yourself and your team what could go wrong or what could be misinterpreted.
- Get clarity on your sales and marketing SLAs – Include a review of your definitions to ensure they are simple and usable: lead, qualified lead, opportunity, stages of opportunity, sale. Highlight marketing and sales responsibilities, handover-points and qualifications on each distinct sales process.
- Get critical feedback – Ask each member of your sales team to individually review and mark-up the existing step-by-step sales process for each key product or service you offer.
- Review individual feedback – Then review all feedback as a sales team.
- Conduct Deal Interviews! – At least five closed (won) deals and five lost opportunities. Ask them why you won or lost the deal and review feedback on the sales process – including team engagement, insight offered, materials and content received, and feedback on team availability and behaviors.
Selling is a numbers game, and any prediction will present two main challenges: how to reliably anticipate sales forecasts; and which numbers to track.
The metrics typically requested and reviewed by management / sales directors will comprise revenue, profit and likelihood.
However, numerical creativity is endemic in sales, so you must be able to evaluate, audit and optimize individual workloads and performance within your team. Setting sales goals is a balancing act between the ambitious and the achievable.
Actions to takeaway:
What are your current metrics of success and key performance indicators (KPI)?
Consider numerical analysis and the introduction of further metrics, for example:
- How many leads are marketing-qualified and how many are sales-qualified? What is the ratio, by month or quarter?
- Set KPIs at each stage of your funnel including how long each prospect spends at each stage, separated by prospect outcome (such as won, lost, qualified out, still nurturing).
- What is your sales capacity? Do you have sufficient leads moving to opportunities for your sales team? Calculate your opportunity volume workload by salesperson
- What is the efficiency of each salesperson? For example you might define salesperson-efficiency using the close-rate i.e. the ratio of how many leads a salesperson received divided by how many they closed in a defined period. You could also use activity-specific metrics such as number of calls made or number of sales conversations scheduled or completed.
- Remember to focus on time. How long is it taking for leads to funnel through your sales process? When was a lead first generated? When did it become an opportunity? How long has it been in the sales process? How long has it taken to move the opportunity across each stage of the sales process?
- Make response times a shared responsibility. Calculate the average team-response-time: sum of time between initial contact date and follow up date divided by the number of prospects = average team response time.
- Be transparent: How do you share metrics with and within the sales team?
Your Sales Team
The importance of the sales team should never be underestimated; it is the sales team that generates revenue and sets the tone for customer relationships.
Ensuring each member of your sales team works well together, and shares insight and feedback on the sales process, will steer positive outcomes for the business.
A thorough sales process audit reviews the cohesiveness of the sales team to ensure that the team has trust, shared accountability and mutual commitment to results.
In some enterprises, individual salespeople are highly motivated on a personal level, but suffer from low team commitment. Fostering team awareness, accountability and trust is an ongoing process that needs to be an organizational commitment.
Actions to takeaway:
- Review sales team personalities and collaboration. Consider external assessments such as the Kolbe Index, StrengthsFinder and DiSC.
- Gather feedback from your team on collaboration, results and team dynamics.
- Review usage of tools such as CRM, pipeline applications and reporting – how are they being used by individuals and by the team?
- Review and update your sales handbook – capture relevant conversations, scripts, messages and responses to common objections.
- How useful are your sales meetings? Audit the structure, input and outcomes of your sales meetings. How frequent are they? How useful are they? What is the formal and informal communication and feedback about sales meetings?
- Don’t roll out blanket sales training and coaching. Review your sales processes, and the team and individual impacts on each step. Focus training and development for specific challenges, opportunities and individuals in specific areas of the sales pipeline.
Sales success will often be built on relationships and rapport. You must clearly demonstrate the transformation and potential to your prospects, and move them through the sales process.
The messaging, tools, conversations and triggers that support this is all proof – and we think of it as evidence.
Evidence can be verbal, non-verbal and written, and includes questions and conversations, sales content such as e-books, whitepapers, cheat sheets, how-to guides, presentations and pitches.
One common problem is the development of evidence for use in the sales process without input from the sales team. Another challenge is that once it is developed, the success and impact of different pieces of evidence is not reviewed.
Understanding which pieces of evidence work, and the different decision makers that move along the sales process, is transformative.
Actions to takeaway:
- Evaluate how your sales team is involved in the development of evidence for the sales process. How do you gather insights and feedback and provide them to your marketing team?
- Audit all the evidence you currently have. Of all the content, triggers and conversations that are prevalent in your sales processes – which ones really work? Which ones don’t?
- Review and update all your messaging, scripts and templates.
- Identify any communication gaps, and workshop resolutions.
- Where are the stagnation points in your sales process and what kinds of evidence could help?
- Where are your pipeline blockages and how could certain types of evidence help?
Finally, remember this:
Selling is the process that fuels the success of an enterprise. But it is a dynamic process that needs the commitment of constant review and formal audit.
Understanding the need to evaluate each step of the sales process, review team dynamics and consider the messages that help decision makers to make the right decision for the benefit of their business, is powerfully transformative for businesses willing to evaluate and act.