Everything You Need To Know About Building & Scaling Your Sales Process
Now is the time to modernize your sales process or risk becoming irrelevant. Why now?
There are two big reasons: technology and buyer behaviors.
Both salespeople and buyers now have access to an incredible array of new tech. It makes salespeople more competitive, and it has made buyers more empowered than ever before.
So while efficient sales stacks amplify revenue, sales teams also need to be even more empathetic.
As best practices shift, can you really afford to stay on the sidelines?
The top professionals at hyper-growth companies are busy hacking their sales process. Are you?
What is a Sales Process?
A sales process is a template for achieving sales objectives and replicating a desired level of performance by sales reps. It lays out a repeatable series of steps a salesperson takes to turn an early stage lead into a new customer. Each step in a sales process may consist of several activities and involve one or more sales methodologies.
An effective sales process is:
- Clearly defined
A good sales process also aligns well with your ideal buyer’s purchasing journey, instead of focusing on what the seller needs.
The 7 Sales Process Steps You Need to Reinforce
The 7 most important stages of the sales process are:
- Needs Assessment
- Sales Pitch / Presentation
- Objection Handling
- Follow Up
It can be complicated to create a sales process from scratch. Hell, it can be a challenge just to identify the specific steps that comprise your sales operations!
Plus, the number of sales process steps differs across sectors, sometimes varying even among businesses operating in the same space.
But to keep it simple, you can start with this seven-stage sales process:
1. Preparation & Research
Salespeople need to know about their product, target customers, industry, and the unique value their brand provides. Good preparation is the foundation on which the rest of the sales process is built.
Research your competitors. What can you offer that is different?
Spend some time in your customer’s shoes too. What are the core problems your buyer personas usually experience? And what are the benefits of your product that can address those problems?
Skim through your company’s knowledge base to learn how your colleagues solve pain points, handle objections, close deals, and generate repeat business. If you don’t have a knowledge base, talk to the top performers, and ask to shadow their sales calls.
Finding customers is one thing. Engaging the right ones is another.
You can find potential customers from many sources including your CRM database, social media, industry events, and online search.
Your sales and marketing teams should agree on an ideal customer profile and screen prospects based on this benchmark. This enables your team to allocate limited resources to high-value, qualified leads.
To ensure a healthy sales pipeline, prospecting should be an always-on instinct across your sales organization. That means reps should constantly be making phone calls, sending emails, and reaching out on social media.
3. Needs Assessment
Now that you have engaged a potential customer, you need need to do a little discovery to determine if they really even need what you’re selling and if your company is the best fit for them.
This stage enables sales professionals to create tailored solutions that increase the likelihood of closing a deal.
Active listening, empathy, note-taking, trust-building, and following up are great skills to deploy in this stage.
This is where you articulate the unique value your customers will experience if they purchase your product or service.
You can do this by connecting their needs and wants to the corresponding features and benefits your product provides.
Note that while preparation and product knowledge play important roles in this stage, customer-centricity should remain your default mode. It is a common mistake to focus too much on what you’re selling.
You can act as a trusted advisor during this step by referring back to what you learned during Needs Assessment, and listening closely to your prospect.
5. Objection Handling
Rejection and objections are common in sales. Any salesperson who lacks grit and the ability to roll with the punches will soon be out of the game.
To manage objections effectively, practice empathy and regularly process the situation from the customer’s point of view.
This is usually where a sale is made, and all the effort up to this point is reflected in your company’s top-line revenue.
This step commonly involves sending a proposal or a quote covering the tailored solution you are offering.
You may also need to negotiate the contract or get multiple signatures from key decision makers in your prospect’s organization.
Attempts at closing do not always result in a successful sale. In that case, you can execute a follow-up plan, request a referral, or schedule the lead for future re-engagement.
7. Follow-ups, Repeat Business & Referrals
The sales funnel does not end after the first sale. Paying customers are great candidates to be prospects for your other services.
By maintaining excellent customer relationships, you can up-sell and generate repeat business more easily.
Nurture customers by keeping them updated about new services, and regularly asking for feedback on how you can serve them better.
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals either. You’ve earned them at this point!
Sales Process vs Sales Methodology: What’s The Difference?
There has been confusion (especially among non-sales professionals) over the terms “sales methodology” and “sales process.”
While they sound synonymous, the two terms technically refer to two different things in the sales universe.
Sales methodology is the framework or philosophy that guides how a salesperson approaches each step within the sales process.
You may adopt a single methodology to govern your entire sales process or apply different methodologies in each step of the sales process.
Optimize Your Sales Process: Best practices, Tips & Tricks
As previously mentioned, excellent sales processes possess all these characteristics:
- Customer-centric. Buyers are more empowered, better informed and have wider options than in the past. Smart businesses align their sales processes with this new reality.
- Clearly defined. To be effective, each stage and element in your sales process must be well understood by all stakeholders.
- Replicable. Every rep should be able to replicate all the steps in the process as well as their constituent activities without confusion.
- Predictable. The flow and expected outcomes in your sales process should follow a predictable pattern.
- Goal-oriented. A sales process systematizes your approach in meeting specific objectives (e.g., drive revenue growth, achieve process efficiencies, etc).
- Measurable. All the activities in your sales process should be quantifiable, so you can measure success and improve.
- Adaptable. A sales process must be flexible enough to accommodate changing business climates, tech integrations, or changes in your sales operations.
Charting Your Sales Process Map
To organize your sales process and the sales methodology, you need a well-designed sales process map.
Grab a notebook and a pen, or open any mobile app you like for making lists. Start by listing the stages and customer touch points in the workflow you use today. For example, two such stages might be lead generation and qualification.
Take note of relevant metrics. For example, you can note:
- The duration of each step
- The number of transactions
- The conversion rate to the next step
Fill each sales process step with all associated activities (cold calling, follow-up emails, etc.). Continue until each stage is complete.
Remember, sales process map evolves over time. You should continue to evolve your process to remain on top of shifting trends.
Build, Automate and Unleash Your Sales Stack
Even the most clever sales process won’t take you very far if you’re using outdated tools. New sales tech is rapidly changing the world of sales, so even “best practices” may now be due for an update.
Just think: twenty years ago there was no cloud, big data, artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, or mobile communications.
But be careful! Technology can multiply the effect of good and bad sales processes alike. It can also be time-consuming to select new technologies to integrate into your sales stack.
There are tools that help sales reps improve, provide information about prospects, create helpful reports, and ease communication with prospects.
Here’s a guided overview on a wide variety of sales tools you may want to include in your stack.
Metrics: Weighing in on Sales Process Success
Not all sales processes are equal, so you need to conduct a sales process audit every now and then. You can do this by periodically analyzing your performance metrics and conducting A/B tests to compare outcomes.
For example, you can choose one activity in your sales process and change it, then see if results improved. Remember, metrics are your friends and staying in their good graces protects your profitability.
Hack Your Sales Process Now
With consumer behavior and market realities shifting at lightning speed, the need to adapt becomes imperative. Sales professionals can no longer depend on outmoded approaches. There is no other choice but to embrace customer-centric thinking and new technologies.
Your sales process is not exempt.
Without a reliable template to follow, your sales team will underperform. The only route to success is to re-imagine your sales process with the right knowledge, tools, and strategies.
Also published on Medium.