What is a sales process? A 7 step Ultimate guide to crafting a sales process

A sales process isn’t a new term in modern reality. You will hear it here and there among your peers, friends, or relatives. But the question is how many people know it correctly. The article focuses on the hooks and crooks of the concept.

Definition of the sales process

The steps repeatedly adopted by a salesperson to transition a potential lead from the initial stage of awareness up to closing a deal is called the sales process. It encompasses 7 steps altogether-

  1. Prospecting: The stage which brings in new, unmatured leads to the sales funnel is known as prospecting. It revolves around researching platforms like Quora, LinkedIn, or networking at conferences and events. One can also ask existing clients or colleagues to refer to their friend circles.

2. Connection and qualification: Here, a sales rep connects with the leads to gather info and decide upon the probability of conversion. It can happen over email or calls by triggering certain questions:

Their present role, daily responsibilities, problems, how is it a matter of priority, and consideration of other solutions.

3. Research: This step mandates research on the lead and his business. If needed, a rep might have to talk to different employees of the prospect company and acquire a comprehensive understanding of the same. Ideally, a sales professional should perceive the business better than an individual prospect working in the organization.

4. Pitching: After a lead penetrates this stage, a sales rep has to personalize the sales presentation according to the lead’s use case and challenges. Also, he might bring an executive or engineer to the meeting and demonstrate expected customer support from the company. This will appreciate technical questions if any, from the prospect.

5. Handling objections: Objections must be handled with confidence. Extensive research and preparation for presentation can help anticipate possible objections related to price, onboarding, or other issues of the proposed contract. Gear up in your front and make your own ways.

6. Closing deal: This stage is reached when in the course of closing a deal. It can be different from company to company and include providing a proposal or quote, buying in the decision-makers, or making a negotiation. Once the deal is closed, a rep gets rewarded with a commission on the price(as negotiated) and the lead’s account gets assigned to a customer representative.

7. Nurturing to attract sales consistently: Post-closing deal, a rep should check with the lead about whether or not he’s received the offering, then passing him on to the responsible team. On the other hand, he should communicate with the lead and reinforce the brand value to facilitate upsell, cross-sell and earn referrals.

Why do you need a sales process?

If you dont know the path to your destination,risks are bound to impart fear in the course. In a nutshell, the sales process predicts the right path to success. 

It gives the roadmap to SDRs about what to do and at which stage, thus generating more revenue driven by efficiency.

Difference between the sales process and the sales funnel

However, the sales process and sales funnel are slightly different, although they might sound similar. In a nutshell, a sales funnel involves apprehending all the active sales activities and interactions between a lead and a business. Many sales teams don’t standardize the process, to be taken up by individual reps as they think befitting in the journey.

Now that, if you aren’t aware of the dos and don’t within the field, a standardized approach can improve predicting, evaluating, and management of sales over the period. That’s what the sales process assures.

While it’s all about numbers in sales, studies reveal companies resorting to a sales process outperform those who don’t, thus delivering better accuracy and more revenue.

Strategies for an effective sales process

Interview your sales team 

Firstly, you need to understand your team’s activities in terms of converting a lead. Consider two factors- the way of establishing a connection with leads and the last activity of the rep before closing a deal. Ask them about the language used, strategies, and techniques implemented to achieve the goals. Incorporate the elements into an inclusive plan to be followed by others. Evaluating the process can eliminate the wastage of efforts.

Stay on the loop

When a rep knows the sales process with the desired clarity, he will understand the ideal time to move on to the next step or if the flow has to be adjusted. Otherwise, things might get turned upside down without the required knowledge.

Make the best use of your talent

A sales process doesn’t necessarily command the approach of selling on social media, the way of structuring a sales pitch, the things to be written in an email, and how to prepare a draft proposal. Utilizing your talent and sales skills can be enough to break through the barriers. 

Put yourself in the customers’ shoes

At times, companies execute a sales process that pushes for their expected way of selling and not how the customers would wish to purchase. To be successful, a team has to defy such thoughts and instead adapt to the situation and buyers’ needs. For instance, asking subjective questions can do the rounds:

1) Who are the targeted groups?

2) How are they different about the buying patterns?

3) How to sell differently to new customers and long-term businesses?

4) What do customers expect at every step? How can the demands be rightly fulfilled?

Focus on a relationship-oriented outlook

From a customer’s standpoint, they seek well-founded relationships with the seller companies. To say, next-gen customers sign in with businesses that offer special treatment far above the standardized experiences.

Therefore, inculcating good relationships with buyers have emerged as a crucial parameter to win massive deals. Tactics like active listening, taking notes, building trust, and following up can result in profound relationships over time.

Point out the reason behind stalled sales

Once you have the blueprint to the sales funnel, success can be defined in individual stages. If you are facing stalled sales, a sales process can help investigate the real cause behind it.

Attract an increased number of qualified leads

An accountable sales process can steer through the foremost challenge within the funnel- omit the random leads and fetch only those who rank high in potentiality. Cut back on unnecessary efforts and adopt a straight approach to success. 

Work on predictions and revenue

Being a series of repeated steps, the sales process allows to forecast the win rates and set quotas driven by enhanced accuracy. Meanwhile, both are ideal parameters to streamline sales success, being interrelated to each other. Follow it by heart and it will give you the end results as desired.

Remember to follow up

Follow-up constitutes an integral aspect of closing a deal. During prolonged interactions with customers, sales reps are likely to forget the stage of follow-ups. This takes a toll on the sale by killing the lead’s desire to purchase an offering. Here, a sales process can come to the rescue by reminding when one should follow up. That’s not the end, as it can even suggest the type of activity and useful templates for the stage.

Deliver incredible customer experience

Pushing an unready lead quickly into the subsequent stages of sale loses out on the possibility of purchase like anything. But if you resort to an effective sales process customized for the lead, the transition can be smooth and delightful to the other party, concerning the ideal time.

Train your sales team properly

Rather than asking the newly hired professionals to watch how their colleagues perform, a transparent sales process can train and coach them with the required precision. This will help utilize every bit of time for a predetermined purpose. 

Ways to improve the sales process

  1. Assess your deployed sales process

Watch the reps when they work. Reflect on the last 5-10 deals achieved in the funnel. Count the time spent in the whole process and the time each stage costs. The more instances cited by more reps, the better it is. Once the approx timeline is detected, look back to calculate the time spent behind each deal. Underline the average steps made through the way. That said, penetrating deeper down the line can help interpret the motivations and problems which drove through the journey.

2. Sketch the customer’s journey for your target personality

Once you know the customer, its important to draw a line between him and your target audience. Otherwise, the tailoring will fall short. When you can link both sides, it will lend a comprehensive understanding of the customer interactions, challenges, and possible reasons to choose the offering.

3. Identify the triggering action to switch to the next stage

As a sales rep, you should undermine the specific action on the prospect’s part which qualified him to the next step. Verify if the lead instantly agreed to the sales pitch. If yes, recognize the reason behind such behavior and the USP of the pitch. Deploy the strategy for other prospects.

4. State the qualifying criteria at each step

To decide on the exit criteria for each step of the sales process, contemplate a couple of questions that will ensure consistency for every sales rep.

  • What do the reps know about the brand, what are they selling, and which steps are leading to connection with a prospect?
  • What actions should be taken at each step?
  • What does the reps’ pitch look like at each step? Groom the reps about the multiple ways of carrying on a conversation led by efficient management.
  • Which type of content should be shared at various stages, particularly important in the presenting stage?( blogs, videos, testimonials, case studies).

5. Measure the outcomes

Take a timeline to acknowledge the number of prospects who transitioned in and out of the sales process. Here, you need to depend on certain metrics:

  • What is the average time spent by the leads in each step
  • Which step serves lengthy to make a lead move out
  • The percentage of prospects who exit after demo
  • The percentage of leads requesting for demo post-discovery call
  • What is the churn rate(when some leads are moving faster, how can the data be used to identify unsuited leads earlier?)

Besides, also narrow down on metrics specific to your business which can boost the process further.

Either way, you can quantify the results in three levels of success. Find out the step you’re in, led by refining it for an upgrade.

1st level: Humming

If you see that 80% or more of the reps are achieving their monthly quota, the sales process is just humming. At this point, the newly hired reps get a boost targeted towards optimum performance. The stage doesn’t generate any negative response from leads. 

2nd level: Experimenting

When your team is testing various strategies to get to the goals, it’s called experimenting. 

3rd level: Thrashing

Thrashing is when your team switches from one solution to another quickly. The step is ineffective to get hands-on. It implies that the reps might examine various presentation techniques without identifying the relevant mode.

Tips to get started with the sales process

A sound sales process means sustainable growth for a company in the long term. Before you start, always ask why to every decision you make.

  • Know your goals– Prepare a simple yet tailored plan to meet your goals. Avoid complexities in the process.
  • Bring all stakeholders together– A sales process doesn’t only mandate a sales team’s efforts but also coordination with other departments across the organization(product, marketing, customer support, IT, etc.). It’s important to gather them, share the goals led by thorough involvement in the process.
  • Sketch the steps– As you fall back on the steps, which team influences a particular step and by what action can be easily determined. The most important of them is none other than the sales team.
  • Chart the customer’s journey– Observe the sales process from a customer’s view. Mark the buyers’ actions and reactions.
  • Twist, test, and evaluate the strategies– Until and unless you test the effectiveness of the deployed strategies and measure the outcomes, the sales process would remain incomplete. In case there is any backlog, change the strategy to see if it works the other way.

To ensure customers get the same experience from every rep no matter who they speak to, a sales flowchart states the dos and donts of the sales process.

Sales methodology vs sales process

The former elucidates the framework supporting the sales process while the latter expounds on the pivotal steps in the system.

Best practices in the sales process

Research indicates that sales professionals spend only 34% of their time selling to potential leads. This necessitates finding tasks that can be automated for achieving optimum productivity. When the drawbacks come identified, change one thing at a time. The factors which can result in quick improvement are:

  • Data entry into CRM email outreach to leads
  • Drafting and sending proposals
  • Following up with prospects for their signatures
  • Handover between teams

Key takeaways

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