Table of Contents
What is the sales process?
The Selling or Sales Process is the way in which a salesperson interacts with potential buyers. There are 7 main steps of the sales process which are prospecting, preparation, approach, presentation, handling objections, closing, and follow-up.
The sales process is a standard, repeatable sequence of processes that a sales rep or team implements to move a potential customer from recognition of a need to the eventual execution of a purchase. In essence, it’s not only a prospect’s journey from awareness to a transaction but also a roadmap for sales representatives.
The proper sales process varies based on the industry, the type of product or service being sold, and the target customer. While some companies might have four stages in their sales process, others might identify as many as seven steps.
Let’s simplify each step:
- Prospecting: This step involves identifying potential customers or leads who might be interested in the product or service you’re selling.
- Preparation: Involves researching more about the potential customer to understand their needs and how your product can meet those needs.
- Approach: This is the method you use to initiate contact with the prospect, which could be an email, a phone call, or even an in-person meeting.
- Presentation: At this stage, you present the product or service to the prospect, demonstrating how it meets their needs.
- Handling objections: Prospects may have concerns or objections, and this step involves addressing those to the prospect’s satisfaction.
- Closing: This is the stage where the salesperson finalizes the deal by confirming the prospect’s purchase decision.
- Follow-up: After the sale is complete, maintain contact with the customer to ensure satisfaction and potentially unlock further business opportunities.
Importantly, this process is distinct from a sales funnel, which is a visualization of the sales process stages, often used as a management tool to monitor the status and success rate of sales activities.
Despite the defined sales process, it’s left to each salesperson’s discretion in many teams on what steps to follow and when. However, a well-defined and standardized sales process can aid in improving the efficiency, measurability, and predictability of the sales cycle, especially for those who are not naturally gifted in selling.
To reiterate, a successful sales process is your strategic guide to closing deals and achieving continuous business growth.
Why Build Sales Processes?
The success of any sales organization often rests on the underlying sales process. This structured roadmap allows your sales team to convert leads into customers methodically and successfully. Below are several reasons why you should build a sales process:
1. Efficient Roadmap to Success
A well-defined sales process serves as a practical guide that leads your sales team through the journey of converting prospective leads into customers, essentially supporting your marketing team’s endeavors. This roadmap reduces wasted efforts and brings about more efficient results, boosting the company’s profitability.
2. Consistency and Confidence
A consistent sales process keeps your sales team in sync. Standardized methods and messaging ensure that everyone knows what steps to take and what to expect at each stage. This consistency breeds confidence in handling potential deals. The absence of ambiguity allows for a smoother, more result-driven selling process.
3. Increased Efficiency and Reduced Ambiguity
A well-structured sales process divides the entire sales journey into distinct stages, outlining the purpose and strategic actions required at each point. This breakdown reduces uncertainty, enhances focus, and leads to efficient management of deals, thereby lowering the chances of missed opportunities.
4. Insights-driven Approach
Perhaps one of the most significant advantages of a sales process is the opportunity for regular tracking and data analysis. Monitoring each stage’s performance can lend invaluable insights. You can detect and address bottlenecks, refine strategies, and make data-driven decisions, which collectively lead to continuous improvement and increased sales performance.
5. Simplification of Training and Onboarding
An established sales process simplifies the training and onboarding process for new team members. It provides a clear framework for understanding the company’s sales approach, enabling new hires to start contributing to the organization’s success sooner.
6. Customization of Value Delivery
A systematic sales process helps in understanding the prospect’s needs at each stage, providing tailored solutions when they are most suitable. It ensures the right value propositions are presented at the right time, fostering an ongoing sales conversation until the prospect is ready to buy.
In summary, a well-structured sales process is a strategic instrument that guides your path to sales and customer success. It fosters efficiency, consistency, accurate insights, effective training, and personalized value delivery. Therefore, building a sales process is crucial for any business aiming to optimize its sales performance.
How to Create a Sales Process?
Creating a sales process is about organizing the steps your sales representatives take from initial contact with a potential customer to closing the deal. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on how to create a successful sales process.
Step 1: Prospecting
Start by identifying potential customers, also known as prospects. Seek targeted companies instead of pursuing everyone. You can achieve better results by creating a buyer persona (using your database of past successful customers to help).
- Study potential prospects’ buying habits, pain points, and preferences.
- Formulate a set of compelling questions to ask them.
- Once you have a clear target audience, decide on the medium and timing to reach out to them.
- Create an attractive sales pitch, either generalized or personalized, to captivate prospects.
Step 2: Qualification
After identifying prospects, ascertain if they really need your product. This involves more research and questioning.
- Understand their needs and pain points.
- Find out who the company’s decision-makers are.
- Use past communications and online information sources such as prospects’ websites, blogs, and social media pages, to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
- Also, look into their product or service reviews.
Step 3: Setting Appointments
The third step involves setting up a meeting with your prospects, which is a crucial stage to demonstrate the value proposition of your product or service.
- Lead conversations that address prospects’ concerns.
- Be confident and persuasive in your request for a meeting.
- Track your emails/calls and follow-up appropriately.
- Use an appointment scheduling tool to keep track of important meetings.
Step 4: Presentation
This is where you get to show your prospects what your product or service can do for them. Tailor your presentation to address specific needs identified during the ‘qualification’ step.
- Highlight your product’s strong points and counteract your competition.
- Keep your presentation succinct but informative.
Step 5: Objection Handling
Hurdles are common at this point, as prospects will often have reservations. Handle objections tactfully and understand that they are often requests for more information.
- Consider the prospect’s perspective and try to understand their specific concerns.
Step 6: Closing
This is the final step where the deal is either sealed or lost. It’s essential to use the right closing techniques and tactics here.
- Make the prospect feel they can afford your product/service.
- Use testimonials of satisfied customers to validate your product’s credibility.
Step 7: Delivering Value
The relationship with your customer doesn’t end after closing the deal. Stay connected with them by continuously providing value.
- Call and ask for feedback about your product.
- Address customer issues promptly.
- Engage them with newsletters and other informative content.
- Ask for referrals and testimonials to help further boost your business.
By following these steps carefully, you can create an effective sales process for your organization. Remember to regularly review and update your sales process as your business and market evolve.
What are the most important sales process steps?
- Knowledge building and Research: This includes not only extensive product knowledge but also understanding the ideal prospect, their needs, pain points, and buyer persona. Also, reviewing past sales, studying market trends, the strategies competitors are using, and research on potential prospects.
- Prospecting and Lead Generation: Identifying potential customers who might be interested in your product or service. This can be done through various methods such as referrals, online research, inbound lead generation campaigns, etc.
- Qualifying Prospects: Not all leads will convert into buyers. Therefore, qualifying the prospects on the basis of their needs, budget, timeline, and authority can save time and resources and increase chances of sales success.
- Solution Developing: After understanding the customer’s problems, crafting a customized solution that addresses the prospect’s specific needs is a crucial step.
- Sales Presentation (or sales call): This involves presenting your solution (product or service) to your prospect tailored to their needs, emphasizing how your solution provides value and solves their problem.
- Handling Objections: Prospects may have concerns or objections about the product or service. Anticipating these objections, addressing them properly, and reaffirming the value of your solution can help move the prospect closer to a decision.
- Following Up and Closing the Deal: Regular follow-ups with the potential client are essential for keeping the conversation going and overcoming any remaining reservations or objections. Ultimately, the goal is to close the deal by finalizing the purchase.
- Nurturing the Relationship and Upselling: The sales process doesn’t end at the closure of the deal. Maintaining the relationship and providing excellent post-sales service is key. Satisfied customers may provide opportunities for upselling and cross-selling.
- Continuous Evaluation: Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to analyze the sales process’s effectiveness and identify areas for improvement is an ongoing phase of the sales process. By analyzing this data, sales teams can continually refine their processes.
In conclusion, while these steps might seem linear, they should be thought of as more cyclical. Every customer interaction provides insight, and sales reps should always be learning and refining their strategies based on these insights. Each step in the process is reliant on the others, and without diligent attention to each step, the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire sales process could be compromised.
What are common sales process mistakes and how do you avoid them?
A list of common mistakes during the sales process and ways to avoid them:
- Poor Preparation: Without proper research, a salesperson cannot communicate confidently and convincingly. Solution: Invest in understanding your product and your target audience prior to making a sales call.
- Not Analyzing Client Needs: A superficial understanding of the prospect’s needs may lead to ineffective pitching. Solution: Take enough time to understand your prospects’ pain points through a discovery call.
- Pitching Before Qualifying Leads: Starting the sales pitch before understanding the prospect’s alignment with your products often leads to dead ends. Solution: Qualify your leads before making the sales call, which increases the chances of closing a deal.
- Focusing on Product Features Instead of Value: Prospects are more interested in solutions and value than product features. Solution: Highlight the benefits and value your product offers, not just its features.
- Being Unempathetic: Pushy sales representatives can put off prospects. Solution: Empathize with your prospects, listen to their problems, and build trust.
- Talking Too Much: Constant talking can alienate prospects. Solution: Maintain a healthy balance between listening and talking, preferably a 60/40 split favoring listening.
- Being Unprepared for Objections: Unpreparedness for objections can dent the sales process. Solution: Map out all potential prospect objections before pitching your product and plan responses.
- Long Sales Calls: Lengthy sales calls can disengage prospects. Solution: Keep your calls, both in-person and virtual, to a maximum of 30 minutes.
- Delayed Follow-ups: A long wait before following up with a prospect can cool down the sales temperature. Solution: Send follow-up messages immediately after your sales call.
- Unclear Sales Process Steps: Leaving sales process steps open to interpretation can lead to misunderstandings. Solution: Clearly define, document, and share each step of your sales process.
- Sticking to One Sales Methodology: Relying on a single sales methodology can limit the effectiveness of the sales approach. Solution: Explore different sales methodologies and adapt as per prospect need and situation.
- Ignoring Sales Process Improvement: Forgetting that the sales process needs constant evolution can lead to stagnation. Solution: Continually measure, develop, and improve your sales process.
- Misalignment of Sales Plays and Process: Without aligning your sales plays with the sales process, sales efficiency can be affected. Solution: Document plays for each step of the sales process and keep them accessible for the team.
- Excluding Marketing from the Process: Not keeping marketing in the loop deprives the process of essential information for better nurturing. Solution: Collaborate with marketing teams to better supplement each part of the sales process.
- Overemphasis on Closing Deals: Overemphasizing on closing deals can overlook the provision of value. Solution: Provide value at every step of the process.
- Neglecting Measurement of KPIs: Not tracking key sales metrics or not measuring KPIs makes it challenging to assess the effectiveness of the sales process. Solution: Set and track KPIs to ensure that the sales process remains effective.
In addition, incorporating smart CRM tools can streamline the sales process and make it more efficient. Consider using flexible and intelligent CRMs like Salesmate or Hubspot offering features such as sales pipeline management, auto tracking of buyers’ journey, setting win probabilities, and sales performance reports which will help to manage and streamline the sales process effectively.
By avoiding these common mistakes, sales teams can optimize their sales processes and improve their closing rates.
How do you continually improve your sales process?
Continually improving your sales process is an ongoing activity that involves several steps. Here’s a detailed approach drawing on the instructions provided above:
1. Align your process with the buyer’s journey:
Review your sales stages periodically and ensure they reflect the buyer’s journey accurately. This involves understanding the key decision phases your customer goes through, and matching your sales stages to these phases. This ensures your process is always focused on providing the appropriate support and attention for each prospect.
2. Understand your sales team’s current process:
Always have your finger on the pulse of what your sales team is doing. Engage your team, discussing their day to day activities, the measures they take to push qualified leads further down the sales pipeline, and their techniques for commitment extraction. Use this information to build or refine your sales process with activities that are familiar and comfortable for your team.
3. Set clear goals for each stage:
Ensure that each sales stage has a specific objective and criteria that have to be met before the deal moves forward. These criteria should be based on verifiable evidence of the customer’s progress towards purchase. Constantly revisit sales targets and update these goals as necessary, based on the outcomes of completed sales stages.
4. Tailor your sales process to your industry:
Be aware of how your industry nuances affect your sales process, and tailor your sales process results, accordingly. This includes understanding how your leads are sourced, and what unique sales stages your industry might call for.
5. Harness technology:
Explore technological tools that can automate and simplify sales tasks, allowing your team to focus more on strategy and less on logistics. Utilize CRM software to organize your leads, automate parts of your sales process, and assign more qualified leads to your team.
6. Invest in training:
Keep your sales team well-trained and updated on the latest sales techniques. Encourage expertise among sales professionals in various crucial areas of your sales process, such as lead qualification, through proper training.
7. Understand your competition:
Stay aware of what your competitors are up to. Evaluate their effectiveness in areas like pricing, product advantages, online presence, and website appeal, and use this information to inform your own sales tactics.
8. Maintain thorough documentation:
Create and regularly update a clear record of your current sales process, making it easily accessible for everyone in your department. This helps ensure everyone is on the same page and makes the improvement process easier.
9. Act on feedback:
Regularly solicit feedback from your customers to find out what works and what doesn’t for customer satisfaction, and make necessary changes to your sales process accordingly. This could involve refining your sales pitch, adjusting product or service specifications, or simplifying your buying process.
By diligently applying these steps, you cultivate a sales process that not only drives results but improves and evolves with your business—and the market—over time.
What’s the difference between a sales process and a sales methodology?
While both the sales process and sales methodology are interwoven concepts, they serve unique functions within a sales team’s efforts.
- The sales process is essentially the sequence of actions that the sales team systematically follows to establish customer relationships and seal a deal.
- It is the step-by-step pathway that guides a potential client from the initial point of contact through to the completion of a sale.
- This process can be viewed as the framework or road map that provides a consistent approach to winning new business, enabling the sales team to function in a predictable and efficient manner.
- The sales methodology, on the other hand, can be seen as the strategic approach behind the sales process. It covers how the process steps are executed.
- This is the tactical aspect of selling, and it deals with the techniques, behaviors, and tactics that sales representatives use during each step of the process to engage a potential customer or prospect effectively.
- The adoption of a particular methodology over another often depends on the product or service being sold, the industry, the intended audience, and the salesperson’s personal style.
Think of it in this way, if the sales process is the journey from point A to point B, the sales methodology is the vehicle chosen to make that journey, and it defines how the journey is undertaken.
Various popular methodologies can be adopted depending on the strategy most suitable for each unique sales situation. These might include Challenger Sale, Solution Selling, Sandler Selling, Trigger or Signal-Based Selling, Value-Based Selling, 360-degree selling, Consultative Selling, and Inbound Selling, among others.
Each of these methods applies a different approach to how the sales process is undertaken — with some emphasizing pain point identification and confrontation (Challenger), some focusing on building long-term relationships (360-degree), some highlighting the early addressing of customer objections (Sandler), while others opt for a human and helpful approach (Inbound).
Through understanding both your sales process and sales methodology, your team can operate in a more streamlined, efficient manner, ultimately leading to improved sales outcomes and stronger customer relationships.
Challenges of a sales process
Navigating through the demands of a sales process can be fraught with complexities and challenges. These can act as stumbling blocks, deterring your overall sales performance. Let’s dive into these challenges and feasible resolutions based on an analysis of various competitor data.
- Creating Customer Interest and Awareness
- Increasing marketing expenditure: Developing a marketing strategy and allocating a sufficient budget for it can enhance the visibility of your products/services.
- Utilizing various advertising platforms: It might be helpful to broaden your advertising channels. Try different mediums that cater to your target audience to get your brand recognized.
- Realigning product features: Tailoring product features and benefits to resonate with customer interests can increase the likelihood of a purchase.
- Battling Competition and Price Constraints
- Creating comparative insight: Comparative charts can define your unique selling propositions. Empower the customers to understand your comparative advantage over competitors.
- Emphasizing unique features: Put light on your unique offerings. It could be your product customizability, extended warranty, or robust customer service.
- Managing Restricted Resources for Lead Generation
- Leveraging outsourcing: Outsourcing lead generation or implementing referral programs can be beneficial, as they require minimal effort from your sales team.
- Exploring diverse lead sources: Stretch your outreach by tapping into new networking events or businesses. Different platforms can open new lead opportunities.
- Partnering with a marketing agency: If your team finds it challenging to generate leads, consider partnering with a marketing agency. They bring expertise and save your precious time, directing it to more strategic tasks.
- Maintaining Customer Relationships
- Utilizing communication technologies: Leverage communication tools to engage customers proactively, ensuring you remain in their minds.
- Focusing on high-value clients: Prioritize and maintain regular communication with high-value clients. Let the automated tools handle routine communications.
- Addressing Customer Queries and Objections
- Building a knowledgeable team: It is paramount that your sales team is well-versed with every product detail. Equip them to address customer queries promptly and efficiently, thus increasing conversion rates.
- Offering discounts and guarantees: Encourage hesitant customers to buy by offering discounts or money-back guarantees. Make them feel valued and demonstrate your adaptability to cater to their needs.
- Uniformity in the Sales Process
- Standardizing sales protocols: Develop a standardized guide or manual that outlines the sales process. This helps your sales team adhere to the established practices, ensuring a consistent customer experience.
- Regular staff training: Regular skill-based training for your team not only guarantees consistency but enhances their proficiency. This ensures the delivery of uniform service to customers, reinforcing their trust over time.
Facing these challenges may be daunting, but addressing these issues with strategic solutions can help ease your sales process, leading to higher conversions and a loyal customer base.
Liked this post? Check out the complete series on Sales