Whether you are in sales, marketing, or business development, the primary objective should always be to close a deal. There are many sales tools and strategies we can use to help us do this. Arguably the most critical tool is the sales process. Without an effective sales process in place, your salespeople are 'winging it' and unlikely to reach their full potential. Most sales managers acknowledge that their company should have a sales process. So what is a sales process, why is it important, and how do we create one?
What is a Sales Process?
A sales process is a set of 5-7 repeatable steps that a salesperson follows to take a prospective buyer from the awareness stage to a closed sale. A well-founded sales process can help salespeople shorten the sales cycle and align sales teams around common goals and processes. A robust sales process helps sales reps consistently close deals by giving them a framework to follow.
What Are The 7 Steps of the Sales Process?
There are seven steps in the sales process:
- Lead Evaluation
- Initial Contact
- Needs Exploration
- Initial Engagement
- Account Management
We can further divide these steps into pre and post-sale. The four pre-sales steps are Lead Evaluation, Initial Contact, Needs Exploration and Closing/Negotiation. The post-sale steps are Initial Engagement, Account Management and Expansion.
Lead Evaluation consists of all the actions that a salesperson completes before making the first contact with the lead. The purpose of these actions is to qualify the lead and verify their business potential. The outcome of this first step is to gather information about the lead to help decide if they are worth pursuing.
Initial Contact describes the first contact a salesperson makes with the lead. It is typically a one-way communication with the aim for the lead to say "tell me more". The outcome of this stage is that the lead becomes a prospect allowing the salesperson to start the actual sales process.
Needs Exploration is the stage in which the salesperson evaluates whether the prospect has a need for the business service or product. The outcome of this stage is that the salesperson knows enough about the client's needs, and the client knows enough about the product or service to enable the salesperson to make an offer.
By Closing, we refer to the phase when the salesperson presents their offer, and the prospect responds to the proposal. This can be a short phase, but it might be longer if multiple iterations of the offer are required, and some negotiation is needed. The outcome of this stage is that the prospect decides to move forward.
By Initial Engagement, we refer to the stage when the client is experiencing the product/service for the first time. The client is not committed to the continuous usage of the product/service. Instead, they are looking to see whether or not the salesperson keeps their promises made during the previous phase. The outcome of this stage is that the client makes a repeat purchase.
Account Management refers to the phase when the client feels comfortable using the product/service and continuously places new orders. The client is using the product/service for the initial intended purpose. Therefore, sales increase by the client placing orders more often and/or by placing larger orders.
By Expansion, we refer to the stage when business with a client expands to new departments within the client organisation or the client purchases more of the product/service than they originally bought. The client becomes more dependent on the provider, and the business with the client is not dependent on one product or one buyer within the client organisation.
Why is a Sales Process Important?
There are plenty of reasons why a sales process is important. Most significantly, B2B companies that implement a formal sales process experience 18% more revenue growth than companies that don't. The benefits of a sales process go beyond the bottom line. Here are the top five reasons why a sales process is important.
- Improved strategies: When the entire sales team follows the same process, you can identify which steps regularly pose challenges and provide value. This reliable data allows you to anticipate challenges, identify sales training opportunities, provide actionable coaching to your team, and continually improve your sales process.
- Increased sales: Maximising revenue is the primary objective of a sales process. Salespeople know what they need to do to support customers throughout the buyer journey. When correctly designed and implemented, a sales process makes it easier for your company to generate revenue.
- Efficiency: Sales processes increase overall sales efficiency by eliminating unnecessary sales steps and tactics and focusing exclusively on effective strategies. A sales process will ensure your reps exit unwinnable opportunities sooner and do not waste time on unqualified leads. Establishing a set of repeatable steps for selling is crucial to improving your team's efficiency.
- Onboarding: Onboarding and training new salespeople is a simple task with a sales process. You can ensure your new sales team members understand the strategies and expected outcomes of each stage of the sales process. They will also know what they need to do step-by-step to complete a sale.
- Forecasting: If your sales process is repeatable, there will be an element of predictability at each stage. You can use this predictability to help you improve the accuracy of your forecasting and revenue prediction. Having a more accurate picture of your win rate allows you to forecast how many sales you'll likely close from a given number of leads. This data helps sales managers set realistic quotas.
How to Create a Sales Process
An initial sales process is straightforward to create. Your organisation's unique sales process should align with your sales funnel, buyer journey and provide a roadmap for your sales team to follow. Once you have created the initial sales process steps, you should continually analyse and refine it.
There are typically four steps to consider when creating a sales process.
- Review the sales funnel and set related tasks
- Create a list of internal activities for each stage
- Set the timing of activities
- Make your sales process measurable with metric
Firstly, to create an effective sales process, review your sales pipeline and buyer journey to help identify the larger groupings of tasks. Secondly, convert the activities required of each part of the pipeline into actionable sales process steps. Some steps may have several activities, and others may only have one or two actions. Thirdly, set the timing of when each action should occur. Such as how long to wait before another outreach attempt. Setting timings will help you understand your real conversion time. Finally, create a system to measure each step of the process. Consider metrics such as total values, conversion rates, and averages to quantify your sales process.
Remember, the best sales processes are continually analysed and adjusted. Once your sales process have been in place for a while and all your salespeople have experienced using it, you'll ascertain the effectiveness and adjust accordingly.
How to Improve the Sales Process
The sales process should be fluid and reviewed periodically to ensure it remains relevant and achieves the required outcomes. Here are our top five ways to improve the sales process:
- Align your technology to the sales process (i.e. CRM's and Sales Dashboards)
- Use technology to track and monitor progress
- Start forecasting your sales
- Use data
- Follow-up and measure performance
How to Assess a Salesperson's Fit to the Sales Process
The Sales Manager Assessment supports managers to drive sales performance by evaluating their salespeople's strengths and development areas in of the sales process stages.
The Sales Manager Report provides unparalleled insights into a salesperson's fit to the sales process. Using this information, sales managers can match their salespeople to a stage in the sales process that suits their strengths. Sales managers can use this to build winning sales teams, drive sales and ensure their customers experience a seamless sales process.
The Sales Manager report pinpoints a salesperson's match to different sales process steps based on their current competence level in the associated skillset. At every step of the sales process, the results reveal whether the competencies are a risk, small risk, medium impact, small strength, or strength to performance in that stage. The report assists managers and coaches in understanding why some salespeople may lose their way when following the sales process. It also highlights areas in which salespeople need extra development. This development is vital to reaching success at each step in the sales process.