- What Defines a winning sales process?
- What’s an example of a sales process with examples?
- What are the Benefits of a Sales Process?
- How to Improve an Existing Process
- Sales Process Mistakes to Avoid
- Critical Elements of a Strong Sales Process
- A sales process flowchart
What Defines a winning sales process?
A winning sales process is a set of repeatable steps that an entrepreneur takes to move the prospect from the awareness stage of the sales funnel to the sales stage.
Usually, a sales process consists of 7 steps
- Preparation– Know your customer and product in and out. Understand what your prospect values, the pains, and how your service solves their problem
- Prospecting– Find people or companies that fit your ideal customer avatar and reach out
- Approach– Now that you understand your customer, find a way to get their attention
- Presentation: Demonstrate how your service helps your prospect with their problem
- Handling Objections: Listen to your prospect’s concerns and address them.
- Closing: This is where you finalize the deal, send proposals and get signatures.
- Follow-Up: The process doesn’t end when you close the sale. Continue to nurture your relationship with your clients and upsell them on other problem-solving services you have.
What’s an example of a sales process with examples?
The following steps provide a great outline for a winning sales process. These steps detail what you should do to find customers, close the sale and retain your customers for repeat business and referrals.
The first of the 7 steps in this winning sales process is prospecting. During this stage, you find people or companies that fit your ideal client avatar and figure out if they have a need for your service. And whether they are able and willing to make the purchase. This process is known as qualifying.
Keep in mind that, in these modern times, it’s not enough to cold email or cold call. You have to have mechanisms set to attract potential clients.
This stage involves understanding the prospect’s needs and how your service can help solve that need.
Another way of preparing is checking your competitors out and seeing what they have to offer. This gives you a competitive edge.
This is the stage where you make your first contact with your prospect.
You can approach them through social media or email depending on how well you’ve built your brand. Sometimes, this will lead to a face-to-face meeting or over-the-phone meeting.
During the approach stage, you can offer them a free trial to your service, a lead magnet or something that solves their problem.
In this phase, actively demonstrate how your service meets the needs of your prospect. The word presentation implies using a PowerPoint presentation but it doesn’t have to be that way, you should actively listen to your prospects’ needs actively.
5. Handling objections
This is the most underrated of the sales process. Here is where you listen to your prospects’ concerns and address them accordingly.
A lot of unsuccessful entrepreneurs drop out of the sales process during this stage. 44% of entrepreneurs abandon their prospect pursuit after one rejection, 22% after two rejections, 14% after three, and 12% after four rejections.
80% of sales require at least 5 follow-ups to convert. It’s a great disservice to your business to give up before 5 follow-ups.
Handling objectives successfully means alleviating prospect concerns.
In this closing stage, you get the final decision from the client.
If you have a coaching or consulting business, you might try one of these closing techniques.
- Assume the sale and offer your prospect a choice. E.g will you be paying in installments or in full?
- Offer something to entice your prospect. E.g offer them a free month or additional services or discounted offers in case they choose to pay immediately.
- Create urgency by limiting their time of purchase. E.g the price doubles after 2 weeks.
Closing the sale doesn’t mean your job is over. The follow-up process is critical to the sales process. Keeping in contact with your client creates room for repeat business and referrals.
Acquiring new customers is 7 times harder than retaining one. That means, it’s 7 times more costly to acquire a new customer than to retain one. That also means that it’s better to maintain good relationships.
Here’s how we increased our sales by 26% using this system.
What are the Benefits of a Sales Process?
Implementing a sales process offers a host of benefits for companies. Here are some of the top benefits businesses can expect should they create a sales process of their own:
- Understanding nuances: Establishing a clear and consistent sales process helps you understand the nuances of your sales and evaluate overall effectiveness.
- Improved strategies: When all salespeople work through the same process, you can clearly see which steps regularly present challenges and which provide value. Use that information to improve your sales process.
- Increased sales: Sales processes lead to more sales. Salespeople know what they need to do to support customers, and customers have the time and space to decide they’re ready to purchase.
- Efficiency: Sales processes increase overall sales efficiency by eliminating unnecessary sales steps and tactics and focusing exclusively on effective strategies.
- Easy training: Onboarding and training new salespeople is a simple task with a sales process. You can ensure your new team members will understand exactly what they need to do step-by-step to complete a sale.
- Clarity: A sales process provides clarity to the whole sales team. You can rely on your fellow salespeople for guidance or support since they follow the same process for moving customers through the sales funnel as you do.
- Guidance: Your company’s sales process should be a guide, not a rule. A clear sales process should give you clarity on how to generate sales, and the freedom to use your creativity and skills to complete sales.
- Challenge reduction: Effective sales processes easily identify challenges in sales steps. Team members or supervisors can work to ease those challenges and increase the sales department’s effectiveness.
- Improved forecasting: When supervisors know where their employees are in the sales process, they can more easily predict and forecast how soon a sale might happen. This impacts how leadership distributes leads and manages workloads.
- Follow-up priority: The sales process prioritizes following up with customers. You should be more consistent and yield better results from follow-ups when follow-ups are built into the sales process.
- Happier customers: Customers are often happier making a big purchase through a sales process than without it. They know what to expect, and they feel less pressure than salespeople who disregard important rapport-building steps in the sales process.
How to Improve an Existing Sales Process
Imagine your sales manager were to leave your business tomorrow. Would you know how many sales are about to close? Would you know how much revenue to expect next month? Would you know how much it costs you to acquire a customer?
If you answered no to any of these questions, then it’s probably time to create or update your sales process.
“Your sales process defines steps to be followed and roles for team members,” says BDC Business Advisor Chris O’Shea. “Putting it down on paper allows you to plan, forecast, evaluate performance and optimize what you do.”
O’Shea, who works with entrepreneurs to improve their sales and marketing performance, says entrepreneurs can follow these six steps to improve their sales process.
1. Map out your current processes
Most companies have an informal sales process, where everyone sort of knows what is supposed to happen and who does what.
The first thing you’ll want to do is map out these informal processes to get a formal understanding of all the steps to making a sale.
“How many emails do you need to send? How many phone calls are you making? Who are you talking to? Whatever the building blocs of the sale are, we have to define those and that becomes our process,” O’Shea says.
Examples of sales process steps include:
- generating leads
- sending proposals
- sales confirmation
- receiving final payment
2. Define your key performance indicators (KPI)
Writing down your processes will allow you to track prospects as they advance from one step to the next. This will allow you to measure how many leads successfully move through your pipeline.
You’ll also know how long it takes to complete a sale on average from start to finish.
“If you talk to 100 leads next month, how many leads will move onto the next step? Is it 50%? 10%? You can measure that and use it as a KPI,” O’Shea says.
You can also measure service turnaround time. If it usually takes Steve and the sales team two days to turnaround a quote and all of a sudden it turns into 10 days, then that’s a big problem and we need to fix that.”
Common KPIs include:
- sales to date this month
- sales to date this year
- overall time in the sales cycle
- closing rate
- burn rate (How much money you are spending in your sales process.)
- average sales price
- lifetime customer value
- customer acquisition cost
- churn rate (How many customers repurchase your services or products.)
3. Follow-up and measure performance
Holding sales meetings is a good way to ensure a regular review of sales data. The goal of the meeting should be to determine what opportunities are in the pipeline and how leads are moving through the process.
Your KPIs can also be used to measure individual performance. Employees generally appreciate the transparency of knowing how they are judged. It can also be a great way to foster friendly competition within your team.
“The data gives you clarity and purpose at the sales management level,” O’Shea says. “Why is my guy just sitting at his desk?
Why isn’t he on the road? If you have a process by which to judge behaviors and accomplishments then you are no longer asking those questions.”
Data collection and its management is a habit you have to stick with. Otherwise, you won’t have that window into how your sales are going.
4. Use technology to simplify monitoring
Your next step should be to centralize all your client and contact information. This database can take the simple form of a spreadsheet, but as your business grows, you will probably want to invest in customer relationship management software (CRM).
“Ten years ago the cost of CRM was prohibitive, or they were complicated, but that’s not the case anymore,” O’Shea says. “The bigger ones all have scaled-back versions that can get you started recording data and mapping your sales process.”
A good CRM system will:
- store all your contact information in one place
- allow better sharing and communication of information across your team
- help manage your activities tasks and steps in the process
- automate the tracking of your KPIs
Consult our list of free and low-cost CRMs for your business.
5. Start forecasting your sales
You can think of your processes as a funnel or pipeline. By measuring your conversion rate at every step, you’ll be able to determine the inputs you need to achieve your sales goals.
“If we talk to 100 people and know we can close 10 of them, the math gets pretty easy,” O’Shea says. “But you have to be doing the math and measuring all this stuff. Otherwise, you’re guessing.”
One trick is to think of your sales funnel as a reverse pyramid. If 50% of your leads move on to the quote stage, 20% go on to the negotiations stage and 25% close, then you know that you need to talk to 1,000 leads to sell 25 units.
6. Increase your sales
After you’ve mapped your processes and established a forecast, it becomes simple enough to increase your sales.
You can calculate that to get X amount of sales you will need to spend X amount of money to increase the number of prospecting calls or pay-per-click advertisements to get more leads in your pipeline.
However, you might be better served by working to optimize your existing processes. This is usually done by:
- Increasing your average order size (sell more stuff)
Consider offering discounts for larger orders, free shipping for orders over a certain threshold, or upselling and cross-selling items.
- Improving your conversion rate (sell more often)
For example, you can tweak your sales script, create offers that are more appealing, and provide additional training to your sales staff.
Sales Process Mistakes to Avoid
Poor Lead Qualification
One of the biggest mistakes salespeople make is to ignore the quality of leads. The sales process takes time and, depending on your industry, you may have to spend up to several months working with a potential client.
So, just because you have a bunch of leads doesn’t mean you should focus on all of them equally. When the leads you’re working with are not the best fit for the services you’re selling, you’re just wasting time on people who are not likely to buy at all.
In fact, according to a Sales Insight Lab survey, most sales professionals agree that approximately 50% of the leads they’re receiving are of subpar quality. Spend more time qualifying leads, and you won’t have to deal with so many rejections in the future. One way this can be done is by developing a fact-based lead persona and sticking to it.
It’s a common myth among salespeople that many potential buyers do not want to speak with them at all. This is far from being true. The reason many decision-makers will hang up on you is that you’re trying to make a sale at the moment where it’s not appropriate at all. In a Rain Group survey of decision-makers, 50% of respondents said they’re willing to talk to sellers if they don’t feel like they’re being sold to.
This is why if you’re reaching out to cold prospects, you need to make the initial conversations about them and their needs. Help and educate the prospect, and provide them with research data and professional advice, but do not talk about pricing right off the bat or try to close on the first call.
Making It About Your Company
Try to imagine how a C-suite executive or another decision-maker thinks. You only have 8 hours in a workday and you get enough mail to spend half of your day reading through it.
Imagine you get an email from a salesperson, talking about their own company’s awards and achievements instead of how they can help your company succeed. Naturally, you’re very likely to skip that email without a second thought.
It’s often good to drop a name that you worked within the email or a call, as name recognition is always a great factor in building trust. Don’t focus on your company at all unless the lead specifically wants to know something about it. Instead, focus on how you can help them achieve their goals.
Failing to Listen
Many people think that since sales are the profession of conversationalists, salespeople need to talk a lot to sell their company’s services. But being a good conversationalist is mostly about listening, not speaking. The same applies to sales.
Research-based on Gong’s analysis of 25,000 sales calls shows that the bottom 20% of performers talk 70% of the time. By comparison, top performers only talk for 40% of the call on average, meaning 60% of the time on the call is spent listening to the lead.
You may think that listening more than you talk is bad for sales calls because you don’t have enough time to pitch, but it has the opposite effect. The lead can share their problems and get custom advice from the salesperson instead of a generic pitch.
Failing to Know Your Customer
This problem is closely related to the previous one. If you want to close a sale successfully, you’ll need to know what exactly your client needs. Offering your leads a highly personalized solution is much more effective than giving them a general, standardized pitch.
This is why it’s not only important to listen to your prospects, but to ask them open-ended questions as well. You’ll build trust with them as you talk and get a general understanding of what their problems are. Once you know that, you can sell them a solution to their problems, not just another service.
Focusing on Facts, Not Values
Sure, it may be semantics, but semantics matter when it comes to sales. A client will probably figure out how they can use your product, but why give them the option not to? Tie the features of your product to the direct value that the prospect is going to receive from working with you, and you’re going to catch their attention much more effectively.
When “deep analytics” becomes “you can finally calculate that ROI you’re unsure about” and “influencer management” becomes “build new relationships in the niche and boost backlinks and traffic,” your pitch is going to be a lot more relatable for the listener.
Pricing Before Value
Another common sales mistake is to jump too far ahead in the sales cycle by talking about price before covering all of the value that is offered for that price. Start the sales conversation with the value that your product or service can provide, and only mention the price (or answer questions on price) after you have clearly outlined and demonstrated that value.
This way, potential clients or customers will be taking into account the value offering and will weigh that against the price. In most cases, people will be much more receptive to pricing after they know what they are getting for that price.
Not Addressing Pain Points
If you’re doing everything right, the odds are your prospects will share a couple of their pain points without you even having to ask. However, if it doesn’t come up naturally, you should ask questions to discover these pain points during your discovery calls.
Whether it’s a problem their business is facing or an objection to making a purchase from you, you should not lose the opportunity to address it later in your communications. If you happen to know something the prospect fears or strives for, not using it to personalize your offer and going the generalized route instead is practically criminal!
Chasing the Sale
Most decisions in sales are not made within a day. Depending on the industry you’re in, closing a deal can take anywhere from two weeks to six months.
This is why if you chase the deal and want to sign it as fast as possible to meet KPIs, you’re likely to put a prospect off and ruin the deal completely. Instead, focus on the long term and take your time with the sales process.
Promising Without Examples
Business people like numbers, not promises. Metrics and buzzwords mean nothing to most professionals unless they can clearly see how this impacts the bottom line.
This is why using general statements to describe your services is much less effective than providing examples. Phrasing your pitch like “last month we increased CTR by 70% for Client Company” is much better than “we can help increase CTR,” and is going to land you a lot more deals.
Not Speaking Their Language
There are probably a dozen ways to pitch any product or service to the prospect. There are only a few ways that any given decision-maker can understand the potential of this pitch. If you’re using the wrong way to pitch, you’re risking losing a customer.
Do not explain to a C-suite executive how exactly your software works, focus on the benefits for the bottom line. Figure out what’s the biggest benefit in the eyes of the person you’re talking to and use the language they understand.
7 Common Sales Process Mistakes
Let’s take a look at some common mistakes made when developing sales processes. Avoiding these will help you create a sales process ideal for both your team and customers.
1. Leaving Sales Process Steps Open to Interpretation
It’s essential to define specific, concrete actions that move your business’s prospects from one stage to the next. If you don’t identify these triggers, your sales team might come away with a less than accurate understanding of what is and isn’t working for prospects, potentially causing them to mishandle part of the process.
Once you define your sales process, document, share and practice it with your team. Role-play exercises to drive home the valuable techniques your team should take away from each step.
2. Expecting One Sales Methodology to Be the “Silver Bullet”
While some teams choose to stick with and follow one methodology closely, others prefer to study several popular sales methodologies and combine bits and pieces they find useful from each.
Regardless of which approach you take, it’s a good idea to stay aware of what’s new and changing over time. As the needs and desires of buyers and your business change, different approaches, methodologies, and ways of managing your sales process will fall into and out of favor.
On that note, it’s important to remember your entire sales process is also ever-changing.
3. Forgetting Your Sales Process Will Always be a Work in Progress
Your sales process is never complete or perfect and should always be a work in progress.
So, in addition to consistently measuring your success, you should also have check-ins with your reps. These check-ins help uncover any major issues or red flags with regard to your process.
Remember, continually developing and improving your sales process will make your work more straightforward and improve your customers’ interactions and experiences with your salespeople and business as a whole.
4. Not Aligning Your Sales Plays with Your Sales Process
Creating a sales process is futile if you don’t align your sales plays with the process. The plays each rep must take at every step should be written down for future use.
This is where a sales playbook comes in. For example, in the prospecting stage, you might typically send up to three emails to each prospect before qualifying them. Write down those emails and keep them in a shared location where everyone in your team can access them. Your sales playbook can be a formal PDF document or you can create one in a tool such as Sales Hub.
By marrying your sales plays with your sales process, you can ensure that your sales organization is as efficient and effective as possible.
5. Leaving Marketing Out of the Loop
Marketing needs to know what’s happening in your sales organization — which prospects have been proven to close, which industries are less profitable, and which market segments have potential. You want your marketing team to have all of this information so that they can better supplement each part of the process.
For instance, they can provide better prospects and better lead nurturing materials — and when it’s time to continue nurturing the customer, they can even take that off your hands by creating drip campaigns on your behalf.
Marketing and sales alignment are critical to any organization, and that’s no different when creating a profitable sales process. You can schedule monthly meetings with your marketing organization, or you can asynchronously stay aligned using an all-in-one solution such as HubSpot, where both marketing and sales tools live on one platform.
6. Centering the Process on Closing Deals
While sales is about closing deals, it’s always about providing value first and foremost — which will hopefully end in a closed deal down the line. Even if a prospect doesn’t seem like they want to purchase, you must keep providing value at every step of the process if their business needs can be solved by your product.
When your sales reps research the prospect’s business, they’re not just looking at company size and leadership boards. They’re looking for the problem that the prospect is experiencing so that they can deliver a pitch that makes it hard to pass on the solution.
Center your process on providing value every step of the way and not just on meeting quotas and closing deals.
7. Forgetting to Measure KPIs
Not tracking key sales metrics or not measuring KPIs is an easy way for your sales process to become ineffective. Don’t forget to measure KPIs after creating or adjusting your sales process to understand what’s going well and what’s not.
While the focus shouldn’t be on numbers only, this will help you understand your success. You can then dig deeper into the data. Maybe fewer deals were closed in one quarter, but the average contract value (ACV) increased by $1,000, which is a boost in performance.
You can keep track of these KPIs automatically using a sales dashboard like the one included in Sales Hub. Your CRM might also provide basic performance metrics, which you can then use to adjust your existing sales process.