The sales process is a systematised procedure for a sales team to actually convert a potential lead to an actual sales opportunity and then make the sale. Closing a sales opportunity involves a series of key stages. In this article, we will guide you step-by-step on how you can create an efficient and effective sales process and map all the key steps of a successful sales process. This will help you get the most out of your sales opportunities, uplift sales revenue and develop your business more solidly.
One of the best ways to stay on top of your sales opportunities is to manage them and monitor their progress with a sales-based CRM like Smarty CRM. With pipeline view built right into Smarty main panel, a visual summary of your sales opportunities, segmented and prioritized based on their stage, lets you stay on the track and keep things moving forward. Move your sales opportunities to each stage with drag and drop ease of use. Filtering combined with detail view allows you to find what you are looking for at the glance of an eye.
Sales teams will love Smarty’s user interface that shows what needs to be done each step of the way to help win more sales opportunities. Smarty CRM can be used for a lifetime but if you wish to access complete features, it starts at £15/user per month. Smarty CRM is an affordable option for small businesses who want a CRM for managing and converting more leads into actual sales opportunities.
Author: Reza Bakhtiary, Smarty Software
A sales process is a series of repeatable and defined steps taken by a salesperson to convert a prospective buyer from the early stage of awareness to an actual customer. Your goal, however, should be to follow a procedure that has proved to bring in sales opportunities and wins for your company.
Building a sales process is absolutely necessary to your company’s success, and is perhaps the most important thing you can do as a sales manager to impact your team’s ability to sell. To help give your sales team a distinct and effective path to follow, we have made this “how to create a sales process” from the ground up.
It involves distinct stages that must be followed precisely. In addition, it must be flexible to adapt to unique cases, sudden market shifts and evolving requirements. Fortunately, creating a sales process from scratch isn’t as complicated as it seems.
To put it simply, the sales process is a potential customer’s journey from realizing they have a need for a product to make an actual purchase and since it is a journey for the buyer, it is a road map for a salesperson.
A sales process usually consists of 9-10 steps based on the nature of the business and its intricacies:
Prospecting, Qualification, Approach, Presentation/Demo, Handling objections, Negotiation, Closing, On-boarding, Follow-up, Nurture.
While most of the salespersons know that they go through the same procedures, few of them decide to personalise and standardise the process for the purpose of their company needs. Leaving it all up to individual salespersons to decide what they are going to do when they reach to each of the stages. The only thing matters are closing sales opportunities and bringing revenue by salespersons.
However, unless you are Jordan Belford, you can quite benefit from a standardised sales process and enhance measuring, forecasting and general management of sales.
Build a winning sales process
Building a repetitive and flexible sales process is complex. There is no deficiency of diagrams, methodologies, or experts with standpoints on exactly how you should be getting things done. Many come to us looking for guidance, as they want to create their first sales processes. The best small businesses are those in which the owners are actively involved with sales operations or have conducted their businesses’ early sales themselves.
To create a winning sales process for your sales team, you can start by recognising the different stages the customer goes through during a buying journey. When creating stages for your sales process, keep in mind that they have to be linked and distinctly different from each other at the same time.
Once you have planned the sales process stages, you can explain the stages to salespersons outside of your sales team to use their sales experience and see if they approve your pipeline.
Here are eight vital stages that give you an idea of how to start creating your own sales process from the ground up:
1. ProspectingProspecting, also known as lead generation is the process of sourcing new, early stage potential buyers to begin a sales process with.
Prospecting often involves online research on social media for companies/executives in the target market (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook and Meet Up), buying lead lists, or inbound marketing methods. It also might take place at conferences, exhibitions, industry events or trade shows. In this stage, you reach out to prospects that match your buyer case by asking current clients, partners or colleagues for referrals of individuals who might be interested in your product/service.
A buyer case is an illusory representation of your ideal customer who is facing challenges that can be solved by using your product/service. For each buyer case, identify a unique set of needs and understand how to fulfil them. You can create your buyer case based on your product/service and the challenges it helps to solve.
Prospecting is an essential part of the sales process and sales reps do it on daily or weekly bases. Without prospecting, you do not have any leads to begin your sales process with.
2. QualificationThe salesperson’s goal from qualification stage is to gather information on the prospects, determine if they are a good fit for your product/service, and understand if the prospect has a need for your product/service. There are various available qualifying techniques like CHAMP, MEDDIC, GPCT and more, choose a framework that best suits your customer journey. The most well-known qualifying framework used by businesses to identify and qualify a prospect is BANT—budget, authority, need, and timeline. In other words, if your sales team can determine that a lead actually wants what you’re offering, and has the budget and decision-making power to purchase from you in the near future, then they’re qualified to move on to the next stage.
Initiating contact with early stage potential buyers to gather information and judge their worthiness for moving sales opportunity forward often happens during a cold contact. The salesperson will schedule a time to discover the prospects needs, challenges, and business goals.
Learning more about a prospect and their company as they progress through the sales process can help salesperson offer more tailored offers and pitch decks, and improve the probability a sales opportunity will close.
Having this much of information might require the salesperson to speak with other people at the company in different departments to get a complete picture of the business and their objectives in the near future. Numerous sales veterans say a good salesperson should grasp customer’s business better than they would spot their challenges and pain points.
3. ApproachOnce you have identified your buyer case, you can begin the approaching process. Get the attention of your prospect by acknowledging a challenge you know they are facing in with a pitch email/call. Make sure you have enough information on your target’s needs before making a call or sending anything. Approaching a prospect may involve:
A make or break stage where you present your personalised solution to buyers problem.
The common stage of any sales process is to run a presentation or demonstration of what is being offered. The presentation method completely depends on the product/service you offer. The presentation should be tailored to the buyer's unique use case. Success in the presentation stage heavily depends on previous case studies and researches about the client.
Before you make your presentation, you should have gathered as much information as possible about your prospect and their specific pain points and concerns, so that you can present your product/service in the way that the buyer feels the need for it. If you can position yourself as a trusted advisor instead of someone who’s just trying to make money, you’re one step closer to get the buyer’s attention. That’s why salespersons sometimes bring a business expert such as an engineer, a programmer or even an executive, to manifest the level of service the customer will receive and also to answer more technical questions.
Whether you’re giving it in an onsite presentation or a virtual one to demonstrate a software solution, presenting is your sales team’s opportunity to lay out a compelling, customised case for how your product or service will fulfil the prospect’s immediate queries.
This stage is time-consuming and sometimes pricy, so it comes further in the sales process and only for well-qualified prospects.
5. Handling objectionsThere are plenty of reasons why a prospect would argue with you even if they’re interested in your product. Some of the common objections would be regarding the product price, timing and fear of change. You cannot avoid objections but you can learn to handle one. In the objections stage, a salesperson attempts to address all of the concerns that a prospect still has after hearing their pitch.
You should listen carefully to complain without interrupting and understand the reasons then try to find a way to answer the objection and solve the problem. A follow-up procedure might be required to prevent your lead from going cold.
No matter what a prospect’s objection may be, normally it comes down to two things: Demonstrating the benefits of your product/service, and demonstrating the harms that come from not buying it.
In order to be prepared for possible disagreements, you can make a document on possible objections and how to handle them, so you be well prepared for any situation and not caught off-guard.
6. NegotiationNegotiation is a huge part of the sales process. It is the step most salespersons and even buyers are often in a hurry to get to. There will be rounds of negotiations around features, delivery time, pricing, etc. If your product has several pricing plans, the prospect may negotiate for premium features on a lower plan or a discount on a higher plan. You should know how to handle inquiries and make sure the prospect meets them halfway as long as it rhymes with your company’s strategies.
You should always include negotiation points in your preparation for every sales negotiation. Lack of agreement on the terms of a sale destroys more sales opportunities than having a bad solution. The key is to come up with negotiation points that will win you the sales opportunity and be acceptable to your company and the buyer.
Typically, companies provide their salespersons with negotiable points and specific parameters for each of those points. If your company provides that, hopefully, you understand all the points and using them efficiently in closing sales opportunities otherwise it might be good to draft up a list of possible negotiation points and present them to your sales team. It is helpful to make a long list of points you might use to negotiate because you never know which one will come in handy. You will discover some of them are most important to your company and you have a word about them with your company’s managing team. It can help you be more flex in your offerings and may increase your closing rate.
To negotiate, you must determine the main features in which your buyer needs and wants to pay for. Here you can see a list, which gives you a few ideas on what these negotiations might relate to:
7. ClosingFinally! The stage that we all looking for. Your buyer has come down the buying journey to become a customer. Closing is what you work toward to do to get your buyer to sign a contract. This stage refers to any late-stage activities that happen as a sales opportunity approaches closing. These activities differ widely from company to company and may include things like delivering a proposal, final negotiation, Acquiring Contracts & legal documents and many more. Closing should result in a win-win scenario, which implicates that there will be a mutually beneficial contractual agreement between the prospect and the salesperson.
Depending on the nature of the product/service, you should establish an implementation period/delivery date.
8. Nurturing/On-boardingNurturing a customer involves keeping supporting them after the sale, answering questions, and keeping them happy with their purchase. Stay in contact, maintain open lines of communication, and look for opportunities to upsell or cross-sell certain products/services.
Nurturing breaks down into two stages:
- Providing customers with post-sale on-boarding strategy: Follow up the customer immediately after delivery of product/service and provide them with proper customer service, so they get excited to buy again from you and recommend your product/service to others.
- Using customers to create more sales opportunities: Well-nurtured customers can be a significant source of leads and referrals. They can connect you to their business partners or new eager buyers.
The on-boarding strategy can include:
- Send emails and postcards on special occasions
- Send newsletters on a systematic basis
- Ask for review, feedback and suggestions
- Get client set up with your solution
- Provide customers with any training and support
When the customer has been using your product for a while, you can follow-up to find out if they are satisfied with their experience. This is also the perfect opportunity to ask for their recommendation to improve your products and services.
In addition, based on what you are selling, you can track customer usage, activities and metrics to create a customer usage map in order to learn more about customer’s behaviour and study what they are mostly using your product for. As you gain more experience and your sales team and business grow, go back and rethink the sales strategy behind your sales process to see if it still makes sense. Check in with your sales team periodically and monitor their sales activities to see how well the current pipeline is working and don’t get disappointed if you constantly find new ways to refine it.
Now that you realised the essential eight stages of sales process development, you can begin to tailor them to your own product/service and customer base. Cut out unnecessary stages for your particular business, focus on generating sales leads and convert them to actual sales opportunities then close them.
A well-tailored sales process can help you stay on top of your sales opportunities and managing your sales team. It can result in:
- Increasing lead generation
- Closing sales opportunities
- Raising sales revenue
- Building a loyal customer base
Although even a well-tailored sales process doesn’t guaranty your success in the long term. It needs to be revised and updated regularly according to market changes, making sure it reflects the current state of the market, your customers’ changing needs, your team skills, and your business sales strategies. It should always remain a work in progress.
For a sales manager, following a defined sales process creates a possibility to save time and concentrate important matters like planning sales, distributing leads, prioritizing tasks, measuring team KPI, as well as making more accurate sales forecasts.
To make sure you can handle all of these matters, you need a CRM. A CRM software lets you automate your business process, keeps track of your sales opportunities progress, plans your team activities, generates new leads, organizes your sales team and provides you with detailed insights on your sales performance.
CRM allows you to simply move your sales opportunities through pipeline stages, document all communication and plan your next move at the right time. You have the sales and marketing tools all in one complete package. So, what more could you ask for?