Having a clearly defined sales process for your business is as important as having the right product or service. It’s a template that defines your sales cycle.
Put another way, it’s a roadmap to sales that turns prospects and potential customers into loyal clients. Success here involves putting solid information together.
It usually involves several steps. Here’s what small businesses who have sales reps and sales teams need to know to enjoy repeat business and profits.
What is a Sales Process?
A sales process is a set of steps you can repeat to close a deal and turn a potential customer into a buying one. It’s a series of stages that create what’s often called the sale cycle. There are generally 7 that should be followed in order.
What are the Benefits of a Sales Process?
There are many advantages to a well-defined sales process. First off, it keeps your sales team on the same page. They help to define customer relationships when everyone understands what comes next in the sales cycle.
Here are some other advantages to defining a buyer’s journey.
They Bump Up Revenue
Your small business will enjoy a bump in revenue. These sales processes are generally tried and tested. Over time, a small business keeps what works and gets rid of what doesn’t. Once the bugs are ironed out, these defined sales pipeline templates increase your bottom line.
They Provide A Consistent Customer Experience
A good sales process creates a professional buyer experience. Creating a customer experience that’s consistent is good. This is an excellent method to get word-of-mouth referrals that increase your sales.
They Fix What’s Wrong
Defined sales processes fix what’s wrong. If your sales team isn’t closing deals, something’s wrong. If your sales have stalled out, building a step-by-step process can help you find the problem.
Good Sales Processes Can Teach Others on your Sales Teams
A repeatable sales process can be measured and taught.
They can also define the buyer’s journey. It moves a prospect from one step to another. This makes it easier for a sales rep to understand what to do and when to move on to the next step of the process.
Here are the most common sales process steps you can use
7 Sales Process Steps
There are different tweaks you can add to any sales process template. After all, no two small businesses are exactly alike. Still, there are generally accepted steps you can start from. Remember, you can change these to suit your businesses. But they need to be clearly defined so your reps can use them for 6 closing deals.
It stands to reason you need to load up your sales process from the front end. That’s what prospecting is all about. This step entails finding new leads and working with them. You can find them at industry events, online conferences and social media channels like LinkedIn.
Here’s a helpful tip to make this part of the sales process work seamlessly. If you become a thought leader, prospecting is easier. Start out by creating your own blog or writing guest articles.
2. Qualifying and Connecting
Next you’ll need to take things to the next stage. This is where your sales team makes initial contact with the people and businesses you’ve already identified. Clearly defining who is a customer is important here. A lead is defined as a potential buyer. On the other hand, prospects are leads that are ready to buy. There are several questions that sales reps can use to define this part of the process.
They can ask a potential customer what problem they are trying to solve. Understanding the different pain points of an individual or business is good. Other questions at this stage include:
- “What are your business priorities?”
- “What is your role within the company?”
A member of your sales team can ask these types of questions over the phone or via email. They are designed to help define the sales process further.
The next stage is called planning or researching. This is where the sales team and sales reps learn more about the potential customer choices they’ve made. It’s an important part of the sales process that requires some thought and analysis.
Getting a high-level overview is one of the important benchmarks of this part of the process. A sales rep should talk to people in different departments here to get a high-level overview. Understanding a company means getting to know their long-term goals and plans. It’s a good idea to find out something about their customer service department. Finding out how the team works at handling objections and difficult clients is good.
4. The Approach
If you ask most sales rep professionals, they will tell you first impressions are the most important part of a successful sales process. The idea here is to be subtle. Most experts recommend you coach people on your sales team not to lead with the pitch. That’s not the best method to get repeat business. If your salespeople have done their homework, they will know about the prospects.
Some outstanding sales professionals suggest focusing on the customer . This involves several different steps. Making the prospect a character who is struggling with a problem helps. By now, reps should know the pain points of any particular prospect. Positioning your sales team as experts and mentors helps the customer here. When you’re able to solve their problem, you get their attention for future sales.
Here’s a tip you can use to make the most of this part of the sales process: Take a quick look around a prospect’s office. If they have pictures or trophies displayed prominently, those make excellent icebreakers for conversation.
5. The Presentation
This is one of the most important parts of the sales cycle. Getting the presentation right means building on everything else you’ve done in your sales process. It’s important you understand the customers’ needs very well here. There are several different tools you can use at this stage. Depending on the goods and services you have to sell, videos or social media presentations can work. Real estate agents are using digital tools more and more.
Here’s some more important advice about this part of the process. It’s important to match your prospects up with the right goods and services. Get this part of the sales process wrong, and all your other effort goes to waste. For example, if you’re a real estate agent selling a home to an older couple, make sure it suits them. There’s no point in taking them to see a property that has a lot of stairs and no transportation options.
The presentation needs to match the customer up with everything you’ve learned about them. Do your research and follow the steps that brought you here. Remember, a good sales process doesn’t have any shortcuts. Following the steps from beginning to end is the best way to be successful
6. Handling Objections
You’re not going to find many prospects who don’t have some reservations at this stage. Experienced reps understand this part of the sales process can be challenging. Handling objections is an art form. The most experienced reps understand that and look at these as opportunities. In the end, it’s a way for professionals to be able to tailor their product or service to meet their customer’s needs.
Here are a few examples of the most common customer objections and what you can do about them.
- The product or service is too expensive. This is a common one that comes up quite often in the sales process. Talking it through with the customer helps here. It’s important to listen to their concerns at this stage. One strategy is to ask them how much it would cost to do nothing.
- Some prospects object to contracts. One of the best ways for reps to deal with this is to offer a month-to-month alternative. You’ll need to have some wiggle room in this part of the sales process. If need be, you should be able to wave the contract entirely to get your prospects on board.
- They need to talk with their team. This type of procrastination is another common bump in the sales process road. In the end, it’s just another one of the steps in the process to a closed deal. At this stage, it’s usually a good idea to find out who the decision-makers are. You might need to bypass your current contact and get to them.
There are a few other objections you might need to deal with to close the sale. If the customer is concerned about your service department, you’ll need to reassure them. Giving them the contact information for someone who works there can be the right move.
He should also be able to deal with the prospect who’s not familiar with your company. Memorizing a few bullet points about your goods and services can help you over this hump. You might be able to get this information from your website.
7. Closing Sales
This is the end goal of the entire sales process. It builds on everything you’ve done and the other steps you’ve taken with prospects. For reps, it’s the Holy Grail of all their efforts.
You might need to handle several different objections before you get to this stage in the process. Here are a few tested techniques that work at this stage.
- The special benefit. This is a good technique if prospects are waffling. Offering a discount as a final incentive can work. Another way to tip the balance of the sale here is to bump the client to the front of the line.
- Stressing the value and benefits is another good option. This is basically just repeating parts of the process you’ve already used. Hearing the advantages again can make a difference.
- Sometimes, taking away a feature you’ve offered helps to close. If a customer is balking at the price, this quite often works. Telling them you can lower the price and take away features often gets them to buy everything.
Creating Your Own Sales Process
Tailor making your own sales process will bump up your bottom line. Each company is unique and its sales template shouldn’t be the same. It’s a highly individualized process.
Here are a few tips you need to consider when you’re tweaking the steps listed above. First off, it’s a good idea to take a good look at the sales process you are using now. You’ll need to consider what’s working and what isn’t. Here are a few ideas to help you make the necessary tweaks in any sales process.
You’ll need to know when to make changes. To do that you’ll have to have an overview of your current process which includes things like the number of emails needed to close the deal. Other factors can include the number of cold calls that got responses from prospects.
The idea here is to know what criteria you want for each stage in the sales process. Remember there’s no one-size-fits-all sales process. These are a number of suggestions that work with your input. Make sure to look after all of the details. You’ll need to put together a sales script. Developing customer profiles based on your target market is another important part of the process.
Creating your own sales process also means understanding your target market. It’s a good idea to attend networking events and webinars in your industry.
Overall you’ll need to create a sales process roadmap that suits your individual enterprise and industry. Keep in mind these can be flexible. But you’ll need to have a starting point to work from in the beginning.
How to Improve an Existing Process
Improving your sales process is a constant part of business success. At no stage can you sit back and rest on your laurels. Here are a few improvement steps you can use at any stage to streamline the process.
Define your Sales Process KPIs
You need to have all your reps on the same page as far as your sales process goes. The best way to do that is to define where you want to go with the process. At this stage it’s a good idea to define your KPIs. Being able to track your prospects as they move from one step to the next is important. Some of the more common benchmarks used here include sales to date for the month and sales to date for the year.
Standardizing this part of your sales process is important. However, you still need to leave some room for flexibility. The lifetime customer value and the churn rate are two other sales KPIs you can use.
Follow Up on Your Sales Process
Establishing good sales for your small business doesn’t need to be elusive or overwhelming. Taking the time to hold regular sales meetings is a good way to keep everybody informed. These are a great way to foster friendly competition among those on your sales teams. These meetings can include the findings of your KPIs to further enhance the process.
Keep in mind these don’t always need to be in person. The modern sales process can include online meetings using videoconferencing tools like Zoom and other collaboration tools that are now readily available to you.
Use Technology to Forecast Sales
The modern sales process uses technology. Having some kind of online database can put all of your sales numbers in one spot. That can make other parts of the process easier to tweak. Here are some other advantages to using technology to forecast sales.
All your customer information will be in one location. This is undoubtedly a good way to speed up the entire sales process. Finding the right CRM to use also helps. It can put all of the KPIs you use in your sales numbers in one location.
Sales Process Mistakes to Avoid
If you are like most small businesses sales are the backbone of your company. That means you will need to understand what to avoid in your sales process. Here are a few common mistakes experienced salespeople stay away from.
- Not understanding your target customer – This is fundamental to getting your sales process right. There is a process that goes with defining a target market. Here are a few tips that can help you. Putting together information on your current customers is one way to avoid this mistake. Finding good analytics is another way to avoid this sales error. Facebook and Twitter have analytics guides that can help.
- Failure to map out your sales process – It’s important to be thorough with your sales process. It needs to follow a logical sequence from beginning to end to bump up your sales. Identifying the end goal first and working backward helps this process.
- Not ensuring the team understands – Communication is key to an excellent and efficient sales process. In the end, sales is an art form that depends on human interaction. Try to stay away from jargon so your team can understand the steps. Holding meetings with the sales department monthly helps to refresh the steps in your sales process.
- Insufficient reporting and follow-up mechanisms – Goodwill is a big part of any successful sales process. Forgetting about a potential client after the deal has closed is a sales mistake any company will regret. Don’t forget to send thank you notes. Remember if you put together a good sales process you’ll have happy customers. These folks will give you referrals.
- Not aligning departments with the sales process – Even the smallest business will have different departments that rely on sales. If they don’t work together, the whole system can break down. It’s important to have good communication between the sales and marketing teams in particular.
Why You Need Sales Process
Having a well-oiled sales process is as important as the goods and services you have in your inventory. The lessons you learn putting one of these together can improve efficiency right across your business. Of course, these improve sales in the long run too.
There are some other advantages. With a good sales process, financial forecasting is more accurate. These also help to sustain your company and lay the groundwork for it to expand. Having a good sales process also makes your sales team more accountable by giving them clear benchmarks.
A good sales process also lets your sales team improve constantly. When they have a clear set of objectives and benchmarks, they can strive for each of those goals. These are also an excellent way to identify the traits of your ideal buyer.
Finally, this is an excellent way to gauge what changes if any you need to make to your goods and services.