Before leaping into setting up a sales process, it is important to understand the impact a sales process has on your bottom line. It is also important to know how to get it accepted into your sales operations.
The sales person’s resistance to a 5 step sales process
Salespeople are creative, very confident and not fans of, what they might perceive to be, imposed routines. An experienced sales manager will know, based on research, that sixty-six per cent of all sales reps skip some or the majority of steps in a sales process.
This is why it is important to differentiate between techniques and processes. A salesperson must be advised to adjust their unique sales techniques to a prospective customer’s needs and likes – whilst following a process.
This is not a gut feeling – it is based on solid data. Research shows that salespeople who use a structured, proven sales process have a much greater opportunity to outperform those that don’t.
According to research by the Sales Management Association (a global, cross-industry professional association for managers focused on salesforce effectiveness), 90% of all companies using a formalised sales process ranked as the highest performing in their sectors.
To back that up, a salesperson-focussed study by Harvard Business Review (HBR) showed that companies employing a formalised, standardised sales process experience a 28% increase in revenue versus those that do not.
It should be clarified to the sales team that requiring them to follow the 5 step sales process does not mean they are being micro-managed. Instead, a sales process will serve as a high-level guide with milestones. Knowing what each step entails will indicate to them where they are in the process, when to make the next move and how far off-course (or not) they are.
A sales process does not tell you how to set up or what to put into your sales pitch nor what to write in a sales email campaign, nor how to close your deal. That requires the talent and skills of your brilliant salespeople!
Now that we have established how you can obtain buy-in from your sales team let us look at how you establish a standardised sales process.
Establishing a 5 step sales process
A sales process is a set of steps that a business or a salesperson takes to move a potential customer from a potential lead to a closed sale. Every time.
The repeatable set of actions within the standardised sales process does not reflect internal company processes. It should be a reflection of the buyer’s journey, the buyer’s experience (nowadays, that is often referred to as UX).
If your sales process does not meet the buyer at the right time, with the right message, at the correct place in their buying journey, then your horse and pony show will not make them buy from you.
A 5 step sales process is the foundation on which you build all your deals. It helps your salespeople answer the question: what does my prospective customer need next in order to convert to a paying customer?
It’s not about you, it’s always about the customer.
Why you need a defined sales process
We start off with two assumptions:
You have read the above research stats and
You want your company to be in the group of top performers
Now you need to take the time to figure out your buyer’s unique journey and match them each step of the way. The process must not rush your clients, nor must you lag behind – aim to have what they need at each milestone. You will achieve increased customer satisfaction and, drumroll, an increase in closing rates.
Helpful for onboarding
This five-step process will form part of the onboarding pack for new salespeople and will be very helpful in explaining what your customers’ journey is.
Helps track and test success
A formalised process also allows for valuable tracking of success, gap identification and A/B testing. As you review the data and refine your process, so your process becomes more powerful. Without the data, you are working blind – and your competitors have an advantage over you and you losing money.
Build accurate forecasts
Another benefit of having a structured sales process in place is that you can build accurate sales forecasts off of it. Without it, you don’t know the stage of each of your deals, and your closing periods will be gut feel which is not smart.
By the knowing stages of each deal, you will, by default, know whether the sales funnel is full enough or not.
Sales process versus sales methodology
Comparing a sales process to your sales methodology is like comparing your strategy and tactics. Your methodology will link to your armoury of tactics available to achieve objectives, steps or milestones in your sales process.
Your sales process is the high-level campaign that guides the players towards the deal.
You might have a few sales methodologies proposed by the sales team. Here are some examples:
SPIN Selling: This methodology name was created by Neil Rackham. The acronym SPIN stands for the following steps:
It is a scientific explanation of the consultative selling methodology. It proposes that if you can systematically identify each of the client’s pain points using the SPIN system, then you can make a persuasive offer.
The Challenger Sales method: As the name suggests, this is not a reactive process like SPIN, it is proactive. It proposes that the salesperson should bring insight to the deal. They literally ‘teach’ the potential client about needs that they did not know they had beforehand.
Sandler Sales Methodology: This methodology proposes that your salesperson and the prospective client are equally invested in the sales process. This technique requires the salesperson to tackle customer objections early on. This is believed to save time and lower the barrier to purchase for the potential customer. The salesperson is supposed to appear as a trusted adviser, not a pushy, deal-chasing salesperson.
Let’s look at the process now.
The 5 step sales process template
Here is an overview of the five steps in the process, their definitions and the actions required to move your potential client successfully through each step of the sales process. Don’t forget to use your impressive, personally-honed sales talent and skills.
Some companies call this lead generation, but that is a mistake. Lead generation is part of marketing, and prospecting is at the beginning of your sales process. Prospecting identifies prospective clients at the top of a sales pipeline and is a one-on-one interaction. Lead generation is a one-to-many strategy that occurs over a longer period. Lead generation warms up leads for the prospecting process.
Prospecting can be done by cold-call phone calls, drip emails, DMs (direct messages). Regardless of the contact method, you should research your prospect thoroughly. Use Google, LinkedIn, etc. Look for the points via which you can make a connection and look for areas where these prospects will be, e.g. if you are selling sales software, identify sales managers, attend sales events or search digital platform databases. Personalise your contact content (verbal, written, video, etc.) and be human.
This step occurs as the first connection with the prospective client activates. In that first engagement, the salesperson must swiftly assess the likelihood of a deal happening. This eliminates the wasting of time.
Here are some helpful questions to run your prospective clients through in order to qualify them as quickly as possible without being too aggressive. To help you remember them, without flashcards, think of the acronym BANT.
Let’s work through the BANT framework:
Budget – What is the client’s budget? Research ways of softly obtaining this information.
Authority – Is this client the decision-maker, the gatekeeper or an influencer?
Need – If you haven’t already found this out, ascertain what are the business needs and pain points?
Timeframe – What timing expectation does the client have for the solution implementation?
The answers, as well as any waffling from the prospective client, should give you a fairly good idea of whether this prospect is a good fit, not ready yet or a waste of time. Not a good fit? Drop them and move on; you can’t force them to become a good fit.
Now is your time, or your teams’ time, to shine as a salesperson. Pitch your presentation and knock their socks off! The key is to demonstrate value and benefits to the prospect.
Focus on pain points
Don’t sell features, awards, how fabulous your manufacturing is, etc. Focus on the prospective client’s needs and pain points. Frame your product or service as a good-fit solution to those exact needs and pain points. Don’t blow your trumpet, just highlight what tangible benefits the client will get by using your product or service.
Use the data you collected
Think back to the data you gleaned during the needs assessment stage. Remember? You did that when you were qualifying the prospect. See how each step builds on the previous step? When you first ascertain those needs, it is a good idea for you to immediately research how your solution has helped other companies (ideally similar companies). Having this information on hand at presentation time moves you quickly towards an easier win.
Show that you can achieve the two priority items
Companies and clients mostly care about two things – time and money. Then they look at values and ethics. Their aim, globally, is usually to spend less time working while simultaneously growing revenue and profits.
If you can present how your product has achieved either of those 2 priority items, then you are on a winning wicket. Now make sure that your company has good values and an ethical trading record.
There is rarely a sales deal that doesn’t have objections. They are to be expected, so don’t be surprised when you meet up with them.
Objections are your cue to reframe your sales pitch to address the objection, making your presentation even more relevant to the prospect. An objection is the client’s way of unwittingly telling you what really matters to them! You now have the perfect opportunity to increase your chance of converting them into a paying customer.
Don’t be blindsided by the objections though, prepare for them. When doing your initial research, try and think of a few possible objections that could be raised. Prepare an objection management document with your winning answers so you are in a strong position when the objections arise.
Show value benefits
Price is obviously a leading objection. This is when you reframe the conversation towards the value benefits. If you have a multi-tiered product, perhaps the client would prefer a softer entry at a lower tier? They might think that the lower tier will address all their needs. If that is not the case, you can advise them of the needs-gap while offering to start them on that tier and then, when they feel the gap, they can ask to be upgraded.
Finally, the late stage of the sales process. Congratulations on getting to this stage. Complete any final activities such as producing quotes, contracts or getting the client’s co-decision makers on board to make the final sale.
There might be some last negotiations of details, but there is only one goal – their signature on the dotted line.
Sometimes a sense of urgency can get a signature faster because of “factory order volumes” or imminent price increases, etc. It’s up to the skill of the salesperson to judge what will move things forward faster. And remember, without the signature, the deal is not done.
Measure the sales process
Here are some basic sales metrics that you could record for improvement opportunities. You will need at least three to six months of data to get your first useful answers. The longer the time period, the better the output:
What is the average time prospects stay in each step?
Are there any roadblock steps at which a prospect stays for too long?
Of the prospects contacted, what percentage are suitable and qualify?
What percentage and type of prospective clients immediately ask for a presentation after your email or cold call action?
What percentage of prospects, that make it through to the presentation round, close on the deal?
How long after the presentation do the prospects close?
Now you can experiment based on the answers and produce a far more powerful sales process.
Your sales pipeline
Now that you have a great sales process, you need to make it visible with a sales pipeline.
Most companies use CRM software that lets you and your sales team assign tasks, upload templates and record interactions with prospects. Reports and KPIs are easily produced and managed through such software.
Get your marketing humming, fill your sales funnel with warmed up leads and watch your closed deals climb.