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If you’re among the majority of companies who say their top sales priority is closing more deals, then a clear sales process is just what you need.
Even if you’re a natural at sales, turning leads into customers is a difficult task that requires specific skills and knowledge to achieve success. With the average close rate across all industries sitting at just 19%, it makes you wonder: when do all those other potential leads drop off the sales spectrum?
Successful salespeople need to convince potential customers that their solution is going to benefit them. To ensure that they’re carrying the lead through their sales journey smoothly and not missing vital steps, sales reps can benefit from having a standardised process to follow.
In this article we’ll cover what a sales process is and why your sales team can benefit from following the 8 steps of the sales process. First of all, let’s go back to basics and find a clear definition of what exactly a sales process is.
Defining a Sales Process
Surely there’s not much more to a sales process than, well, making a sale? That may be the final objective, but there’s more to a successful sales strategy than closing a deal.
You may have a great sales territory plan in place detailing how you’ll approach prospects, leads, and customers to close more deals. However, you’ll need a specific process for your sales team to follow too.
A sales process is the set of steps your sales team follows when moving a customer along the sales funnel. It begins before you make the first contact with a prospect and will often continue long after the sale is made. It encompasses all the interactions that a sales team has with a customer, from prospecting to closing a deal to nurturing a customer relationship.
A great sales process empowers sales reps with the tools and resources they need to consistently close deals and provides them with a clear framework to follow. It differs from a sales methodology, which instead refers to the broad philosophy a company employs for sales growth.
Why is Building a Sales Process Important?
According to the Sales Management Association, 90% of all companies that use a guided sales process were ranked as the highest performing. This statistic alone illustrates the tangible difference that implementing a sales process can have on business performance and results. It might come as a surprise, then, that 68% of all salespeople don’t follow a sales process!
Building a sales process allows you to:
- Gain insight into every stage of your sales pipeline
- Move prospects down the funnel more efficiently
- Create better organisation among team members
- Hold team members accountable
- Streamline the process of onboarding new members to your sales team
A sales process can increase your profit margin and promote growth by streamlining sales processes and closing more deals. What’s more, it allows businesses to create and nurture customer relationships, increasing customer lifetime value, and the potential for profits.
Sales Process vs. Sales Methodology
Both sales processes and sales methodologies are key for a successful organisation’s growth. However, while they sound similar, there are some key differences between these related terms.
A sales process refers to the actual actions that a sale team takes to make a sale. This can involve prospecting, speaking on the phone (or Zoom) with prospects, follow up email sequences, and more.
On the other hand, the sales methodology is better thought of as the overarching philosophy or reasoning that drives the sales process. Sales methodologies also take into account other ways to enable the sales force and scale their results.
For instance, Conceptual Selling is a type of sales methodology. Part of the philosophy is to ask numerous questions to gain commitments from the prospect. Those actual questions employed by the salesperson themselves would be considered part of the sales process.
Step By Step Guide to Building a Great Sales Process
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a great sales process.
In the digital age, companies use a variety of automation tools, such as IVR software, to streamline business operations and provide a better customer experience. However, salespeople are still your customer’s first point-of-contact with your business, so it’s crucial that you unlock your sales teams’ full potential by equipping them with the tools and processes they need to succeed.
Before you can start building a sales process, you need to understand how your current sales team is operating, what’s working, and what isn’t. You can do this by reviewing their performance in your CRM and sales reports. Identify their strengths and weaknesses, and adapt your sales process accordingly.
Your sales process should be tailored to your reps and the needs of your business. That said, there are some general steps that work well for businesses across industries. This simple step sales process provides a framework for sales reps to follow as prospects move through the funnel. Let’s dive into step 1: prospecting.
Step 1: Prospecting
Prospecting, also known as lead generation, involves sourcing early-stage potential leads and researching to find their contact information. Salespeople might research by leveraging social media, existing networks, and customer referrals to generate new leads.
When it comes to prospecting, it’s a good idea to have in mind your ideal customers in the form of buyer personas. This enables you to segment your audience and target them more effectively. Studies show that at least 50% of prospects won’t be a good fit for what you sell. It’s important to keep this in mind so that you can make the most of your sales prospecting and don’t end up with lots of ill-suited leads, or too few good ones.
Step 2: Connecting
This is where your relationship with your new potential client starts. It’s your chance to make a memorable first impression, and to demonstrate the value your product or service could have for the potential customer.
Whether you’re reaching out to the lead with insurance cold calling scripts or through email marketing, you’ll need to be as personable as possible. Importantly, you need to provide them with relevant and valuable information. It also pays to be quick, as salespeople that reach out to leads within an hour are 7x more likely to qualify than those who wait 1-2 hours.
Your account based marketing research from the prospecting stage should inform your communication with potential leads, and you should leverage this knowledge to build a rapport.
Step 3: Qualifying
You need to make sure you’re pitching your company’s product or service to the right person. Ideally, you’ll have narrowed this down during the prospecting stage, but you can drill down even further. To do this you’ll need to ask qualifying questions that discern their needs and assess their pain points.
Ask questions that allow you to understand how the lead will benefit from your product or service. If they turn out not to be a good fit, there’s no point trying to reach out with something you know won’t interest them. Here are some questions to ask when qualifying leads:
- What problem are you trying to fix with this offering?
- Have you tried to solve it in the past? If so, what went wrong?
- What is your budget?
- What other solutions are you considering?
- When do you need this solution in place?
By asking these questions and more, you can find out whether you’re a good mutual fit. Once qualified, it’s time to do some more research on your leads and tailor your pitch.
Step 4: Researching
The research step involves finding out more information about each company and prospect. Using the information gleaned from this research, you’ll be able to tailor and personalise your pitch to increase the likelihood of closing a deal. This step is key to understanding the prospect’s needs and how you can meet them.
81%of consumers prefer it when brands get to know them and to understand when to approach them and when to leave them in peace. This reflects the importance of the research stage of the sales process. Approaching a lead who doesn’t want to be approached because of a lack of research will disqualify a lead. Not only that, but it will give your brand a bad reputation.
During the research process, sales reps need to liaise across departments to get a big picture view of the company and its needs which can be used to inform the next step in the process: demonstrating value.
Step 5: Demonstrating Value
You’ve qualified your leads and made your pitch, now it’s time to show them exactly how your solution can benefit them. Set up a product demo where you can demonstrate the value of your solution. Make sure to provide your sales team with up to date technology so they can effectively conduct sales meetings via video conferencing.
When it comes to product demos, it’s crucial to personalise the demos to address the prospect or company’s needs. During the presentation, be sure to outline the key product features and demonstrate how they’ll provide a solution to the prospect’s pain points. Research and preparation are key. A well-researched and prepared demo allows you to frame the product as the solution they need.
Step 6: Handling Objections
It’s expected that prospects will have objections to a reps sales pitch. That’s why there’s a specific step in the sales process for it!
Before committing to a purchase, your prospect is likely to have some questions and concerns that need addressing. A good sales team needs to be prepared on how to handle objections in the best way to ensure they remain in the sales funnel.
During the research stage, reps should identify potential objections before they happen. This allows them to tailor their pitch to address these objections. They’re likely to come up anyway, so it’s important that sales reps understand their perspective, answer any questions, and reframe their sales pitch to address these new concerns.
Step 7: Closing
You’re almost there! This step refers to activities that occur as a deal approaches its close, and it’s the one that all salespeople work towards.
Different companies have different approaches to closing deals, including things like delivering quotes or proposals, negotiating, or getting buy-in from decision-makers on each side. The result of the closing stage should be a mutually-beneficial agreement between the prospect and the vendor. The salesperson should get a commission on their success, and pass the baton to someone else (an account manager or customer service rep) to take over.
Step 8: Following Up
We’ve come to the end of our sales journey. The final step: following up. It’s important to continue supporting customers even after they’ve made a purchase. The customer journey doesn’t stop with their initial interaction!
Salespeople often make the mistake of not following up enough, resulting in fewer closed deals and lower customer retention rates. It takes, on average, 5 follow-ups to close a deal. If your team isn’t chasing leads with sales follow-up emails, SMS messages, or calls then they’re likely to drop off the radar.
Staying in contact by answering questions and asking for feedback shows customers that you care, and nurtures the new relationship. Once the client has been using the product for a while you can have a member of your sales team contact them, to ask about their experience and see if they want to provide a referral. By continuing the relationship you can also find opportunities to up-sell or cross-sell other solutions to improve their experience.
Sales reps should make sure customers receive their order, and help them to transition into the hands of the teams responsible for onboarding and customer experience.
Continue to Refine Your Sales Process
Every business’s sales process should be tailored to its sales team and play to their specific strengths and skills.
Once outlined, be sure to measure how your new sales process is performing. You should never stop trying to improve and refine the sales process, and it should constantly evolve to meet your customer’s needs.
You can monitor the results of your sales process by checking in with sales reps regularly and tracking changes in your sales patterns and metrics using a CRM platform. What’s more, you can implement new tools and technologies as they arise to empower your sales team and streamline business operations.
Sales is a dynamic business field that must be consistently reviewed, tweaked, and revamped in order to meet consumer demand for consistently exceptional customer experience.
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