When was the last time you reviewed your sales process?
- “Sales process, what's that?”
- “Our sales process is ‘wing it and hope for the best’, no need to review!”
- “Before I took over.”
If your answer falls into any of the categories above, this article was created especially for you. We want to help you understand how a simple sales process review can help you get what you work around the clock for - more closed deals.
There are a lot of businesses (including your competitors) which do not even bother with a properly outlined, standardised process for closing deals. As long as their customer acquisition strategy is working, they rely on the discretion of individual sales reps to decide how and when deals should be closed. Should you be one of them?
Why Do You Need a Sales Process?
What Is a Sales Process?
Sales Process Steps
5-Step Sales Process
7-Step Sales Process
Sales Process Map
Why Do You Need a Sales Process?
One problem with relying on an individualised deal closing structure is consistency (or lack, thereof). For example, a rep promises one customer mouth-watering benefits and inevitably closes the deal. The customer excitedly refers a friend and the friend is in touch with another rep who offers nada. The new customer is upset and goes to cry on social media.
You may have won some, but you just lost one.
How do you think this might impact on your relationship with this customer and on your brand image in the long term?
A standardised sales process can improve your team’s consistency by adding structure to your sales flow which in turn results in improved close rates, increased customer retention rates and ultimately, more sales.
In addition to this, you stand to benefit the following:
- An improvement in the efficiency of your sales reps which comes from following clearly-defined steps which walk your prospects through from lead to sale.
- If you're a small-scale business with limited revenue, you might find the sales process useful for hiring and training new recruits to a high standard. Following a set guide will give your new recruits the reassurance they need that they are doing the right thing.
- Your customers will benefit from a consistent and positive experience, which in turn helps you build a better and longer-lasting relationship with them.
- A potential increase in your customer lifetime value through a better customer experience, which in turn reduces the overall cost of customer retention.
- Increase in your revenue, as your sales process will help you convert better and faster.
- Ability to filter out low potential prospects by identifying quality leads through your sales process.
In a nutshell, a solid sales process built with your target audience in mind will foster consistent and sustainable growth for your business. If you are wondering what exactly a sales process entails, read on as the rest of this article will focus on clarifying what a sales process is, and how to create one that works for your brand.
What Is a Sales Process?
Simply put, a sales process is made up of a set of guidelines which a sales rep must follow in order to convert a prospect into a paying client. Most sales processes include variations of steps which include prospecting, presenting, connecting, researching, following up and closing the deal. It is easy to get confused over selecting the right sales process from the variety out there, however, the most commonly used formats are the 5-step sales process and the 7-step sales process.
Sales Process Steps
Now that we have clarified what a sales process is, and how it could benefit your brand, you might be wondering how exactly to go about creating one. At this point, it is important to highlight the various building blocks of an effective sales process.
- Prospecting: The first step towards closing a sale is identifying who is most likely to buy your product. This is known as “prospecting”, and it entails collating a list of customers most likely to purchase from you, following your lead generation efforts. There is no set formula for finding prospects. Prospects can be found through cold calling, cold emails, online platforms such as LinkedIn, through networking or industry-related events or by running lead generation ads on social media channels such as Facebook.
- Connecting: This is the step in your sales where you filter through your list of prospects to decide which leads are valuable enough to take on to the next stage. This helps you eliminate low-value leads which are more likely to waste your time than to convert to sales. In practical terms, at this stage, your sales rep goes on a fact-finding mission to engage with prospects by phone or email to find out more about them and how best to serve them. This information will guide your decision-making in figuring out who exactly to target and how.
- Research: Research is one crucial activity which is fundamental to the efficient allocation of your resources. Research helps you work smart because a good understanding of your potential clients will only offer you insight on how to appeal to them and subsequently how to convert them better with a more personalised marketing experience. To personalise the marketing experience, research is required to learn more about your prospective client – what they do, their areas of pain, their main aims or vision – all to ascertain how well your products or services can help them achieve their goals faster.
- Presenting: This is where your sales rep gets the opportunity to pitch your unique solution to your qualified lead. By this point, you should be armed with research and able to strategically craft your presentation in such a way that it identifies the pain points of your lead, and highlights how your company can help them. A good presentation will show that you understand the need of your target audience, and you are interested in helping them to work towards a solution. One key thing to remember at this point is that your ability to close the deal may lie in your ability to answer questions that leads have about the product. Preparation is key at this stage - if you are not well-versed with the product, take someone who is.
- Closing: This is the final step in the sales process, and it involves any last-minute activities required to close a deal. This step varies between companies, and it could vary from sending a quote to negotiating to finally getting a yes from your prospect. Closing a deal is the end goal of any sales process and the most eagerly awaited aspect of the whole process – especially for sales reps who earn a specific commission from every closed sale. At closing, a deal should result in a profitable, mutually beneficial contract between you (the seller) and your customer.
Depending on the nature of your industry and target audience, a sales process may have up to 10 separate steps. Two of the most popularly used sales process structures are the 5-step sales process and the 7-step sales process, and we will discuss them below.
5-Step Sales Process
The 5-step sales process includes the stages listed below:
- Initial Contact and Rapport Building: This step involves breaking the ice with an introduction - who you are, why you are calling and how you got their contact details. Refreshing their mind about a mutually visited event or a lead generation ad they responded to should hopefully prepare them to have a conversation with you. Once the ice has been broken, you can discuss mutual interests and initiate positive conversations to earn their trust and make them comfortable enough to discuss business with you.
- Needs Discovery: To be able to efficiently discover the needs of your prospects, there is a need for you to have a prepared set of questions for your sales reps. Apart from offering a sense of professionalism, this ensures that your reps do not omit any important questions which may be crucial to closing a sale. While it may be tempting to delve into a discussion about the offer, a sales rep must focus on asking questions which highlight the prospective client’s pain points, in an effort to discover how best your product can help address them. You can ask questions like:
Once your prospect has satisfactorily answered your questions, a quick recap will ensure that all parties are on the same page. If for any reason your rep or the client appears confused, additional questions should offer some clarity.
- What challenges are you currently facing?
- What was the least favourite thing about your last service provider?
- What did you like about the services of your last service provider?
- In what ways would your life/business/home/health be better if this particular problem you have is solved?
- Offer a Solution: With a clear understanding of your prospects needs, you can now propose a solution. It is important at this point to ensure that your solutions are strategically presented in a way that highlights pain points and how your product can solve them. Meeting the needs of a prospective client in a way that mirrors exactly what they need at that time helps to improve the chances of closing a deal – because you are offering exactly what they need at the moment.
- Handle Objections and Close the Sale: It should not be surprising to have to deal with questions from prospective clients. If anything, clients questions present an opportunity for engagement and for doubts to be dispelled. Your reps should be trained and ready to respond to any objections clients may have, efficiently and reassuringly, hopefully leading to a faster close.
- Follow-Up, Repeat Business and Referrals: The close isn't the end of the journey. It is important to ensure that your reps are in close contact with your clients to ensure that the experience with your product is a smooth one. This will help you maintain a healthy relationship with your customers, encouraging repeat business as well as referrals.
7-Step Sales Process
- Initial Contact: Can you remember where you first met your partner? Well, revisiting where your sales reps first met prospects is almost as important. However that initial contact is established - cold phone calls/emails, website enquiries, a lead magnet, social media, free samples etc - it is important to track key information (contact details, where they found you, etc) in your sales management software as this will help to direct your marketing efforts.
- Qualify: Just as you would do in a new, promising relationship, it is important to go on a fact-finding mission after initial contact to evaluate the prospect’s likelihood of becoming a customer. If you find that there is a mismatch between your products’ capabilities and the prospect’s requirements, then perhaps it’s time to move on and seek a better match. Recording this in your CRM software will help you establish trends which may improve your lead generation activities.
- Needs Analysis: This is the listening stage where you try to understand your prospects’ pain points, in order to ascertain how best your product(s) can address them. Have a checklist of questions ready and resist the urge to sell your solution, as you may discover here that your solution might not be the best for their needs. If this is the case, better to purge them from your database sooner rather than later.
- Presentation: Once you have understood your prospects' concerns, you now have the opportunity to demonstrate how your goods or services can offer solutions.
- Proposal: So you find that you’re really blessed with the gift of the gab and your prospect has requested a quote. Don’t get over-excited - send out the invoice/quote/proposal but make sure you have a copy handy. Record the send date and set yourself a follow-up reminder in the event that they don’t get back to you after X days.
- Negotiation: Here, you may have to amend your proposal to accommodate your prospect’s requirements. Ensure that the terms are clear, and all parties can work together to achieve what they deem most important.
- Close Sale/Deliver: Hurrah - you did it! You can now deliver your products/services, and you might even be tempted to offer additional services and repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 again if you play your cards right.
Sales Process Map
Now that we have covered the definition of a sales process, the fundamental steps involved, and the two most common types, you probably feel ready enough to take action and map out a sales process for your business.
If this is you, here's what you need to do:
- Analyse your current sales process (roughly).
- Create a buyer’s journey layout which is suitable for your target audience.
- Define the criteria required to exit a step in your sales process.
- Measure the results generated from your sales process.
That done, you can start working on your sales process.
Why Choose Act!?
Act! is a powerful sales and marketing automation platform designed to provide businesses with everything they need to run and grow their business. Here are some of the features that will benefit sales teams:
- Activity Tracking and Alerts: Track and prioritise meetings and activities associated with your contacts. Benefit from alerts that keep you on top of your customer commitments.
- Sales Process Automation: Manage opportunities using a powerful, out-of-the-box process or one you customise. Complete activities in each stage of the sales process to keep deals moving.
- Opportunity Tracking: Track probability of close, products, lead source, status, and more for every opportunity for total visibility and control of your sales pipeline.
- Dynamic Sales Pipeline Management: See a complete, visual representation of your sales pipeline at-a-glance to project revenue, adjust your strategy, and quickly focus your efforts.
- Sales Reporting: See dynamic, visual snapshots of real-time metrics covering sales productivity and performance, sales pipeline health, top performing products, win/loss analysis, and more with interactive, graphical dashboards.