If you’ve never had a sales process you may be wondering what it is, the typical stages in a sales process, why it’s important, and how to create one for your organization. Below you’ll find answers to these questions and more.
What is a sales process?
A sales process is a sequence of stages, each including a set of repeatable steps that your sales reps perform to convert a potential customer from being a lead to a paying customer. It acts as a roadmap to keep your team members on track so they always know what to do next without hesitation.
What are the typical stages in a sales process?
Sales processes are usually broken down into a series of stages that allow you to establish better sales practices and help better track the sales funnel. Different sales models exist. The most common ones are the 7 step sales process, and the 5 step sales process. There’s even a 10 step sales process model. The most common steps include prospecting, initial contact, qualifying, needs assessment, sales pitch or product demo, proposal, handling objections, closing and follow up.
Improved efficiency because it establishes a routine for your sales reps and provides clearly defined steps for them to guide prospects from lead to sale.
Better organization within your company by clearly designating the roles of each department along with their responsibilities throughout the sales process.
Increased revenue and forecasting accuracy due, in part, to faster onboarding of new reps, repetitive practice through a defined process and better lead qualification. Plus, a clear process makes it easier to anticipate win rates, increasing forecast accuracy and estimates of future revenue.
Continuous improvement is promoted through the repetitive nature of the process due to the resulting experience and proficiency development. It also simplifies the ongoing refinement of your sales process.
How to create a sales process?
If you don’t already have a well-defined sales process for your reps to follow, start with the following steps:
Observe your sales representatives, especially the most successful ones, since they most likely already have a set process they’re following. Look back at the last five or ten deals that they closed. Make note of all the major steps that they took from the time that they initiate contact with a lead through to when they close the sale and beyond. Be sure to list all the touchpoints made with each prospect along the process and gain an understanding of the timeline involved as well to determine how long, on average, each specific stage lasts. Working backward is a good way to capture information including timing of touchpoints, how many follow up emails, phone calls and social contacts are required along with scripts, sample emails, content shared, etc. This helps remove the guesswork of what each rep should do and when, while making the entire process more easily repeatable. A typical deal might look something like this:
One week of negotiations prior to closing the sale
Two to four follow-up emails or phone calls
One product demonstration
One phone call plus two to four emails
One needs analysis call
Two emails and four to five prospecting phone calls
Once you have an understanding of the sales process your best reps are following, you can delve deeper. Then you’re ready to understand more of the subtle nuances that advanced the lead from prospect to buying customer.
Map your observations to a generic example. This may be done by averaging the timelines and activity quantities of each of the deals that you observed. Be sure to include all the details that you captured in your observations. The more details the better since it removes the guesswork for new reps when they start with your company and provides consistency for everyone in your organization when discussing various aspects of the sale.
Identify why the prospect advances to the next stage. At the end of each stage of the process, it’s important to know what prospects are doing that make them move to the next one. For example, did the prospect ask for the demo or did the rep do something that led the prospect to be receptive to the rep’s invitation to schedule one? Another example might be related to closing the deal. What were the exact steps that were followed prior to the proposal or recommendation of a solution that resulted in the prospect signing on the dotted line on the first attempted close?
Adapt a generic sales process if needed. If you don’t have a sales force yet or, perhaps, you don’t have enough success to observe? No problem! You can always start with a generic sales process and adapt it to your product or service.
Continually monitor and fine-tune your process based on market and industry changes. You’ll also see that prospects change their buying practices from time to time. When you observe this, it’s a sure sign that you need to update your selling process since it needs to mirror the way your prospects actually make purchasing decisions. This will help you maintain an advantage over your competition.
Measure the success of your sales cycle. This may be accomplished with tracking key metrics such as the ratio of leads converted to customers over a certain time period. Also, when you see prospects getting stuck at a particular stage it may be an indicator that it’s time to fine-tune the actions taken there so they advance to the next step more quickly. These are a couple of examples that you may measure in addition to the obvious ones like how quickly leads are sold, number of sales per rep for a given timeframe, sales per quarter, and more.
How to improve your existing sales process?
Creating a well-defined sales process is only the beginning. To remain competitive it’s important to continually improve your sales process by refining and updating it on a routine basis. How do you improve your sales process? Here are a few activities to complete each time you do so:
Document and map out your current sales process
Identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or metrics
Review your sales team’s performance for evaluation plus planning coaching and training activities.
Define your ideal buyer and company profiles
Nurture leads that aren’t ready
How to track your sales process?
A sales pipeline management tool like Act! 365 can help with the creation, tracking and updating of a sales process. It includes tools to automatically capture many of these measurements. This makes it as easy as just a few clicks of a mouse to generate the reporting needed to keep track of activity and KPIs. This allows you to continually improve your sales process without a major investment of time. Plus, it reminds your team where they are in the process with each prospect while prompting them at each step.