What is a Sales Process? And why you needed one, like, yesterday!

To the unwitting observer, a company’s sales floor can seem like an absolute fish market. Phones ringing off the hook. Gleefully glib chatter erupting from every corner. Salespeople flitting in and out like players in a game of tag.

‘This is madness!’ is the first thought that probably goes through that unwitting observer’s mind. ‘Absolute madness!’

And while he’s partially right about that, the one thing he doesn’t know — the one thing every successful sales team does know — is that there is always a method to the madness.

Every company has its own method, of course … its own way of dealing with leads flowing in from a variety of sources. As you grow, the method you employ becomes exponentially crucial to the overall success of your company. And it is this method that is called a sales process.

What is a sales process?

To put it simply, a sales process is a predefined series of steps taken by a sales rep to convert a lead into a customer.

Before we dive deeper into the features and benefits of a sales process, let’s familiarize ourselves with the typical buying journey of a customer.

Awareness

Where the prospect realizes they have a need for something and set out evaluating options available in the market

Discovery

Where they research various options and shortlist those best suited to their needs

Evaluation

Where they evaluate the pros and cons of each option

Intent

Where they finalize their decision and show further interest in your product

Purchase

Where they purchase your product and become a customer

Loyalty

Where they maintain a long-term relationship with your brand and become a repeat customer

Unless you have a vetted system in place, you will find yourself haphazardly chasing prospects who landed on your website or reached out to you via some other medium.

But once you build a rock-solid sales process, each prospect that shows interest in your product is smoothly transitioned through the above six stages.

Basic Framework of a Sales Process

While there are several ways to build a sales process, they all follow a similar structure, like below:

Step 1: Research and prospecting

The first step is sourcing new leads from anywhere and everywhere. Your next customer might be hanging out at networking events, conferences, or on social media like LinkedIn. Or you could also find them via references, email, and marketing campaigns.

It doesn’t matter how you get them. All that matters is you build a sizable lead base so you can get the ball rolling.

That said, it’s equally important to research each lead’s background. Nothing can be a bigger turn-off than not knowing your prospect well. Imagine getting a call from a design firm pitching you designs for a bakery studio, while you run a B2B SaaS firm. Frustrating, right?

Step 2: Qualifying your leads

Armed with key insights about your prospective customers, the next step — qualifying your leads — should be smooth sailing.

Qualifying a lead means knowing what stage of the buying journey they are at. Are they still in the initial stage, i.e. pitting your product against your competitors’? Or have they already shown an intent to buy? And in that case, what is their budget? Also, what sort of buyer profile are you dealing with?

The tricky part is that by the time a customer evinces interest in your product, they are often more than midway through their buying decision. So it is critical that you move fast and make your pitch — be it on phone, mail, or in person.

According to InsideSales, about 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first.

Step 3: The Pitch

"Approach each customer with the idea of helping him or her solve a problem or achieving a goal, not selling a product or service.”

– Brian Tracy

The pitch is the climactic piece of the opera, the grand finale before the show comes to an end. It is arguably the most important step in the sales process.

Pitching is when you present your product to a lead, emphasizing its key features and demonstrating how effectively it will solve an existing problem.

Performing the previous two steps correctly will ensure you consistently develop terrific, highly personalized pitches. A well-designed pitch will address the major pain points of each lead and answer their most pertinent questions before they can even ask them.

Step 4: Addressing questions and concerns

Of course, it’s next to impossible to anticipate all queries from every lead. Each of us has been a customer at some point, so we know what it’s like to want to test a product thoroughly, and to ask the sales rep a gazillion questions.

Similarly, once you’re done with the pitch, your prospects will have a bunch of questions and concerns. They might want to negotiate, check your product against those of your competitors, and so on.

Put yourself in their shoes and answer each query in a convincing, polite and patient manner. The next thing you know, you’ve smoothly nudged them into the final stage of the buyer journey.

Step 5: Closing the deal

All queries have been satisfactorily answered. The price has been mutually negotiated. Now comes the time to sign the dotted line. Make it official. Put a ring on it, even.

Closing a deal is always a great feeling for a sales rep. But they shouldn’t rush it in the excitement of it all. The process must go smoothly and any post-sales questions must be addressed. Matters such as security reviews and drafting final contracts must also be tended to promptly and professionally.

Why build a sales process?

So far we’ve seen what a sales process is, and how it compliments the buyer’s journey. But some of you might still be wondering — do we really need a sales process?

Rather than tell you why you do, let’s see some stats from this article published by the Harvard Business Review regarding commonalities between top sales teams:

- 50% of participants from high-performing sales organizations said their sales processes were closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated compared to just 28% from underperforming sales organizations.

- Nearly half — 48% — of participants from underperforming sales organizations indicated they had nonexistent or informal structured sales processes.

The reason companies invest so much time devising a sales process is quite simple, really. It eliminates randomness and increases sales performance by helping your team convert more leads into customers, thereby generating more revenue.

(Can we show the 6 points below as a creative with 6 blocks - one block per point and small relevant icons for each, with title ‘Benefits of a Sales Process’)

Streamlines your sales team’s efforts

Generates sound actionable data

Increases revenue

Reduces time taken to close deals

Reduces customer churn

Enhances customer experience

Note: The science of a sales process is dependent on you effectively qualifying leads and essentially going on a customer experience journey with each of them. This is crucial.

Sales Process vs Sales Methodology

A sales process can sometimes be confused with sales methodology. However, these two terms are not the same.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the two terms that explains the difference without much ado:

Sales process is the consistent, step-by-step structure that defines the stages and milestones of a sales team's activities, from prospecting to closing.

Sales methodology, on the other hand, defines the methods and tactics used by salespeople to move prospects through the sales process.

Conclusion

Building your ideal sales process is all about trial and error. It takes time, patience, and a collaborative team effort.

No matter how cohesive and well-planned your sales process is, though, it will never cater to every single potential lead. That’s because each of us is uniquely unpredictable in the way we think, the way we act.

Regardless, a sales process provides structure and solidity to your sales efforts. It also gives your team a common starting point when dealing with a new lead. Bottom line: It helps you close more deals.

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