A lot of people choose to work in sales because they think it will be easy money (wrong!), more freedom and less structure.
Money aside, they’re not completely wrong!
Working in sales does give you a degree of independence when it comes to how you go about your daily duties. You have to be flexible and willing to improvise, not to mention the most ‘fun’ part of sales.
Prospective clients can be overly cautious, picky, demanding, sometimes impulsive and even suspicious! That’s why salespeople need to have the creativity and emotional intelligence to adjust their sales techniques to suit each prospects needs.
With so many uncertainties, how can it work with a structured plan?
That’s what we’re hoping this article will do – prove that above all you need a formal sales process to make you work more effectively, improve your performance and close sales quicker.
What is a sales process?
A sales process is not unlike a recipe – if you use the right ingredients in the right order, you can get some great results!
Typically consisting of five to seven stages: Prospecting, Preparation, Introduction, Presentation, Objection Handling, Close and Follow-up.
To put it simply, it is your prospective client’s journey from realising they have a need for your product or service to actually making a purchase.
Now, this isn’t to be confused with a sales funnel.
A sales funnel is the visualisation of all the interactions and activities between a prospect and salesperson or business.
Although most sales teams recognise they go through a similar process, not all of them outline and standardise the process, leaving It at the discretion of each salesperson which steps they do or don’t take.
The logic is clear: as long as salespeople are generating revenue and closing plenty of deals, how they do it is up to them.
Unless you’re an absolute natural at sales, you can benefit significantly from a standardised process while improving the measuring, forecasting and management of your sales pipeline.
12 Ways to Create an Effective Sales Process
Sure, relying on your wits and resourcefulness is a good way to work sometimes. But sales is not a game of intuition, it’s a strategy and structured with tactics at each step.
Here is how you can establish those tactics into a standardised sales process for your team:
Interview Your Sales Team
The first step to creating your standardised process is gain a full understanding of what your sales team is currently doing to turn your prospects into clients.
- How are your salespeople connecting with prospects?
- What actions are they taking to close a sale?
Interview your salespeople to learn their language, strategies and techniques to incorporate them into your sales process that can be replicated and streamlined.
Get Rid of Waste
Having a defined process allows you to have a more accurate understanding of what things are and aren’t working for your sales team. By defining what actions cause your prospects to move from one stage to the next makes it easy for you to identify the right actions while also getting rid of bottlenecks and activities that yield little results.
Stay on Course
A sales process is often called a roadmap.
However, following a roadmap doesn’t mean that your salespeople will be told to ‘do this, then do that’. It’s more like a GPS system with clear steps and milestones. Knowing what each step covers will help your salespeople understand where they are in the process, when it’s time to move to the next stage and when to adjust the journey.
Utilise Your Sales Talents in Every Step
Having a process in place, does not cancel out the creativity of your team!
You can still use your cut instinct, skills and creative talents to get from one stage to the next. Your new process won’t dictate how to use social media for social selling, how to pitch, what to write in your follow-up emails or how to draft your proposals – that’s up to your teams!
Step into Your Customer’s Shoes
Most of the time when companies create their sales process it is a reflection of the way they want to sell, not the way their clients want to buy.
The most effective process is should be adaptable to suit different selling situations and client needs. Designing a sales process with your clients in mind will need you to answer the following questions:
- What are my main client groups?
- How do they differ in their buying patterns?
- How do we adjust the process to sell to new clients and for repeat business?
- What are the expectations of our clients at each stage and what can we do to meet them?
Use a Relationship Led Approach
Your clients don’t want to feel like just another number. When you earn the attention of a prospective client take a relationship led approach and articulate what that means for your salespeople.
Active listening, empathy, note-taking, trust building, and following up are great skills to build and deepen your relationships with your clients.
Find the Cause of Stalled Sales
By following a set process, it allows your salespeople to be able to identify the causes of stalled sales. By following this roadmap, you are able to analyse whether or not your actions were adequate and how many of them you actually needed and finally what proved to be a misstep or a waste of time.
Get More Qualified Leads
One of the greatest benefits of adopting a clearly defined sales process is helping your teams to tackle one of its biggest pains – filtering out low potential leads and identifying the prospects with the highest chance to complete.
More than 70% of B2B Sales cycles take between 4 to 12 months to close. That’s why identifying qualified leads earlier in the process will not only help to make your sales cycle shorter and more targeted, but it also helps your team to maximise their efforts.
Improve Forecasting & Revenue
Having a clear map of where your salespeople are in the sales process helps your team to come up with more accurate forecasting.
As the sales process is a set of repeatable steps, it gives a more consistent picture of how many deals your team closes from any number of leads. This allows you to predict your win rates and set targets with more accuracy.
Never Miss a Follow-Up
One of the most important parts of winning a sale is a timely follow up email.
During sometimes lengthy sales interactions, your team may forget to follow up with your potential clients. This alone can send an entire sale down the drain. Follow-ups keep the desire to buy alive.
A standardised sales process can remind you when to follow up with a prospect and keep a healthy pipeline. You could recommend a particular type of follow-up activity and even a template to use.
Provide the Best Customer Experience
It’s common that a sales team will push a prospect too quickly into the next stages of the sale Even if they may not be ready for it.
Not only does this damage the relationship, but sometimes it can completely break the deal. In a well-designed process, the focus is on the customer, this turns a haphazard and often pushy sale into smooth sailing with a great customer experience.
When based on your clients buying behaviours and expectations, a sales process will offer at each step: value, enhanced trust and create a stronger bond with your prospective clients – all at the right time.
Onboard New Team Members Like Pros
If instead of proper training, your new salespeople are asked to shadow their colleagues to learn how to sell, then you definitely need a sales process!
A defined sales process not only makes it easy to train newcomers but also to coach your existing sales team. It offers concrete steps for them to follow, but it also highlights what behaviours and skills are required for each stage of the sale, what outcomes are expected at each step, and what individual strengths should be utilised at different sales stages.
Defining your sales process can help you do the right things at the right time and know for sure what works for you and what doesn’t. Equipped with this knowledge you avoid making the same sales mistakes over and over again.
The long-term advantages of adopting a well-tuned sales strategy are plenty:
- Create and maintain long-lasting client relationships.
- Ensure higher client lifetime value.
- Reduce client retention costs.
- Get more referrals.
- Increase sales revenue.
Just don’t forget a good process is never set in stone.
It needs to be revised and adapted regularly, making sure that it still reflects the current state of your clients changing needs, your team skills, and your business goals. It should always remain a work in progress to ensure it stays effective for your business and adding value to your clients.
Published: 30th April 2021