How to Create a Sales Process That Accelerates Growth
All top business to business (b2b) sales organizations have a proven sales process they follow religiously and execute daily. They use the process to find the right customers at the right time with the right message. They use this process to qualify opportunities and forecast business they can count on in the future. They use this process to help with time management and skill set improvement. Without a sales process in place, they would be leaving their success to chance.
A sales process is a set of repeatable steps that a sales organization does to find the right buyer, get them interested in their product or service and close them in a predictable timeframe. Although the buying process has evolved over the years with the internet being a source of endless information, the 7 stages of the sales process still follow the same structure as it has for centuries.
The first meeting with the customer is where the salesperson has the investigatory job of finding out if they need what you are selling. This part of the sales process involves asking thoughtful questions that dive into learning more about the customers’ current challenges and discussing to see if you could help them through those particular challenges.
Many believe that this step is the most important part of the sales process and that it’s where a deal is won or lost. Because of that belief, there is no minimum amount of research or preparation one could do to get ready for this meeting. The case could be made that this is the most difficult part of the sales process for the salesperson as they need to spend most of the time active listening, educating, and diagnosing a problem that might not even be known to the customer.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the goal is for both the salesperson and the customer to mutually agree on the next step. That next step is based on exploring and validating if the salesperson could help them improve upon the challenges they are currently facing.
This fourth step of the sales process is where value is demonstrated to the customer. The information that is shared inside of the discovery meeting is used to tailor the salesperson’s solution and comes across as something made to improve the customer’s situation.
This step could happen in many different ways. The most common activity done in this step is a live demonstration or even providing a no cost trial offer to the client. Other things could be shared like testimonials, case studies, or even more meetings with other people in both organizations to further evaluate and explore the opportunity.
In this step, the customer is doing their due diligence to see if the salesperson’s offering could actually help their business. With that in mind, this step is where they learn more about the solution. It’s possible that they could learn that the solution isn’t a fit and doesn’t align with the direction of their company. If they do see the solution helping, then the next step would be for them to see the numbers and details behind the contract.
During this step of the sales process the customer chooses the vendor that best fits their needs. These needs are evaluated based upon company reputation, solution fit, and then overall cost to implement. At this point they have narrowed down their choices and they attempt to negotiate, while airing their objections to the salespeople.
The best salespeople are the ones who have differentiated themselves, the company they work for and their offering from the beginning of the discovery part of the sales process. When that is done well, the closing phase becomes nothing more than a quick step in the process.
In modern selling situations, the close is so subtle and barely even a step in the sales process. The most challenging part of the close tends to be around creating urgency with clients and getting the deal closed within a predictable timeline.
In modern day business to business sales cycles, the engagement never ends. The last thing a salesperson needs is for their reputation to be that they disappear after a deal has been done. Customers expect another dimension of support after the sale.
The most successful organizations have some sort of regular check in process where they bring current usage information, in the form of account reviews, to stay ahead of any challenges the client may be facing with their solution. It also allows the relationship to build, collect referrals, provide more value and insight into new potential offerings that could benefit the customer.
Regardless of what year we are in, salespeople always end up having the same 3 challenges. They need help with prospecting, finding opportunity on appointments by asking the right questions, and closing deals. Let’s break each one down.
This is one of the most tragic challenges salespeople face. Not because they can’t close for a sale. Not because they aren’t handling objections or understanding how to negotiate. The reason this is tragic is because the real issue here is the salesperson doesn’t have enough prospects.
The problem is almost always how many deals are coming into the pipeline and not how to improve the closing ratio of the ones that are inside of the sales process. Too often there isn’t much prospecting going on, for reasons mentioned above, so the salesperson becomes overprotective and desperate with the small number of opportunities they are working on. They think they can close all of them. That’s just not statistically accurate.
This is sad because they are focusing their energy on improving a closing skill set that doesn’t have much opportunity for improvement. Even the best sales strategies can only improve the needle a tiny bit.
The 7 steps of the sales process are preparation, prospecting, discovery, share value, proposal, closing, and customer success. How does your ideal customer fit into that process? You need to understand this intimately.
What happens inside of the prospecting and research phase? Typically, from the buyer’s perspective, there’s a decision made in any industry at that moment that they are in the market for a new solution. The prospecting part of the process for the buyer is searching for companies that could potentially provide the solution they are looking for. Once the potential vendors are chosen they are contacted to gather further qualifying information, during the discovery step, to see if they could meet their needs. Then the buyer needs more proof (share value stage) to see which solutions are the best fit. The vendors that have the best offering then get the opportunity to present a proposal to the buyer. The buyer then thinks about it, comes back with any hesitations, and then closes and moves forward with the offering. After that, the buyer doesn’t want to have buyer’s remorse so they look for guarantees to make sure they are protected in case they aren’t happy with the solution (customer success).
Every product you purchase online or in the store comes with directions. The directions of how to use it and what to do if things go wrong. That’s where a sales playbook comes in handy.
The goal of the sales playbook is to provide the salesperson with everything they need to know in order to be successful in their job. What to do when any type of situation arises. It’s packed with key people to contact in the organization for different reasons, talk tracks and messaging to use in certain situations, objection handling scripts, sales strategies, and more. The sales playbook is the sales success handbook.
As you’re building out the sales engine around your sales process, there needs to be structured check-ins on the sales team to ensure they are getting the support they need to perform at a high level. This is why companies put together a management process.
A management process is a system of support for the sales team to help them with skill set development, coaching to improve their effectiveness, strategies to increase their sales, and a champion to keep them focused on hitting their goals. The best organizations do this with regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, strategy team meetings, field ride days, and ongoing sales training.