A question we get asked all the time, is “How should I define the sales process for my business?” Given that sales stages in Base are customizable, we’ve consulted with a lot of companies on this topic. Typically, executives and sales managers just need a little coaching to arrive at the stages that are right for their business. By defining an optimal sales process, you’ll make sure your entire sales team is speaking the same language – and that your reports will be accurate so you’ll know what your team has to work on in the future.
The ideal sales process gives reps a series of regular steps to follow, while allowing them enough space to get creative (and close the deal!) when the time is right.
Not only does a set sales tracking blueprint give your reps a repeatable path to success, but it also means consistency for your company. When your pipeline is predictable, you’ll be in a better position to forecast the health of the bottom line and prepare for the future.
In addition, a formal process gives you clear-cut comparisons for your reps. It will be clear which ones are excelling and which are struggling. On the flip side, a clearly defined set of stages will ease the burden of training the new additions to your team. They’ll have a framework to point them toward success rather than learning everything by trial and error.
Start With The Basic Steps To Your Sales Process – Then Tweak
Across industries and reps, most sales processes include a few common steps. Those standard stages are prospecting, qualifying, quoting, and closing. This is a great framework to start with for just about any business. To fill in the details for each step, ask yourself what needs to happen to move a deal to the next stage. Make the universal answers a part of that stage’s definition.
At the very beginning of a deal, your reps are prospecting. They are feeling out customer needs, looking for people who have strong potential to be clients. This is the initial matchmaking stage. What types of meetings or conversations are always a part of this step? What should your reps look for in identifying a good prospect?
After qualifying, the potential client has needs and budget that your company can work with. How do you confirm this compatibility? What does the client need to know about your business, or about your products and services? How can you convey that information to them? Will you schedule a demo, give a presentation, or set a meeting?
Next up is the quote stage. At this point, the parties are negotiating the final details for a deal. Once you’re here, what goes into creating and delivering a proposal? How can you best position yourself to win in the home stretch? And after the quote, the final steps are in the closing stage. What has to happen to meet the requirements of both parties? What can you do to clinch the deal?
Think About How You Can Close Deals Faster
As you start crafting a sales process, give plenty of thought to what happens for closing a deal. What actions are essential to winning any sale for your business? These steps might be something specific to your field or to your company. For instance, a test drive is essential for successful car sales, and you’ll never sell a wedding dress without the bride trying it on first. Be sure to include those unique elements in your formal process so that your sales team doesn’t overlook their importance.
CRM software can be your best friend
Ashley Verrill at Software Advice adds that a CRM can be your best friend, as long as reps aren’t bogged down with data entry. “I hear it all the time,” says Verrill. “’I don’t want to spend my time in data entry. I want to spend my time selling.’ I definitely hear these objectives, but used correctly CRM systems can actually create more time that you can use for selling. I’m a huge fan of David Allen’s “Getting Things Done,” mantra. One of the tactics he suggests is to get everything out of your head so you’re not distracted by trying not to forget something. CRMs give you the means for doing this.
I used to tell my sales team, own your task lists. They’re there for a reason. Map out your sales process and create a list of tasks for every step in that journey. Have these ready in a task list so when you complete one step, you can immediately choose the next milestone and set a deadline. Not only does this keep you on track, but it tells you immediately where that contact is in your process. This way when they call you; you’re not trying to pull up some context between emails, post-it notes and Dropbox files. Also, by having an exact map for that sales cycle you can tweak certain steps in the process and see if that speeds the time to close. Another famous business consultant Peter Drucker once said, “What’s measured, improves.” In other words, you can’t get better at what you do unless you know what is and isn’t working.”
Keep the sales process easy to follow
The process you set out for your reps should be a series of steps they can and want to use. Overloading them with minutiae and micromanagement could have the opposite effect. You’ll also want to ensure that reps have all the tools they need to execute each step so that they get the best results possible.
Speaking of reps, make sure you loop them in as you develop a formal process. Check in with your top performers to see how they win deals. Ask them for feedback so that you give them a roadmap that will be effective in the field. Plus, getting reps involved from the get-go will increase the odds that they will use the defined steps once the process is formalized.
Make sure the sales process matches how customers buy
Finally, the best way to define a successful process is to be attuned to how your customers buy. After all, the process is aimed at turning contacts into clients, so it should cater to what best suits them. Think of your sales process as a form of customer assessment. What do they need? How can you give it to them? When are they ready to buy? How much will they purchase, and how often? Can you offer them value?
At Base, we included a highly visual sales tracking solution that allows you to customize sales stages according to your company’s needs and easily track opportunities as they move through the process.
Defining your process is a great way to satisfy everybody. A sales system that balances the needs of the company, reps, and customers will give you all the best chances for success. What success have you had in defining your sales process? Are there any stages unique to your industry that make it work for you? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
We also wrote an ebook titled Understanding Your Pipeline and Tracking Sales Effectively, for those of you who want to get deeper into the topic.