What is the sales process? Everything you need to know

Famed American engineer and management consultant W. Edwards Deming once said, “If you can’t describe what you’re doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Deming’s statement rings especially true in the chaotic world of sales. In a single workday, the average sales rep can make up to 60+ cold calls a day, in addition to being responsible for following up with dozens of prospects in the sales pipeline.

Without a sales process, trying to make quotas would feel like throwing mud at a wall and hoping some of it sticks. A well-defined and repeatable sales process will ensure you and your sales team have a clear roadmap for turning potential leads into customers quickly and efficiently.

To help you get started building your own sales process, we’ve collected a lineup of some of the best resources on what a sales process is, why it’s important and how to build one. We’ll also share free downloadable resources and templates to help you run your sales process efficiently.

Let’s dive in!

What is a sales process?

The sales process is a five-step roadmap for turning potential leads into customers, typically consisting of the following stages:

  1. Prospecting. The initial stage of the sales process involves identifying potential customers who would benefit from your product or service and reaching out to them.
  2. Qualifying. This stage is used to identify whether or not your potential customer has the means to purchase your product or service (i.e., do they have the budget?). The qualification stage is also used as a platform for pitching your product or service to the prospect (key benefits, features, competitive edge, etc.).
  3. Quoting. Discussing price and terms and conditions is the next step. Your prospect may wish to negotiate conditions before moving onto the next stage.
  4. Closure. The fourth stage of the sales process is the close. Put what you’ve discussed into writing and send it off to your prospect for final approval.
  5. Won/Lost. The final stage in the sales process is a reflection on what worked and what didn’t. If you won the deal, speak with support to ensure your new customer remains loyal, supported and happy. If you lost the deal, consider what may have gone wrong. Perhaps it simply wasn’t the right timing for your prospect, in which case be sure to set a date to follow up with them in the future.

Execution of the five-step sales process may differ depending on your company and customer type. For example, qualifying a B2B prospect often requires speaking with multiple decision makers, which can require more time and effort than in B2C sales.

That being said, the overall purpose of the sales process remains the same regardless of how it’s executed: to help guide sales reps in their journey of turning potential leads into customers.

Why build a sales process?

Regardless of how experienced you are in the world of sales, a lack of processes puts you at risk of getting off-track, moving too fast or too slow with a prospect, or missing sales opportunities altogether. A formalized sales process can ensure you and your team stay productive and efficient by providing specific steps to follow and key benchmarks to hit. Read the following resources to learn more:

How to shorten your sales cycle with a formalized sales process
How to improve your sales pipeline with a formalized sales process

Building a sales process

With a roadmap outlining the key points in the buying journey—your sales process—your team can visualize what it takes to bring a prospect to the “Won” stage. Use the following resources to build a sales process that is unique to your company. Identify what needs to happen at each stage with your prospects to move them through the process and eventually convert them to customers.

The keys to a successful sales process
Infographic: The 5 stages of the sales process, and how to map them out
How to make each stage of the sales process effective: What to do and how to do it.
How to build a sales process: for sales team managers

Supercharge your sales process with a CRM

The right organization tools are absolutely essential to the success of the five-step sales process. Think about it: during the prospecting stage, you’re likely collecting information from hundreds of prospects. To qualify them, you’ll need to identify key decision makers and research prospects’ pain points, key challenges and needs.

So where do you store that information, and how do you make sure it’s easily accessible during the next stages of the sales process?

CRMs like Zendesk Sell allow reps to collect, manage and access large pools of detailed customer data all in one simple-to-use space. Reps can log and review every conversation they have with a prospect, helping them stay organized, up-to-date and productive with every prospect during every stage of the sales process. To learn more, click on the resources below:

How to organize and manage your sales process with a CRM
Configuring your CRM around your sales process
Identify bottlenecks in your sales process with CRM reports
Fast track your sales process with a CRM

Sales process resources

If you’re looking for more information on how to build an efficient sales process, download our ebook below. You’ll receive a step-by-step guide explaining how to systematically optimize and improve your sales process to strengthen the foundation of your organization. As a bonus, it includes an exercise sheet for putting the steps in this ebook into practice.

We also include an article that provides free email templates designed to help sales reps reach prospects during each stage of the sales process. Use these templates to move your prospects through the sales funnel quickly and efficiently.

Improve your sales process: Free eBook + Exercises
Email templates for every stage of the sales process

A well-defined sales process is the foundation of a successful sales team. It serves as a roadmap that reps can follow, from identifying a prospect to making the final sale. Use the resources provided above to equip you and your sales team with the tools needed to efficiently and consistently meet their quotas.

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