If you ask any salesperson what their sales process or tactics include, chances are they will tell you different methods each time you ask. Most salespeople do not stick to a single routine. They do not want to read a script or follow a template. Why? Because most have never really given a sales process template a chance. They attempt the process for a day, find it does not provide them with a quick enough sale, and revert to their old methods.
As a business owner, this can be frustrating. The key, however, is to take the time to develop a unique sales process designed specifically for your business—one that will drive sales efficiently. But it doesn’t happen overnight.
Here, we focus on the overarching methodology and how to build a sales process for your business.
What is a Sales Process?
Let us answer this seemingly simple question before we dive further. What is the sales process? In layman’s terms, a sales process is essentially an outline or a set of steps one would follow to guide a prospective buyer from discovery to a closed sale. It is a repeatable set of actions that help convert a prospective customer into a repeat customer down the line.
Your sales process steps are likely thorough and unique. Therefore, you will need to build a relationship between your company and your customers that helps establish trust, educates the community, and solves any pain points your customers have.
For example, if you run an air-conditioning repair company, it is safe to assume your customers are homeowners who are, at this time, without heating or cooling capabilities. Their broken air-conditioning system is the pain point. Your repair service is the solution.
Unfortunately, the issue here is that you are competing with countless other local businesses. And by local, we do not mean solely in your city. If you have nearby towns or cities in your county, then businesses in those places are in competition as well.
Your business’s sales process map may be intricate or it may be straightforward. The critical thing to remember is that your sales process steps must be unique to you and your company. A template is a fair starting point, but it is only that—a starting point.
What Makes a Strong Sales Process
If you want repeat business, start with a robust sales process. Ideally, yours will feature all of the characteristics below.
- Repeatable — At its core, a sales process is repeatable. Your sales team will follow the steps, with your flair included, and repeat each strategy.
- Concise — If your sales process is convoluted or confusing, you will lose sales. It must be clear and straightforward for the salespeople to follow.
- Results-Driven — Your end goal is to make money. If revenue is not what you seek from your sales process, you may have to change your priorities.
- Measurable — A successful sales process is about data. Throughout the entire step-by-step approach, you should record data and implement changes.
- Customer-Oriented — The customer is your sole focus. You are there to solve their pain points, so the sales process needs to focus on the customer and their journey above all else.
Important Terms Within the Sales Process
The world of sales and marketing is full of jargon. To truly grasp the concept of sales process steps, you need to familiarize yourself with a few terms.
- Sales Funnel — A sales funnel is a visualization of your business’s sales process. In this funnel, your pool of prospective clients narrow at the bottom to become repeat customers. The funnel is made up of various stages that mimic your sales process.
- Prospects — You will note that we use the term “prospects” countless times throughout this guide, and that is because it is essential. A prospect, also known as a lead, is a potential customer you are trying to entice with your services or products.
- Buyer’s Journey — The buyer’s journey refers to the sales process map as a whole—the path your prospects take to wind up at the final sale. You will guide their journey step-by-step to ensure needs are met, questions are answered, and concerns are laid by the wayside.
- Customer Persona — Who is your ideal customer? What is their demographic? Answering questions such as these will help you build a customer profile, or customer persona, to focus on while pitching services and goods. Your sales team will use a customer persona for marketing, lead generation, and prospecting purposes.
The Key Steps of a Sales Process
Generally speaking, a sales process follows a set of uniform steps: Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Objections, Closing, and Follow-Up.
- Prospecting — Your potential buyer is searching for a specific service or good. You offer what they want but need to compete to gain their attention. This phase, also known as lead generation, helps you target a specific demographic using an ideal customer profile. From there, you will want a sales rep always calling leads.
- Preparation — To successfully sell your product or service, you need a sales team that truly understands your work inside and out. They must also know the industry, the value your brand provides, and the customer you want to target. Prep your team with all of this knowledge, and you will find tremendous success when selling.
- Approach — With your business topping the local competition list, your prospect is interested in what you offer. This is where your sales rep team comes in with their cold-calling and pitching approach.
- Presentation — This step belongs to you. You need to explain and show why your services or products are the answer to your prospect’s problems. Your prospective customer has numerous options in the area. Don’t give them a reason to go elsewhere.
- Objections — As consumers, we love to find issues with products or services. It’s too expensive or it will not last long are common concerns we bring up. Your prospect is no different. Right now, it is your job to explain why what you are offering is a solution rather than another problem.
- Closing — Congratulations! You have convinced your prospect to buy your product. Even though your prospect is now a customer, do not let your guard down. You still want their repeat business.
- Follow-Up — If you want repeat business, especially as a service-oriented business such as air-conditioning repair or plumbing, you need to follow up with your past customers. They will appreciate your concern and, as such, will be more likely to return the next time a problem arises.
Did you notice each step focuses on the customer? It is their journey, not yours. As a salesperson, you are there to guide the customer along their journey, ensuring they do not miss a turn and find themselves purchasing a defective product or service elsewhere.
Sales by the Numbers
The entire point of sales is to up your numbers by selling products and services to customers in need. To achieve this, nothing works quite like a sales process.
According to the Sales Management Association, 90% of all companies that fully utilize a sales process enjoy more outstanding performance and better sales numbers.
Furthermore, a recent study performed by the Harvest Business Review revealed that companies following a sales process enjoyed a 28% increase in revenue.
Keep in mind that having a sales process will not provide a 100% guaranteed sale. For that, you would need all of the luck in the world, paired with the greatest salesperson humanity ever birthed. For now, keep your expectations in check.
You want to pair a sales process with competent, experienced salespeople. Provide your sales team with the template you build from this information, and then let them add a touch of personal flair as they entice customers and businesses with your services and products.
Reasons Your Business Needs a Sales Process
How well does your business perform each year? Are you making money or losing money? If the answer is the latter, a sales process should be in your future.
Let’s explore a few of the things your business could benefit from by using a thorough sales process map.
- Roadmap — Do you remember how we said your salesperson is a guide for the customer? Well, the sales process is a guide for your salesperson. They do not need to follow it to the letter, but they need to reach each milestone by taking these steps. The journey to the end is theirs for the making, but it’s easier with a clear roadmap.
- Sales Talents — You likely have a lot of exceptional talent and creativity on your sales team. By introducing a sales process, you need not worry about eliminating that talent. Each salesperson will add their own flair to the process without sacrificing the overall process’s efficiency.
- Elimination of Stalled Sales — It happens to every business. A customer shows interest, but then they disappear or procrastinate. This situation is what we call a stalled sale. A sales process will help eliminate stalled sales by identifying critical points in your current process leading to a stall and then introducing a solution to work past the hiccup.
- Qualified Leads — A clearly defined sales process ensures your team has the right tools to find qualified leads, not low-quality leads. Some sales, especially in the B2B arena, can take up to 12 months to close. In that time, a low-quality lead may disappear or take their business elsewhere. A high-quality lead will not.
- Customer Focus — Your prime directive is to help customers resolve their troubles in the service industry. For that, you must put yourself in their shoes. A sales process helps you answer a few key questions, such as:
- Who are my customers?
- What are my customers’ buying patterns?
- How do I sell new customers and ensure repeat business?
- What do my customers expect throughout the sales process?
Goals of a Sales Process
The primary goal of a sales process is to sell. That is vital in order for your business to succeed and make a profit year-over-year. A competent sales process will offer unique benefits.
To sell your product or service, you need leads. One of the earliest steps in the sales process involves lead generation or finding the right customer. Lead generation may involve randomly calling prospects, releasing marketing materials, and gathering email lists and phone numbers. Your goal is a constant flow of leads.
But at the same time, you do not want to overspend on your lead generation. A good sales objective, which we discuss in further detail below, is to reduce lead generation costs per month.
A single sale is excellent and definitely noteworthy. But repeat business is your end goal with a sales process. You want to create a relationship between your business and your customers, ensuring that when they have a problem, like when their A/C is on the fritz, they call you and not your competition.
To this day, word-of-mouth is the number one form of marketing for small businesses. If a customer is satisfied with the service or product you offer, they are more likely to tell their social circle. They will let friends and family know you helped them in their time of need, and those friends and family members will remember you when the time comes. It is a never-ending cycle that draws new customers to you. Hopefully, those customers continue the process themselves.
Mistakes Most Businesses Make With a Sales Process
Most of us make mistakes. As a business, you are bound to make quite a few, especially in your first year. So, when you are introducing a sales process map, it is common to have a few hang-ups that may slow down your progress.
To eliminate many of the mishaps most make when introducing a sales process, we have compiled a couple of notable mistakes.
- One Size Fits All — A sales process is not a “one size fits all” method for businesses. The act of sales requires practice and experimentation. If you adhere to a specific plan with the mindset that it is the sole method, you may ignore your company’s unique challenges and benefits. You do not want a strict script for your salespeople to follow; give them a little leeway to implement their strengths and those of your company.
- Disconnecting — When you focus on improving sales, you may find yourself scouring online resources and publications for sales numbers of competitors and big-name companies. In the end, it is common to become so focused on a percentage that we lose touch with reality. You likely do not run a company the same size as, say, Amazon. Instead of disconnecting from reality, focus on your business and the realistic success you may attain.
- Blaming Salespeople — Your sales team is likely worth their weight in gold. They are loyal, hardworking, and experienced. Unfortunately, if your company is not making any sales in a quarter, it is common to blame the sales team. Sales are not easy. But before you go blaming your workforce, test the sales process you use and read the data. You may find surprising results that indicate a stall somewhere along the line not associated with your team.
Setting Up Sales Objectives
Sales objectives go hand-in-hand with sales processes. Both help your business grow and achieve more significant sales per day, month, or even throughout the year.
If you intend to implement a sales process, we also recommend jotting down a few sales objectives. You want attainable goals. Keep it realistic, and do not shoot for the stars just yet.
Here are a few examples of sales objectives your business may focus on:
- Set aside time every day/week for lead prospecting.
- Increase revenue by 6% each month.
- Limit discounts and sales to prospects each month.
- Reduce lead generation costs by 10% each month.
- Improve customer retention by 40% this year.
These are examples you may work off of, though we recommend setting your own sales objectives specific to your business and industry. You may have lofty goals to increase monthly revenue or to reduce lead generation expenses each month. Either way, tailor your goals to your needs and business.
Sales Process Best Practices and Tips
Did you know that most salespeople do not spend the overwhelming majority of their time selling? The time they are on the phone or selling a product in person amounts to a fraction of their day. Most wind up on administrative tasks.
When you introduce sales process steps, a big part of your goal is to automate these administrative tasks and help make life easier for your sales team. That way, without excessive data entry or meetings, they can focus on selling your services.
Some common spots most businesses may improve upon include:
- Data entry
- Email outreach
- Crafting and sending proposals
- Tracking down prospects to complete paperwork
- Departmental coordination
These days, B2B software companies develop and sell products designed for virtually everything. Some of these software pieces are costly upfront or incur monthly subscription charges, which will help make life easier for both you and your salespeople. They can help automate your newsletters, personalized email outreach, and data entry, while also ensuring that coordination between the sales team and other departments is seamless.
How To Improve Your Sales Process
Do you already have a rudimentary sales process for your business? If you do and it is not pulling its weight, perhaps you need to rethink your sales process or take steps to improve key aspects.
Many businesses implement a sales process from a template found online, like the one we have included here. Still, they fail to customize the methodology to suit their business or industry better. A template is just that, a template. Use it as a starting point.
Analyze Your Sales Process
What are you doing now, and is it working out for you? You need to remain objective while analyzing your current sales process. It may help to make a list and put points into two columns: pros and cons. Keep it simple.
A good recommendation when analyzing your sales process, depending on your industry, is to observe your sales team in action. Watch a salesperson as they interact with a prospective customer and take notes of their sales speech and tactics.
Another tip is to examine your most recent sales closely. What worked out?
Create a Buyer’s Journey
We briefly touched upon the buyer’s journey previously. Again, this is your prospect’s journey, not yours or your salesperson’s. Remember that fact.
But first, you need to identify your ideal customer. Are they homeowners in their mid- to late-40s? Do they rent instead of buying? Asking yourself these questions and more like them will narrow your search down to the ideal customer.
Once you have a buyer persona on paper, lay out the sales process from start to finish. If you can, put yourself in their shoes. Try to delve into the questions they have when shopping for a product or service, the concerns that may arise, and how your team can help them find a solution.
Define Prospect Actions
As your prospective customer reaches the end of a step in your sales process, your goal is to move them on to the next step. You do not want them to exit the ride.
To achieve the next step successfully, first define what action moves them there. For that, ask yourself and your sales team a few questions:
- Does your customer have a specific pain point?
- Did your customer have concerns with your product or service?
- When your sales team pitched your services/products, did the prospect immediately agree to move forward?
If you can successfully answer each question, you will walk away with more information about your sales process or data to improve the operation’s specific segments.
Measure Your Sales Data
As your business grows and expands, so too will your sales process. It evolves alongside you to become more efficient and faster.
But to make improvements, you need to measure your sales process steps and the results they bring about. For instance, how many prospective clients made it all of the way through your sales process?
Some metrics you may wish to include are:
- Average time spent on each step.
- What step caused the most stalled sales.
- The percentage of prospects who passed on your services.
- The percentage of candidates who requested a demonstration.
- Your customer churn rate, which is the percentage of customers who stopped using your services or products and went to a competitor.
Understanding Your Current Sales Process
Right now, whether you know it or not, you have a sales process unique to your business. It may not entirely work as efficiently or effectively as you would like, of course, but you do have one.
To gain a firm understanding of your current sales process, ask yourself a few questions, such as:
- How do you currently generate new leads?
- Do you have a dedicated team member to assign leads to sales reps?
- Do you utilize business software for team lead acquisition and assignment?
- How does your sales team first contact a lead?
- How many attempts do the salespeople make before speaking with a lead?
- What materials do your sales reps send to leads?
- How do sales reps deliver their pitch? Do they use the phone or video call, or do they visit each lead in person?
- Which step did the sale stall?
- How long does your current sales process take?
How To Create Your Unique Sales Process
You may wish to use a template. Even so, with a template in front of you, it is a smart idea to customize it to better suit your business and its unique requirements.
- Start From the End — What is your end goal? Is it to increase monthly revenue or retain a certain percentage of customers? Before you can start writing out a sales process, you need to understand where you are headed.
- Bring in Department Support — Your sales team is a force of nature. They are fantastic at what they do each day. But even the best salespeople cannot tackle everything alone. Bring in the other departments in your company and share your goals, involving everyone in the process.
- Map Out a Step-by-Step Process — With everyone on board and a clear objective in mind, start to map your sales process step-by-step. Your unique approach is customized to your business, products, and sales team. To start, look at your sales history. What worked and what did not?
- Map Out the Buyer’s Journey — Now, map out the buyer’s journey. To accomplish this small feat, look at your sales process objectively from the customer’s eyes, and take down notes on the actions and reactions they would have.
- Implement Changes — With the sales process steps mapped out entirely from the seller’s and buyer’s point of view, implement changes, test the processes, and measure success. The ideal sales process is adaptable and always evolving. Run with it!
Your Sales Process Template
Now that you have a better understanding of how to map your sales process, measure sales data, and remain adaptable to every situation, perhaps a template is in order. A sales process template is simple.
We recommend the most common template, which is a 2x7 grid. On the vertical axis, mark down “Seller’s Activities” and “Buyer’s Activities” beside the two rows. On the horizontal axis, mark “Prospecting,” “Preparation,” “Approach,” “Presentation,” “Objections,” “Closing,” and “Follow-Up.”
It is easiest to create your sales process template using a program such as Microsoft Excel or Google Drive Spreadsheets. Both offer convenience and simplicity.
Once your template is complete, fill each box with the step-by-step of your sales process.
At the bottom, as a reminder, consider including your goal/s for your business. It will keep you motivated along the way.
Alternatively, write out the sales process steps, as detailed by Hubspot, that your business creates and add a brief description to the following:
Do You Need a Long or Short Sales Process?
Well, it all depends on your product. You will typically find a long sales process at a company where:
- Your company is more passive, meaning they wait for customers to come to them.
- The product is somewhat expensive, like electronics or home appliances.
- The product is built for businesses rather than individual consumers.
- You offer a specialty product.
In short, most long sales processes stem from B2B products and services.
In comparison, a short sales process is typical of a company with:
- Relatively inexpensive products.
- A product focused on consumers.
- Individuals that buy your product for general use, not specialized service.
- Customers that actively seek out the product, not the other way around.
No matter the length of your sales process, the basics remain the same. You will follow along from the Prospecting phase to the Follow-Up to ensure repeat customers. It is what is in between that stretches out the process.
This has been quite a ride. We hope that, after all of this information, you walk away with a better understanding of not only how a sales process functions but how to use the template found here to start a unique sales process for your company—or, better yet, how to update your current sales process to bring in increased revenue and boost your repeat business this year.
But do remember that unique is the keyword here. Your business is unique. It is yours—your hard work and your venture. The sales process you create is not exactly like any other sales process. It’s tailor-made to help your particular business achieve the most success possible.