Sales are key to the health of any company. Slow or inconsistent sales present a true threat to the very existence of your business. Regardless of the size of your salesforce, it is important to provide your sales reps with a well-defined sales process to ensure your business grows and thrives.
Sales processes may include anywhere from three to ten steps, depending on your product or service and who you are selling to. It should mirror the process that your customers actually use when buying, also known as the buyer’s journey.
Let’s talk about the reasons you need a standardized sales process:
1. More effective use of time
Having a defined process of specific chain-effect steps gives you a more accurate understanding of what is and isn’t working in your sales efforts. Defining what actions cause prospects to continue in the sales process makes it easy for you to identify the right actions and get rid of ineffective practices, like chasing unqualified or not-ready-now leads, and those activities that yield no or little results.
2. Always stay on course.
A sales process is often called a “roadmap”. Following a roadmap does not mean that a salesperson will be given specific instructions in how sell. Instead, a sales process will serve as a GPS system with clear steps and milestones. Knowing what each step entails helps salespeople understand where they are in the process, when it is time to move to the next step, and when to adjust course.
3. Utilize your sales talents in every step.
Having a sales process does not replace creativity! You can use your gut instincts and creative talents to get from one stage to the next. A sales process does not dictate how to develop rapport and trust, how to structure your sales pitch, what to write in a sales email, or how to draft in a proposal. That is up to your sales talent and skills! The sales process simply gives you miles stones to aim for.
4. Step into your customer’s shoes.
Often companies create a sale process that reflects the way they want to sell, not the way their customers want to buy.
An effective sales process should be adaptable to suit different selling situations and customer needs. Designing a sales process with your customer in mind will entail asking the following questions:
- What are my main customer groups?
- How do they differ in terms of their buying patterns?
- How differently do I sell to new customers versus repeat business?
- What are my customers’ expectations in each sales stage and what can I do to meet them?
5. Find the cause of stalled sales.
Adopting a sales process allows sales professionals to be able to identify the root cause of stalled sales. By following a set of steps, you are able to analyze whether or not your actions were sufficient, how many of them you actually needed, and what proved to be a misstep or a waste of time.
This means that if you work with a sales process you can tell not only what was and wasn’t achieved; but also, how it was or wasn’t achieved.
6. Get more qualified leads.
Adopting a clearly defined sales process will help your sales team to tackle its biggest pain: identifying qualified prospects and filtering out low-potential leads. More than 70% of all B2B (business to business) sales cycles take between 4-12 months to close. Identifying qualified leads earlier in the process will not only help to make your sales cycle shorter and more targeted, but it will also help your sales team maximize their efforts.
7. Improve forecasting and revenue.
Having a clear picture of where your salespeople are in the sales process helps sales managers come up with more accurate sales forecasting. Since a sales process is a set of repeatable steps, it gives a more consistent picture of how many deals your team closes from a given number of leads. This allows you to predict your win rates and set quotas with more accuracy.
8. Never miss a follow-up.
One of the most important aspects of winning a sale is a timely follow-up phone call, visit, or email.
During a sales interaction, sales reps may forget to follow up with potential customers. This alone may send an entire sale down the drain. Follow-ups keep the desire to buy alive. A standardized sales process will always remind you when to follow up with a prospect and keep a healthy sales pipeline.
9. Offer a better customer experience.
A sales rep may push a customer too quickly into the next stages of a sale before they are actually ready. This can not only damage the relationship but simply break the deal. A well-designed sales process, that focuses on the customer, can turn a haphazard and often pushy sale into a smooth sailing customer experience.
Based on your customer’s buying behaviors and expectations, a sales process will offer the strategically timed steps that sell value, enhance trust, and create a stronger bond with a potential.
10. Onboard sales rookies with ease.
If instead of formal training, your new salespeople are asked to learn the sales ropes by shadowing their colleagues, you need a sales process! A defined sales process makes it easy to train rookies and coach your sales team. Not only will it offer concrete sales steps for them to follow, but it will also highlight what behaviors and skills are required for each stage of a sale, what outcomes are expected at each step, and what individual strengths should be utilized at different sale stages.
A defined sales process can help you do the right things often and avoid making repeated mistakes.
Adopting a long-term sales process will help your team:
- create and maintain long-lasting customer relationships,
- ensure higher customer lifetime value,
- reduce customer retention costs,
- get more referrals,
- increase in sales revenue.
For a sales manager, following a standardized sales process allows you to concentrate on the things that matter most: planning, distributing leads, prioritizing tasks, managing your team’s time and workload better, as well as making more accurate sales forecasts.
A good sales process is adaptable! It needs to be revised and adjusted regularly to make sure it reflects the current state of the market, your customers’ changing needs, your team skills, and your business specifics. It should always remain a work in progress.