With ever-climbing inflation and threats of a recession afoot, sales are becoming harder to close for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
A continuous flow of new business is what keeps food on the tables of your employees and the doors of your offices open. So naturally if sales are drying up, it’s likely a great concern to everyone in your organization.
Where are we going wrong? Are we attracting the wrong leads? What’s missing from our product or service?
All these questions may be flooding your mind, but in our experience, many sales challenges actually stem from a company’s sales process. Perhaps your sales team is being inconsistent, skipping crucial steps in the buyer’s journey, or not effectively addressing questions or objections that arise.
A well-thought-out, optimized, and standardized sales process helps you avoid common mistakes and increases the odds of your sales team moving deals across the finish line.
Over the last decade, IMPACT has tested and fine-tuned its sales process and helped others do the same to ultimately close more deals and move them through the sales pipeline faster.
In this article, we’ll share some of those secrets by discussing:
Why you need a documented sales process
What a successful sales process includes
10 steps to creating a sales process that closes more deals
Free Guide: The Beginners Guide to Inbound Sales
Why does your sales team need a documented sales process?
A documented sales process sets the standard for the sales experience inside and outside of your organization. In other words, it means consistency.
When executed by your sales team, a good sales process creates consistency in language, deal visibility, and results.
“A formal sales process provides sales teams with a foundation to model proper sales behavior on and refer to when questions arise. It guides their conversations with prospects, instructs on next steps, and helps maintain control of the sales process by providing direction.”
A sales process also helps assure that all the necessary qualifying information is collected, realistic expectations have been set, and the opportunity has been positioned for the greatest chance of success.
But how does it do this exactly?
What does a successful sales process include?
Ideally, your documented sales process is the most optimized version of the journey to a purchase. A successful sales process consists of all the essential information needed to qualify, disqualify, and close a prospect.
Let’s break this down into six key areas.
A clearly defined problem
You can’t sell your product or service if you don’t know what value it can bring to the buyer, and honestly, different products can have different values to different people. That’s why your sales process must include a plan for learning why a prospect needs your help.
What is the pain they are feeling? What is the problem they are trying to solve? What is their challenge?
You want to understand this from both a practical standpoint as well as an emotional one. This will help you shape future conversations around what is most important to your prospect.
Quantification of the problem
Part of understanding and defining the problem includes quantifying the problem.
This means understanding how much time or money the existing problem is costing your potential customers. How much time are they investing to deal with this problem and what is their time worth? How much money has the problem cost the company? Are they losing money or customers?
Quantifying the cost of the problem may help you and your prospect justify the budget required to solve the problem. It will also help you better grasp your prospect’s point of view and what kind of information you need to deliver to guide them closer to making a purchase.
Clear sales process stages and milestones
When you hear the word “process,” you likely think of steps or stages, and you should.
Every strong sales process needs clearly defined stages or milestones to help you understand where a prospect stands in their buyer’s journey, what they’re currently feeling and experiencing, and what they need to move into the next stage.
Sales enablement content
Often what’s keeping your buyer from moving forward is an unanswered question, concern, or objection.
Enter sales enablement content. Sales enablement content helps move your prospect through the sales pipeline faster by addressing these unanswered questions and concerns head-on as they come up.
Assignment selling is the process of intentionally using educational content you have created about your products and services to resolve the major concerns and answer the burning questions of prospects so they are much more prepared for a sales appointment.
This may mean sending content to review before you hop on a call or even sharing something while you’re in conversation for them to look at before your next meeting.
The content shared can be written or video. In fact, the 80% video (and many of the rest of what Sheridan calls The Selling 7) is very effective video content you can create and use in your sales process.
An effective sales process also has defined guidelines for what commitment looks like.
If the prospect were to move forward, what would that look like? Who would have to be involved? Who would make the final decision? What conditions would have to be met on both ends? What does the prospect need to do?
A clear understanding of the commitment required from your prospect and your company brings more clarity to what you need to do next. Commitment, or the lack of it, also provides insight into the prospect’s likelihood to close.
Plan to establish a timeline
Speaking of closing, how long will it take? Your sales process should have guidelines for establishing a timeline for when your engagement would begin, when a decision will be made, and how long it will take to get started. This gives your sales rep more control and helps prevent deals from going cold.
How to create a sales process that closes deals
With all of these pieces in mind, it’s time to put them together into a surefire sales process.
1. Know your product and buyer
This is a bit obvious, but know what you’re selling inside and out. Know what problems and pain points it fixes and what kind of people can benefit from it. Know what would push someone to make a change. This provides your foundational value proposition and grounds for qualifying or disqualifying prospects.
2. Know your competition
Who else is offering a solution to the problem you solve? How does it work? How is it different from yours? How is it better or worse?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you better understand how to position yourself against them.
3. Identify the steps in your buyer’s journey
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What are the steps someone typically takes from the discovery of your product to purchase? Knowing this is crucial to understanding what happens and needs to happen in each stage for someone to move forward.
4. Map out the ‘milestones’
Once you know the steps of your typical buyer’s journey and what occurs in it, sit down and determine what it is you can do in each stage to help the prospect move forward to the next one. These are your milestones.
For example, if your bottom-of-the-funnel activity after online research is scheduling a discovery call, what is required to schedule that first meeting? What content can you provide? What discussions need to be had? The answers to these questions will make up the steps of your sales process.
Note: Ideally, your process will have at least four and no more than six stages — think prospect, lead, qualified lead, opportunity, and closable.
Establish a benchmark for how long a deal should be in each of these so you can keep your process moving. For example, while the prospect stage may take only seven days, how long should it take to move through the other stages at your company?
5. Integrate the process into your CRM
A well-maintained customer relationship management (CRM) database and software can make executing your sales cycle much more efficient and effective.
With this in mind, take a look at your new sales process and determine when and where it can be aided by your CRM.
In other words, is there an automated email that can be sent out when a particular field is filled out or after a meeting occurs? Should your sales reps be noting particular things in the CRM as they hold conversations?
Outline all of this and add it to your process. Sales process automation can make a world of difference.
6. Model a good conversation
To further aid your team, outline what a typical successful sales conversation or sales pitch may sound like. While not all conversations will be the same, this sample will give your sales team something to model their approach on and something to strive for.
7. Create content
Knowing your sales process and the journey of your potential customers, create or gather the content you need to aid it.
This may include but is not limited to articles and videos around what They Ask, You Answer calls The Big 5 (Price, Comparisons, Reviews, Best-of, and Problems).
8. Document it
With these steps in hand, document them! Get the sales process written out in detail and shared somewhere everyone in your organization, especially sales, can easily view and access it.
9. Train your team
Next, train your sales team on the new process. Of course, the new documentation will be available for reference, but it’s important to actually walk your sales reps through the new process and give them the opportunity to ask questions or provide feedback before they start implementing it.
10. Test and refine
As great as it would be, it’s more than likely that your sales process won’t be perfect right off the bat. You need to see how it performs in real life to spot any gaps or areas for improvement.
Once your sales reps are trained, have them follow the process to a T and take note of what worked, what didn’t, what was missing, or what wasn’t needed.
Based on their feedback, your sales team can connect and refine the process as needed.
If you find yourself struggling to work through this process on your own, you might want to consider reaching out to a professional sales development firm to help you define the stages and get set up in a CRM, among other things. Baseline Selling by Dave Kurlan is also a helpful read for getting you on the right track.
Next steps for your sales team
Selling is not easy, but having a well-thought-out, consistent, and of course, tried and tested sales process can do wonders to help you close more qualified leads.
Use the advice and steps above to start setting yourself up for sales process success, and if you still need guidance, we can help.