At first glance, creating a sales process may seem like more of a burden than an asset.

After all, most salespeople don’t want to deal with a rigid set of rules and guidelines that dictate the way they do their job.

But pump the brakes.

A well put together sales process not only helps rep be way more awesome and convert more leads, it makes their lives a lot easier.

Here’s the ultimate guide to creating an effective sales process that keeps your entire team on the same page.

What Exactly is a Sales Process?

But before we get in too deep, let me first give you an official definition.

A sales process is a series of steps salespeople follow to take a prospect from being an early stage lead to a paying customer.

A sales process can be rinsed and repeated and moves leads through the sales cycle quicker and more efficiently, minimizing friction along the way and creating a better overall customer experience.

That way your reps can get leads from here…

…to here with minimal drama.

So, rather than having each rep “going rogue” where they do their own thing, blindly chasing after leads and hoping they convert, they follow a systematic formula they know for a fact gets the best results.

This video from Mike Carroll, Head of Growth at Nutshell CRM offers a nice 60-second explanation of what a sales process is.

Why is a Sales Process Important?

It’s simple.

Using an effective sales process helps salespeople perform better, convert more leads quicker, and increase revenue.

“According to research by the Sales Management Association, “90% of companies that use a formal, guided sales process were ranked as the highest performing.”

And on average, companies that master a formal sales funnel generate 28% more revenue.

Here are some of the specific benefits that stem from having an effective sales process in place:

  • Develop a better, more unified sales team structure
  • Follow a clear course every step of the way
  • Find qualified leads with greater ease
  • Reduce sales inefficiencies
  • Create a better and more consistent customer experience
  • Onboard new reps quickly and easily
  • Create more accurate sales forecasts

The 7 Steps of a Sales Process

Now let’s get into the nitty-gritty.

How to create a sales process that not only works but is absolutely electrifying.

Let me start off by saying that the specifics of each company’s sales process will vary slightly, and there will inevitably be subtle nuances.

But there are seven core steps that apply universally across the board.

Here’s what they are.

And here’s how to develop each step for your team, so in time they can master the overall sales process and be complete bosses.

“Prospecting is the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers for your products or services,” explains Cambria Davies of HubSpot.

1. Prospect and Begin Outreach

“The goal is to move these prospects through the sales funnel until they convert to revenue-generating customers.”

This is the first step where you figure what your ideal customer profile is, identify potential buyers, and make initial contact.

There are two main types of prospecting — inbound and outbound.

Inbound prospecting typically revolves around creating quality content like newsletters, webinars, and eBooks where you ask for contact information. To download it, a person just needs to enter their email address. Once they enter it, they’re officially a prospect.

Outbound prospecting, on the other hand, involves “building a list of potential prospects, that is, people and companies that could benefit from your products or services and reaching out to those prospects through cold outreach,” says Shawn Finder of automation software company Autoklose.

Some examples of outbound prospecting include reaching out to relevant LinkedIn users, asking for referrals from existing customers, and cold calling.

I’m personally a much bigger fan of inbound techniques, as they tend to be more effective and result in better quality leads (“experienced salespeople can expect to spend 7.5 hours of cold calling to get ONE qualified appointment!).

That said, outbound prospecting can certainly work.

But as a whole, I suggest placing your focus primarily on inbound.

The key to effective prospecting is to look at the data and figure out which specific techniques work the best for your company and make them your bread and butter.

I also recommend reading this guide from HubSpot because it’ll tell you pretty much everything you need to know about prospecting.

2. Qualify

Step two of the sales process is to qualify each lead to determine if they’re a fit for your business and whether they should be heavily pursued or if they need nurturing.

To do this, you’ll need to uncover some key information like:

  • What their overall interest level is
  • What they’re trying to accomplish
  • Their pain points
  • What current solutions they’re using (if any)
  • Budget

It’s also important to figure out if you’re dealing with a key decision-maker.

Ideally, you’ll be dealing with a sales qualified lead (SQL) and they’ll be someone in a position to pull the trigger and buy.

If not, this doesn’t necessarily mean your reps should scrap the lead.

But it does mean that they don’t command top priority, and they’ll likely need to be passed onto your marketing team so they can work on lead nurturing.

Note that “only 27% of B2B leads are sales-ready when first generated.”

So, in most cases, just under a quarter of leads will be fully qualified right off the bat and will warrant your sales team’s full attention.

The main question you’re probably asking yourself is, “How do you go about efficiently qualifying leads?”

Well, if your reps are speaking with a lead over the phone, they can do so by asking qualifying questions like:

  • What’s your number one goal?
  • What’s your role in your company?
  • What’s the size of your company?
  • What’s your budget?

At the end of the day, it’s all about coming up with an efficient way to qualify leads so you know which ones to focus on and which ones to nurture.

3. Assess Needs

This step builds upon step two and aims at gaining a firm grasp on what exactly it is that a lead is looking for in a solution.

At this point, your reps will strictly be dealing with qualified leads who have a legitimate interest in your brand.

It’s up to them to thoroughly assess the lead’s needs so they can pitch the right product (which is the next step I’ll discuss in just a minute).

How do you do this?

It really just boils down to asking the right questions such as:

  • What’s the number one problem you’re looking to solve?
  • Can you tell me about your situation?
  • What types of solutions are you looking at?
  • What do you like about your current solution?
  • What don’t you like about your current solution?
  • What are your main concerns?

I suggest developing a basic script for your team to follow to ensure a certain level of homogeneity.

And once you come up with the right mix of questions, stick with it because this will allow you to get to the bottom of each lead’s needs with laser precision.

4. Pitch the Product

This is arguably the most important step in the sales process because whether or not your rep converts depends upon how good their pitch is.

“The presentation step is typically when your salesperson runs a formal presentation or demonstration of your product or service for your prospect,” writes Cambria Davies of HubSpot.

“This step is time-consuming, so it typically comes deeper in the sales process and is reserved for more serious prospects — which is why the connecting and qualifying step is so critical.”

The key to successfully pitching a product is to make it hyper-relevant and personalized to each specific lead.

It should by no means be approached as a one-size-fits-all type of deal where a rep gives the same exact pitch over and over.

Sure, the main points like the core benefits and quantifiable data should overlap between pitches, but the details should be modified to connect your offer to the needs of each lead as an individual.

That’s why it’s so important for reps to make careful note of everything a lead tells them earlier on so they can tie everything together and hit all the right notes.

For some nice pointers on giving a killer demo, check out this video from SaaS growth consultant Dan Martell.

5. Handle Objections

Lead objections should never seem like unexpected curveballs that throw your reps off their game.

Instead, they should be anticipated and viewed as an opportunity to maximize conversions.

After all, if a rep can seamlessly overcome objections and instantly put a lead’s mind at ease, the odds of them buying skyrocket.

The fact that effectively handling objections is so important is why it has its own spot in the sales process.

Let me share with you seven of the most common sales objections reps will encounter, according to Bryan Gonzalez of HubSpot.

I suggest coming up with concrete ways to address these objections head on so that your reps can do so without skipping a beat.

Sarah Houlihan of Salesforce has some great ideas to get you started.

If everything has gone right, the sixth step is where the deal is officially closed and a sale is made.

6. Close the Deal

The exact activities that happen at this time can vary from one company to another, but it typically involves the lead agreeing upon a particular pricing plan and getting the official greenlight from key decision-makers.

Again, moving through this stage of the sales process effectively requires you to take a systematized approach that your reps can repeat every time.

7. Follow Up

The final part of the sales process is for the rep to stay in contact with a customer to ensure everything has gone smooth and strengthen the relationship.

“Not only should reps oversee that customers receive what they’ve purchased, but they should also play a part in transitioning customers to whichever team is responsible for onboarding and customer success,” HubSpot writer Cambria Davies adds.

This is integral to building loyalty and can help you earn valuable referrals later on down the road.

Sales Process FAQs

What’s a sales process?

It’s a series of steps salespeople follow to take a prospect from being an early stage lead to a paying customer.

Why is having a sales process important?

It provides reps with a repeatable series of steps to follow in order to:

  • Improve their performance
  • Move leads through the sales funnel quicker
  • Convert more leads with less friction
  • Increase revenue

What are the steps of a sales process?

  1. Prospect and begin outreach
  2. Qualify
  3. Assess needs
  4. Pitch the product
  5. Handle objections
  6. Close the deal
  7. Follow up

Setting Your Sales Team Up to Win

Like succeeding in most things, being great at sales demands that you have a crystallized game plan in place.

One that you know works and is repeatable.

Following the steps listed here should allow you to create an effective sales process that helps your team stay organized, make the best use of their time, and ultimately generate more revenue.

Originally published here.

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