What is a sales process?

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A sales process is, at its core, just like any other process. It is a series of steps and activities made in a predetermined order to achieve something. In this case, a sale. In complex B2B sales, the sales process can easily become complicated as it often involves many different steps, several different people, and a combination of both products and services.

Exactly which sales process is right for your business is impossible for us to answer. What we can inspire you with is an overall sales process in eight different steps that are included in all sales. In some companies, the same person is responsible for all 8 steps. While in another company, the sales process may be split between 3, 4, or 5 different people or even departments.

Why do you need a sales process?

Have you heard the daunting figure “8% of salespeople account for 80% of sales”? That may not be a direct truth in all companies. However, it highlights something true no matter what company you work for. Namely, that there is a “Bell Curve” in all sales organizations. What this means is that every sales organization in the world will have some salespeople who sell more, some salespeople who are the masses, and some salespeople who don’t sell much.

The biggest reason why your company needs a sales process is to ensure that all salespeople take the necessary steps to close a deal. Given the distribution of performance in a sales team, there are things that a top performer does that a low performer does not. The value of the sales process is to identify those things that are successful and ensure that all salespeople use them in their selling. Furthermore, companies with a structured sales process have 18% better growth than companies that don’t have it. Those companies that take the structured sales process to the next level and go deep into the management of their open opportunities have 28% higher revenue growth.

The organization has a responsibility to both put a sales process in place and to continuously train and educate salespeople in the implementation of the different steps. This leads to sellers being given the right conditions to succeed.

The 8 different steps of the sales process in B2B sales

You will find out the eight steps of the sales process and you will get a short description of what each step means. Then you will get a template to create a structured sales process that suits your company.

1. The first step in the sales process: Prospecting

The first step is prospecting because you need to know who might want to buy from you before you can even start selling. We need to know who to contact and it’s about identifying who is the ideal customer for your business. This could be a completely new company, but it could also be new business opportunities with your existing customers.

2. The second step in the sales process: Contact

When you have identified the companies and people you want to work with. Of course, you need to start contacting them and it is important to work smart here. Decision makers are drowning in contact attempts from salespeople and you want to stand out from the crowd. It’s all about using the various tools at your disposal, but you also need to hone your message and the personal touch. The goal of the contact step is to book a meeting with your potential customer.

3. The third step in the sales process: Understanding

With a first meeting scheduled, many salespeople’s instinct is to start talking and presenting their solution right away. However, we are far from having a sporting chance of selling to the customer. This is why the step is called “understand” and not “sell”. The goal of the first step is for you as a salesperson to understand the customer’s vision and goals. At the same time, you need to get an understanding of where they are today. So how do you create a world-class customer meeting where you both build a relationship with the customer and get the opportunity to understand their needs in-depth?

4. The fourth step in the sales process: Solve

When you have mapped the customer’s needs and see an opportunity to solve them through your products or services. It’s obviously about presenting it to the customer. Here you use the customer’s needs when presenting the solution so that the customer understands what the benefits are. Furthermore, it is important that they feel credible that you have succeeded in helping other customers in similar situations to solve their challenges.

5. The fifth step in the sales process: Confirm

We’ve come to the step that is many salespeople’s favorite. If you have done the work leading up to the confirmation step correctly. You have the opportunity to close the deal right away. What is much more common is that the customer starts to get nervous and starts to share their doubts. Whatever the doubts are, you need to become good at handling them in a way that makes the customer feel seen and heard. In larger deals with longer sales processes, the goal of this step is to schedule a concrete next step in the calendar.

6. The sixth step in the sales process: Delivering

In this step of the sales process, we as sellers may not always be involved. That’s why it’s particularly important to set the right expectations together with the customer. You need to get good at not giving the customer false hopes or promising things that you can’t help with. Otherwise, you risk having a customer who is both shocked and dissatisfied when the communication is handed over to someone else. If they also find out that you promised things that the delivery department cannot solve, you have a big problem.

7. The seventh step in the sales process: Follow-up

The penultimate step in the sales process is follow-up. What’s important in this step is to give the customer insights into the great results they have achieved by working with your company. Here you can also learn important lessons to develop your sales process in the future.

8. The eighth step in the sales process: Referring

The final step in the sales process is to get your customers to recommend you to others. Assuming you’ve done all the other steps well, you’ll have a customer who wants to make an effort on your behalf. You will have customers and people who speak highly of you in various contexts. Simply put, you will have created an ambassador who will help you sell to new customers.

Template: How to create a structured sales process

1. Look at how you brought in your current customers

One of your best information points when creating your sales process. is to work backward from how your current customers bought from you. What was important for the customer to know? What questions and doubts did the customer have during their buying process? What challenges did the customer have? Why did they choose you and not another company? What value do they perceive from buying from you?

2. Map all steps and milestones in the sales process

Depending on the nature of your sales cycle, the sales process can vary in length and have a variety of steps. Some common elements are:

  • Several contact attempts in different channels
  • Qualification
  • Several meetings with different purposes and goals
  • Quotes or business proposals
  • Negotiations and contract signing

There are certainly lessons to be learned from past business wins and losses. What steps were missed when the deal didn’t go through? What did you do extra well to make a deal go smoothly? What doubts and objections arise at different stages of the process? What critical points do you as a salesperson need to be aware of to know if your prospect can become a good customer or not?

3. Define what each step means

When you define what each step means, you take the previous point one step further. Here you can dig into the details of each step and milestone in the process. Which contact routes have been most successful in setting up a meeting? What questions are asked in the sales meeting to get the prospect interested? How many meetings are required to bring the process closer to closure? How can you anticipate doubts?

4. Train salespeople to carry out the steps in the process

Once the sales process is defined, structured, and put in place, salespeople will still have a lot of habitual behaviors that need to change. Maybe they are used to conducting customer meetings in a completely different way. Then you as a sales manager need to ensure that the salespeople feel confident in conducting the customer meeting according to the sales process.

Do your salespeople need to practice their sales techniques or effectively get into the sales process? Then you can book them for sales training with Salesonomics. We’ll help you get your newly hired salespeople to deliver results faster and your existing ones to reach higher levels and stay longer in the company.

5. Build the process into your CRM and add/remove steps as needed

A structured sales process is of no use if it is buried in a document somewhere. It needs to be a natural part of the salesperson’s work and everyday life. A great way to build in the sales process is to do it in a CRM system. With a good CRM system, you make sure that the sellers follow the process and have support for different parts of the process. A big bonus of putting the sales process in a system is that you will collect lots of data. It’s also easy to update and adjust the process as needed. Maybe you thought it took more than 3 meetings to close the deal? When you look at the data in your CRM, it turns out that you have a much lower chance of closing the deal if there are 3 or more customer meetings.

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Simon Blanche