Why You Need a Sales Process, and How to Find the Right One for Your Organization
Companies following a sales process can increase their revenue by at least 18%, according to the Harvard Business Review.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to know about the benefits of a sales process, and how to select the right one for your organization. Let’s get started.
What is a sales process?
A sales process is a repeatable set of steps followed by sales professionals to guide a prospect or customer through each stage of the buyer’s journey. An effective sales process starts at the prospecting stage—before the salesperson even comes in contact with the buyer—and will lead through to the close and after-sale follow-up.
Sales process vs sales methodology - what’s the difference?
While the terms “sales process” and “sales methodology” are related, there is a difference between the two.
A structured sales process is a specific set of steps used in selling. You can think of it like a roadmap that guides sales reps through the sales cycle.
A sales methodology, on the other hand, is an approach to driving sales effectiveness and developing sales skills.
Sales methodologies typically have a focus and are often developed by sales training vendors or consultants. An example of a more general sales methodology is consultative selling, where the approach is to treat the selling process like a consultation with the buyer, and then offer the most appropriate solution (which may or may not be your product or service.)
Learn more about the Top 7 Consultative Sales Approach Strategies for Your Sales Team.
Must have elements
A structured, sequential sales process is critical for keeping sales reps organized and in line with the prospect or customer through the buyer’s journey.
You may be asking yourself, “what steps should be included?”
It shouldn’t be overly complicated, but must include the following elements:
The first step begins before a sales rep ever meets with a lead.
Your salespeople should do a thorough investigation to find out all there is to know about their potential customers, including company and industry news, market challenges, etc.
This pre-call planning stage allows your reps to show up to the call as subject matter experts, and be viewed as a strategic resource by the buyer.
Adapting to Buyer Style
People make purchasing decisions differently. In today’s fast-paced world, salespeople have a very narrow opportunity to make a positive connection with a potential buyer.
That’s why it’s a must for salespeople to be able to quickly identify the buying behavior style of their prospects—and adapt their approach to match.
To get to the root of the prospect or customer’s challenge, your sales team must dedicate time and attention to their questioning strategy.
This step gives sales professionals the information necessary to make the most appropriate recommendation.
Once a rep has gathered the necessary information by asking strategic probing questions, they can present your product or service as the solution to the prospect’s needs.
Salespeople often try to shorten the sales cycle by jumping prematurely to the recommendation step. It’s important that the previous steps have been taken to effectively guide the buyer through the decision-making process.
Closing up the details of the sale is not the final step in the sales process. Your reps should have a plan to follow-up with a buyer upon delivery and to establish a long-term relationship that leads to repeat business and referrals.
Benefits of having a comprehensive sales process
For most, the greatest benefit of following a sales process is the increased likelihood of closing a sale and the additional revenue that comes with winning more deals.
Here are 8 other benefits that make implementing a sales process across your sales organization worthwhile.
Establishes a Common Language Across the Team
When every member of your sales team is operating by the same sales process, a common, consistent language can be established.
A common language around sales leads to a stronger sales culture and a cohesiveness that improves team dynamics.
Improves Sales Coaching Effectiveness
When all members of the sales team are following the same game plan, conversations around opportunities are streamlined, and deal coaching is much more effective.
Imagine, at any given time a sales manager can meet with a rep and ask about a specific opportunity.
- “What stage of the sales process are you in?”
- “How qualified is the opportunity on a scale of 1-5?”
- “What’s your next definitive step?”
Soon your sales reps will expect the questions and will be prepared to quickly answer them–leaving more time for coaching.
Helps with Time Management
Time management is a big challenge for sales professionals.
Having a sales process gives sales reps a guide to follow every single day. They can organize their schedules based on the activities that must be completed within each stage of the sales process, and they can find a rhythm by using a step-by-step approach.
Improves Forecast Accuracy
According to SalesForce, a documented sales process is key to improving forecast accuracy.
By connecting a solid process to the pipeline stages, activities and milestones can be clearly outlined, conversations with reps are streamlined, and forecasting accuracy improves.
To learn more about improving sales forecast accuracy with a common process check out this post.
Aligns the Organization
A strong sales culture requires a focus on sales enablement and alignment between all departments in your organization.
This alignment is strengthened when departments outside of sales—especially marketing and customer service—are trained in the sales process.
Imagine how much more productive your organization would be if your marketing department understood the sales process and could provide marketing materials for every step of the buyer’s journey.
Strengthens Sales Culture
A high-performing sales culture doesn’t just happen on its own. It needs to be intentionally built, and implementing a standard sales process across your team is one of the most effective ways to do that.
“If you’re struggling with your sales team’s performance, you’ve got to pick a sales process. This is not the fancy stuff, this is fundamentals. If you look at any great team, they’ve mastered the fundamentals.”
Owner of ATCOM and long-time user of IMPACT Selling®
Helps Technical Sales Reps Become More Business Minded
Technical salespeople can be like walking encyclopedias. Their knowledge is important, but if they’re “data dumping” or “feature dumping” during a sales call, it can have a negative effect on a prospect.
A solid, repeatable sales process can help technical sales reps harness the knowledge they have in a powerful way.
In addition, technical sales reps tend to prefer systems and procedures—making it likely that they’ll embrace a sales process and follow it consistently.
Helps Reps Overcome Objections
Today’s buyers have knowledge about your competitors’ products and services at their fingertips, which means it’s critical that your salespeople be skilled at overcoming objections quickly and confidently.
If your salespeople are following a consultative and buyer-focused sales process, they’ll ideally be addressing any objections before they even come up. The pre-call planning step can help them prepare for the most common concerns and the most effective ways to address them.
How to map CRM to a sales process
To get your sales reps to use your CRM, you need to map it to your sales process. This way, the tool matches what your salespeople go through on a daily basis (meaning they’ll be more likely to use it.)
The first step is to define your sales process.
Next, you must determine which high-gain activities and metrics fall under each step. Focus on making your CRM helpful for your sales force, and explain that it’s not just for sales management to analyze funnel activity.
Best practices for mapping your sales process to your CRM:
- Track leading indicators (things that predict future performance and offer a chance for sales management to intervene with coaching) rather than lagging indicators (harder to change future outcome)
- Choose just a handful of core sales metrics that are most meaningful
- Communicate to your sales professional that CRM usage is a standard part of the sales process, not an option
How to use a sales process to communicate value
Research from SiriusDecisions shows that the biggest problem facing sales teams isn’t education, skills, technology, or budgets, but an inability of salespeople to communicate value to prospects.
Your salespeople can communicate value in the following ways:
- Align the selling process to the buying process – Smart salespeople who focus on the needs and wants of the prospect or customer follow a consistent selling process and align it to the process buyers are moving through themselves. This requires a sales process that’s built to be flexible enough to allow the rep to quickly meet the buyer where he or she is on the buyer’s journey.
- Work with the buyer to diagnose the challenge - Having a defined sales process in place allows a salesperson to know exactly where the buyer is in the process, and whether they need to take action to have them reverse and rethink the diagnosis by raising the right thought-provoking questions.
- Follow the sales process to create strategic business relationships - Following a sales process requires more planning and strategizing, and it forces salespeople to move away from transactional interactions and towards value-added business conversations. That increased customer-focus helps gain the trust of potential buyers and shows them the value the salesperson can provide.
How to choose the right sales process for your organization
If you want your salespeople to be organized, efficient, and successful, they must follow a standard sales process.
Tips for choosing the sales process that’s right for you:
- Look for a process that’s well-established and recognized in the sales effectiveness industry
- Select a process that makes sense for your selling environment (B2B, B2C, Enterprise, etc)
- Test drive the sales training live to see if it feels right for your team (by attending a training seminar, for example)
- Identify if it is adaptable or customizable to fit the needs of your organization
- Look for a process that’s simple enough for your salespeople to quickly learn and implement
How to implement a standardized sales process across your team
For any sales training initiative to be successful, there must be buy-in from the top down. Everyone involved in the training needs to understand what the training is, and believe in the value it can bring. That includes top-level executives, sales leadership, and of course—salespeople.
Tips for training your sales force:
- Work with a sales training partner who has experience in your industry and a track record for success
- Customize the training to account for your organization’s unique challenges, selling environment, and terminology
- Bridge the classroom to real-world gap with training material that mirrors your selling environment
- Increase participant engagement with accountability, gamification, and incentive-based training
- Reinforce the sales training and increase compliance with coaching follow-up and check-ins
VP of Sales, YETI
Which sales KPIs can you use to measure the success of your sales process?
It’s important to measure what kind of impact your sales training is having on your team’s performance. Remember to keep your metrics to a minimum in order to highlight the most important data.
The following core sales metrics are some of the most important when evaluating the ROI and effectiveness of your sales process training:
- New Accounts/Customers
- Win Rate
- Upsell/Cross-sell Rates
- Total Sales Volume
- Average Sale Amount
- Sales Quota Attainment
- Length of Sales Cycle