This guide was created and researched by Sebastian Lambert, CEO of FinancesOnline and our company’s guru on SaaS lead generation and growth hacking tactics. Sales process advice given below is based on his extensive experience with the SaaS and B2B market.
What is a sales process? It is a clearly defined series of steps taken by your sales reps to move opportunities from leads to conversion. Your goal, however, should be to follow a process that’s proven to bring in deals and wins for your company. In this article we’ll map all the key steps of a successful sales process for you.
If you follow these steps your team will be able to stick to best practices, avoid wasteful pursuits and, best of all, pinpoint bottlenecks and clearly measure outcomes. Likewise, having an efficient sales process will reflect on your sales leadership. It will showcase you have a vision as a leader and a result-oriented work style, which are two of the seven keys to sales success according to Forbes.
Note, however, that while a sales process involves distinct stages that must be followed to a tee, it must be flexible, too, to adapt to unique cases, sudden market shifts and evolving requirements.
Now, let’s discuss how to build a sales process that drives growth with a clear goal in each stage, one that will help you chart your unique sales road map and come up with time-tested strategies to improve sales growth.
The general stages of a sales process look like this:
There’s no need for you to reinvent the wheel. What should be important is to get the sales process working efficiently to reach your targets fast. So, when you’re figuring out how to build a sales process that drives growth, it’s important to understand, too, the sales methodologies that will work for your team.
In contrast to the sales process, sales methodology is how you approach each stage of the sales process. Not just the closing part, but, more importantly, how to loop back wins into the top of the funnel again so that you can get more business.
We can debate endlessly which methodology works best in the B2B space; but, ultimately, you’re the most qualified person to speak for your sales team. This much we can tell: inbound marketing is critical to shift from selling to helping.
For now, let’s talk about the steps to building a growth-driven sales process. If you have a process already in place but it’s not delivering the results, or your sales team is disorganized, these step-by-step tips may come in handy.
Before you implement a new sales process, take a look at your existing process. Consolidate your sales reps’ activities in the past month and look for patterns. These include:
Where applicable, plot the details in a graph by number of wins or losses and other key metrics in weekly and monthly formats. For instance, chart the best-performing customer touch points, sales reps and sales tools or identify the major obstacles in the pipeline.
You should also look for unique cases like bulk orders or custom requests; later, you can map a route that branches out from the main sales process for these cases.
Each company will have a unique sales process anchored on the general framework we’ve itemized above. Your aim is to mash up your sales team’s best practices with the time-tested framework.
Lump together your related current steps under their respective specific stages in the framework. For instance, all your sales reps’ activities to generate leads fall under the Prospect stage, while all customer touch points are under the Connect stage.
Under each stage, organize your sales reps’ activities in a parent-child hierarchy, where all related subtasks are under a mother task. For example, a follow-up task can be broken down into a sequence of subtasks: send a follow-up email, place a follow-up call and identify customer’s objections.
You can now see with clarity how your sales reps move from one stage to the next. You can also spot easily at what stages they spend most of their time and effort.
In the next step, you’ll peek into the other side of the fence to see: how buyers respond to your sales team’s actions.
Now that you have the stages laid out with clearly stated sales rep’s actions, you should drill down to specific buyer behaviors that trigger the move from one stage to the next.
Identify the causes of the prospect’s decision to accept/reject or be indifferent to an offer. If you lack data, you can interview your sales reps to fish out details on their experiences, not just general information. It might interest you to know that there are proven tools and techniques on how to overcome sales objections.
You should cover each sales stage and pinpoint specific causes for both positive and negative outcomes. For instance, in the Connect stage, why did a client agree to meet or accept a call or reply to your email or download your whitepaper? Does he have a problem you’re able to highlight? Why did a client reject an initial meeting? Was she busy? Not interested? Not motivated enough?
Spend time interrogating your sales reps for data that may make or break the company. Likewise, this is where you really empathize with buyers and look at things from their perspective, not your reps’ who will, unsurprisingly, try to put their best foot forward. In some cases, you have to fill in the blanks, the things that are not being said can be more important.
Note down these buyer behaviors under the sales stage where they occurred. In essence, you’re writing down the result of your sales reps’ actions for each stage. At this point, you will be able to see your sales process shaping along a cause-effect line.
Also, by then key metrics will be surfacing (e.g., number of calls accepted/rejected, opened emails, downloads). Capture all key metrics because they’ll be important to measure outcomes later. Knowing not just the number of sales you’re making but the reasons behind each stage’s milestone will allow you to standardize the entire process and replicate success.
So far you have assessed your existing process for its strengths, mashed it up against a general framework, identified your sales reps’ actions and pinpointed triggers that move prospects from one stage to the next. It’s time to consolidate everything to create a new sales process.
Before the rollout, go over this checklist:
Additionally, HubSpot suggests these useful steps for creating deal stages:
You now have a clear sales process that leverages your best practices and a measurable and time-tested framework.
At this point, I recommend you get a reliable sales and CRM platform like HubSpot. You’ll realize in step 5, you’ll need to adjust and re-adjust the sales process over time. Why not start off on the right foot?
There are many types and examples of CRM that can help you create a new sales process. HubSpot, for instance, is a sales and CRM platform that will allow you to customize the deal stages to match the evolving requirements of your sales process. This is important as you may need to drag the order of stages, rename some of the stages, add new stages and substages and even delete your current ones.
Considering that HubSpot is free, you get the following features that will greatly aid you in developing a working sales pipeline:
As your needs get more complex, your CRM platform and its features should be able to grow with you. It must scale up to paid plans for advanced tools like SEO and content strategy, goal-based nurturing and landing pages. Take a look at what’s available on the market in our CRM software category. You can try out HubSpot for free here.
A sales process is never static. The first weeks and months after the rollout will be a good time to evaluate how things are progressing.
Remember the graph of wins and losses you created in step 1? It’s a good benchmark to evaluate the weekly and monthly performance of the new sales process. Pay close attention to the rate of transition per stage. Are prospects being moved across stages faster now? If yes, you’re likely on the road to hitting new highs once you measure the standard sales metrics, such as:
Keep iterating over time by meeting with your sales reps to identify new opportunities, bottlenecks, and unforeseen results. Keep a record, too, of comparative reports to track progress and the historical milestones.
Likewise, your sales process should be integrated with your other business processes, primarily CRM, which is closely tied to your long-term sales success.
You’ll be busy capturing and implementing all these adjustments, that’s why I suggest you stick to one CRM platform, to avoid redoing the whole process from scratch with every adjustment. That simply takes away precious time from your sales goals.
Take a look at Sebastian Lambert’s CRM software guide to learn more about the most important aspects and features of such solutions.
You can also check our top 20 online CRM tools and see why we think HubSpot is the most cost-effective choice among the most popular CRM solutions.
FinancesOnline is available for free for all business professionals interested in an efficient way to find top-notch SaaS solutions. We are able to keep our service free of charge thanks to cooperation with some of the vendors, who are willing to pay us for traffic and sales opportunities provided by our website. Please note, that FinancesOnline lists all vendors, we’re not limited only to the ones that pay us, and all software providers have an equal opportunity to get featured in our rankings and comparisons, win awards, gather user reviews, all in our effort to give you reliable advice that will enable you to make well-informed purchase decisions.