What is a sales process?
A sales process is a repeatable set of steps that your sales team takes to guide a prospect through each stage of the buyer’s journey in order to convert them into a paying customer.
Why is this so important? You don't need me to tell you how important it is for your reps to do their jobs effectively!
However, one this is for sure, your sales team needs a well defined sales methodology for them to follow in order to increase sales performance in your organization.
In this post you're going to learn how to outline and standardize your sales process so that you can sell more and sell faster.
Sales process steps
The steps in a sales process are not a one-size-feeds-all approach. Typically, a sales process consists of 5-7 stages.
Here's a common 6 step sales process that I will use in this post:
- Initial Contact & Qualifying
- Objection Handling
- Follow-Ups, Repeat Business & Referrals
The goal is to align your sales process to the buyer journey and to do this, you need to think of the sales process from 2 perspectives, the front stage and the backstage.
- The Front Stage - This represents the steps your buyer takes (the buyer journey).
- The Back Stage - This represents your people, process and technology that are needed to move the buyer through the buyer journey.
To explain this better, let’s go back to the pizza tracker that I mentioned in my post, What is a sales pipeline?.
I'm going to show you how Domino's aligns their front stage and the back stage to create an amazing customer experience.
The Pizza Journey
The customer goes to Domino's website and follows a series of steps to place their order online. After placing the order they are able to track the Pizza Journey with the pizza tracker.
- Step 1 - the pizza tracker indicates that the order has been placed
- Step 2 - indicates that the pizza is in the preparation phase
- Step 3 - the pizza is in the baking process
- Step 4 - indicates that the pizza is inspected and packed
- Step 5 - indicates pizza is ready for pick up or is in the delivery stage
- In the last step you can track where the pizza is located
In the backstage, there are a series of tasks that have to be completed at each stage before advancing the pizza to the next stage on the pizza tracker.
Stage 1: Order Placed
- The order is captured and displayed on the computer terminal.
- The Domino’s employee views the order and begins the process of manufacturing the pizza.
Stage 2: Prepping
- The dough is made fresh in the morning and is prepared as a batch – that is, based on expected production volume
- Sauce is applied once the dough ball is flattened, the Domino’s worker uses a scoring tool to place divots into the dough.
- Spreading the cheese is done using a special device that holds and accurately distributes the specified amount of cheese evenly for the pizza size once it is spun.
- Toppings are added manually
STEP 3: Bake
- The pizza is placed in the oven.
- As the pizza is placed, the Domino’s employee starts a timer.
STEP 4: Box Pizza
- When the pizza rolls off the oven, it is placed in a box that has the customer’s order label on it.
STEP 5: Delivery
- When the label is printed, that’s the signal to the Pizza Tracker that the customer’s order is now in the “Delivery” state.
If I made you hungry. Here's a link to the Domino's.
The reason why I walked you through the pizza journey is because it's a great way to see how the buyer journey aligns with a backstage process. This is very much how you want to design the sales process for your organization.
Congratulations on reading to this point! You're on your way to understanding how to align it to you sales process to the buyer journey!
Keep reading to learn more.
The Buyers Journey
Before we can start aligning the sales process to the buyer journey we need to understand what is the buyer journey and the different stages that make up the buyer journey.
What is the Buyer Journey?
The buyer’s journey is the process buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and make a decision to purchase a new product or service.
It's important to understand that the Business-To-Business (B2B) buyer’s journey is more complex than a Business-To-Consumer (B2C) buyer's journey because there are usually multiple stakeholders involved in the purchasing decision and the sales cycle is much longer. That’s why mapping the buyer’s journey and aligning it with your sales process is going to be critical to your success.
The following 3 stages are the foundation for any buyer journey, however they can be broken down into further steps based on your business for more granularity.
In the awareness stage, the buyer realizes they have a pain point they need to learn more about. The buyer conducts educational research typically by searching online to understand the pain point they’re experiencing. They will try to get clarity on the pain point and try to identify the potential causes of the problem. In addition, they will be explore how others have addressed similar paint points and what are the best practices being used to address the problem.
Based on their research in the awareness stage, the buyer has clearly defined the problem and has committed to learning about all the possible solutions to solving their problem.
They begin to take into account the various choices available to their business needs and they create a list of solution options.
The buyer needs to get approval from internal stakeholders that a solution is worth implementing to address their problem. Once approved, the buyer reduces their list of solution options into a shorter list, they evaluate the product through trials and demos, and then make a final decision.
Aligning The Sales Process to the Buyer Journey
So far, I have filled you in on what the buyer journey is, but I didn't mention the secret sauce...Drum roll please...
Your sales process needs to align with the buyer journey of your target persona in order for it to be effective.
You might be wondering, why?
As your salespeople are progressing through the stages of the sales process, their prospects and customers are on their own path, the buyer’s journey. When your sales representatives know where a prospect is in their buying process it helps them to ask the right questions, share the right resources and focus on their needs, all of this helps eliminate friction allowing the prospect to move to the next step in the buying process.
I've mentioned friction a few times, so I want explain what it is and why it's you need to eliminate it at all cost in the buyer journey and in your sales process.
Friction is what slows a potential customer’s progression through the buying process. This could be anything from a prospect not being able to download a resource on your website to a reminder not being sent for a demo.You can even create friction by discussing or presenting parts of a product or service that doesn't align with the buyer's problems.
Just like there can be friction in the buyer journey, there can also be friction in the sales process. This happens when your sales representatives don't have the right tools to get their job done efficiently, or maybe they don't have access to all the customer data they need to gain insights into whether the prospects is a good fit for the company. If you want to learn more about friction, check out Roger Dooly's book, Friction.
The key point to remember is the more friction in your buying and selling process, the more likely the buyer will find another solution.
Read on to learn more about the different steps in the sales process.
Sales Process Steps Explained
In order to understand each of the steps in the sales process. I'm going to walk you through the following 6 sales process steps that are commonly used in B2B sales that we mentioned earlier.
Step 1. Research and Qualification
Whether you are doing research on a lead that has entered into your sales funnel or if if you're business development representative is doing outbound, you need to make sure that you qualify each prospect.
These prospects (potential buyers) can be people who have opted into a lead form, or they can be people that you have identified based on their demographics, industry, or job title from a commercial database like LinkedIn's Sales Navigator.
Before you reaching out to them, you need to make sure they fit the profile of your buyer persona and you know their pain points and challenges that your solution can solve for them. Your objective is to align your content, messaging and positioning statement with their needs.
Common Tasks for prospecting:
- Perform online research
- Attend/Network at trade shows
- Attend local events (Meetup)
- Use market research tools
Step 2. Connection
At this stage you have done your research and your prospect appears to be a good fit. Now it's time to reach out and make a connection.
During the initial contact (discovery call), a sales development representative (SDR) or a business development representative (BDR) job is to follow a script and gather information and record it into the CRM.
Common tasks for qualifying prospects:
- Have series of qualifying questions prepared
- Identify pain points and urgency
- Identify decision maker
- Perform additional company research
Step 3. Validation
After you've made a connection, you need to confirm the pain points that you have identified for your buyer persona and confirm that they are facing the same challenges.
Common tasks for qualifying prospects:
- Establish rapport
- Get confirmation that their challenges align with the solution you offer.
- Identify decision maker
Don’t present them with the solution yet, just get the understanding of what the best solution would be.
Step 4. Offer Solution (Presentation / Demo)
When you offer a solution it should align specifically with the prospects needs, challenges and desired outcomes. This is done by aligning the customer's needs with the product's features and benefits that are most important to them.
Presentations and demos can take up valuable time, so you want to make sure that your prospect is absolutely qualified before moving them into this stage. During your presentation the prospect usually has questions or concerns you need to address. These are referred to as objections. These can pertain to anything from the price of the product, features, reliability of the solution and more.
Common tasks for presenting a solution:
- Prepare presentation deck for target company
- Perform additional company research
- Offer a free audit or action to establish a deeper connection
- Maintain objection handling worksheet for your sales team
- Schedule follow-up call / meeting with decision marker
Step 5. Closing
When it appears all objections or concerns have been answered, it’s time to close the sale. The objective is to close the deal as won by finalizing an agreement between the prospect and seller.
Common Tasks for closing:
- Deliver quote
- Getting approval from decision maker
How to Map the Sales Process
Analyze Current Sales Process
One of the first things you should do to implement or improve your sales process steps is to have a sales meeting with your representatives and to find out how they move a lead through the buyers journey to a closed sale. You should be relentless in trying to identify friction in your sales process.
Here's steps you can perform to analyze your sales process:
Observe how deals are currently being handled and how leads are entering your pipeline.
Here's some questions you should ask yourself:
- How are the leads entering the pipeline?
- How long does it takes to move a deal through the entire sales process?
- How many meetings are required to close a deal?
- How many phone calls are made during the sales cycle to a lead?
- How many emails are being sent to the lead? What is the open rate and click through rate?
- What are the major objections from leads?
Define a goal for each stage
In order to move a prospect from one stage to the next you need to define a goal that has to be achieved during each step. It's important to note that this goal should be viewed through the lens of the prospect.
Remember, the prospect is the buyer and they have all the power, so moving a prospect from to another stage because of a sales representative's actions would not be aligned with the buyer journey.
Questions to evaluate sales process
Here's some questions for evaluating your current sales process:
- What sales resources are available for each sales stage?
- Are you engaged in creating new resources?
- What is the utilization of the sales tools that have been provided to your sales people?
- Who created the content that is getting the most traction for your sales team?
- Are you getting feedback on your resources?
- Do your sales people identify the decision maker before moving to the next stage?
- Did the representative record the pain points for the prospect?
- How engaged was the prospect during the demo?
- What questions did they ask?
At this stage you should have a clarity on how deals are moving through your sales process and where the friction is located.
Create a Sales Process Map
The next step is to map out the entire sales process that's aligned to the buyer journey. It's important to remember this, "People don't buy products, they buy solutions to problems". So when mapping out your buyer journey put emphasis on identifying the problem first and stay focused on providing a solution that's illustrates that you are the best choice for solving the problem that they have presented.
As I have previously mentioned, the criteria you set for moving deals through the sales cycle must be based on actions that the buyer has taken. As you can see in the image above the deal should not move to the consideration stage until you get the following:
- The buyer has communicated their pain points
- The buyer provided insights into the organization
- The buyer discussed the companies initiatives that relate to the solution
- The buyer has specified an implementation date for the solution
- The buyer has shown interest in moving forward
The next steps…
In the next article in this sales process series, I’ll show you what is a sales pipeline and how it relates to the sales process. It's a must read if you want to start selling more with sales CRM software.