How is ‘sales process’ defined?  Most often, a sales process refers to a repeatable set of steps your sales team takes with a prospect to convert them from early stage to a closed customer. A good sales process helps your reps consistently close deals by giving them a framework to follow, and is necessary to your company’s success. While building a repeatable and scalable sales process is not a breeze, it’s not as complicated as it might seem.

Outlining the Sales Process

There are usually anywhere from 3 to 7 stages in a sales process, depending on how complex the sale may be. Each stage consists of steps the sales team must perform in order to advance the sale from one stage to the next. Even if you’ve never formalized the sales process before, your sales reps are likely to have a general outline of sales activities they follow for a sale. So your first step should be gaining a full understanding of what your sales team is doing at present to convert leads to customers.

A clear way to do this is to take a few recent leads and sit down with your reps to get the answers to the following questions. That will help you understand the activities your sales team is performing as they go through the sales process.

  • How was the lead acquired?
  • How was the lead assigned to a particular rep?
  • How did the rep first reach out to the lead? Was it email or phone?
  • The number of attempts made by the rep to establish contact.
  • What questions did the rep ask in the initial conversation?
  • How were the lead’s answers recorded?
  • How did the rep follow up?
  • What materials (documents, files) were sent to the lead?
  • How was a pitch made to the lead? On site visit? Phone call? Webinar?
  • How did the rep prepare for the pitch?
  • When and how was the proposal delivered?
  • What was the negotiation process like? What were the sticking points?
  • If a lead was lost, what was the reason?
  • If the sale was completed, what was the first point of after sales contact with the customer?

Asking these questions is important, so you know that you’re not building a sales process that is not irrelevant or unfamiliar, but one that resonates with what the team is already doing. Furthermore, this ensures that you’re involving your sales reps from the beginning.

Stages of the sales process

Once you have some of the answers to the questions above, you can start looking at the stages of the sales process. Some of the common stages are:

  1. Prospect – This is the process of sourcing new and early stage leads to kick off the sales process. Prospecting can involve online research on websites like LinkedIn or Quora, or it can take place at conferences or industry events. It can also start with asking current customers for referrals. Prospecting for leads is a vital part of the sales process.
  2. Connect – Initiating contact with the new leads to gather some information and judge whether it is worth moving forward. This can happen during an initial connecting call, where the sales rep learns about the prospect’s pain points, challenges and goals. Common questions asked are ‘What problem are you trying to solve’?
  3. Research – Learning more about a prospect and their company as they progress through the sales process can help sales reps offer a more tailored experience, and improve the likelihood a deal will close. This might require the salesperson to speak with other people at the company in different departments to get a holistic view of the business and their objectives over the coming year.
  4. Present – If a prospect has displayed interest in your product or service, there is typically a formal demonstration or presentation of what is being sold. This step can be time consuming and usually involves the presence of an executive at the meeting.
  5. Close – The final stage, which refers to any activities that take place as a deal is being put into place, such as delivering a quote or proposal, negotiation, buy in from the decision makers. This is the step that all sales persons work towards.

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