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Co-Written with Rachel Epstein

Salespeople often don't enjoy following imposed rules around selling. And we get it - it can seem more like a burden than a benefit. But companies without a formalized and documented sales process are more likely to have underperforming reps who generate less revenue.

In fact, HBR reports that companies with a formal sales processes in place see a 28% increase in revenue. It’s simple… if you don't have a formalized and documented sales process, you can't expect to grow revenue.

Let’s review. What is a sales process?

A sales process is a set of repeatable steps that guides a sales rep on how to take a prospect from awareness stage to a closed deal.

As an example, a typical sales cycle consists of the following steps:

  1. Prospecting: The process of identifying potential customers through activities such as market research and lead generation.
  2. Initial contact: The first point of contact between the salesperson and the prospect through calls, connecting on LinkedIn or sending a prospecting email.
  3. Qualification: The process of determining whether a prospect is a good fit for the product or service being sold through asking discovering questions and conducting needs analysis.
  4. Solution presentation: The process of presenting the solution to the prospect through a demo, prepared deck or providing a proposal.
  5. Negotiation: This step includes discussing price, dealing with objections and closing the deal.
  6. Post-sale: The process of following up with the customer after the sale is complete to provide support, conduct customer satisfaction surveys/NPS, and handing off to a customer success team when relevant.

Here’s a check list of sales processes that you need to have formal and documented steps for:

  • Prospecting
  • Discovery/Qualification
  • Demonstration/Presentation
  • Negotiation
  • Nurture
  • Hand-off to AM/CSM
  • Implementation/Onboarding
  • Support
  • Renewal

While you may have a few “natural born sellers” out there who can close big deals without following a formula, creating sales processes will help provide discipline and prevent the team from frantically chasing after leads and prospects hoping they will convert to sales. In fact, your “natural born sellers” will also benefit from formalization of sales processes as it may help them understand what makes their seemingly lone wolf techniques so effective and will create a more unified culture on your sales team. Creating sales processes will give your team a roadmap to follow to more efficiently and effectively close deals.

If you’re a founder and have been doing the selling on your own, taking the time to analyze your current processes will help you begin to formulate a simple process so that you can pass your knowledge to your first sales hires and get them ramped up quickly.

If increased revenue wasn’t enough to convince you, here are some additional benefits of a formalized sales process:

  1. A formal onboarding process for new reps = quicker ramp up time and ability to scale faster
  2. Reps following the same, repeatable process = data/analytics will be more accurate
  3. More accurate data = actionable insights on where to allocate resources for tech and tools
  4. Better tech and tools = improved overall rep performance and forecasting accuracy
  5. All of the above = better experience for the prospect and less friction and guesswork for your sales reps!

I’m bought in. How do I start?

🔥 Start by making sure you’ve documented your ICP and Personas. This will be the foundation for other process decisions you’ll be making

🔥 Analyze your current processes. Whether you are the sole salesperson (we’re looking at you CEO/Founder turned part-time senior Sales Exec 💪🏼) or there are a few sales reps already in place, take some time to observe what’s working in your current process and what isn’t. This will help you focus on what to do more of and what you need to stop doing quickly (and probably replace with automation / better sales training etc.)

🔥 Revisit closed/won deals and look for actions that your sales reps might have taken that showed up in multiple deals that helped to push them to the finish line consistently.

Ask yourself:

  • What made those customers buy?
  • What did the reps do that made a difference?
  • How many conversations and demos did it take to close that lead?
  • How many emails went back and forth?
  • What was the deal cycle?
  • How long did it take from prospecting to close?
  • What were the steps along the way?

🔥 Review (or create) a prospecting process. A poor or non-existent prospecting process means that your clients are picking you and not the other way around.

🔥 Spend time reviewing your sales pipeline to define your unique pipeline stages and create a check list of activities that need to happen in each stage to create consistency and best practices. Every company has different pipeline stages and understanding yours if the first step to outlining a sales process. Here’s a sales pipeline example from Hubspot CRM to get you started.

🔥 Next, dig deeper to understand what the pain-points were for your prospects along the way. Could you or your team have been better prepared with marketing materials like infographics or ebooks? What would help mitigate or ease those pain-points in the future?

🔥 Once you have a better understanding of your current process, take some time to think about what can be improved or automated in your process. Are you repeating steps manually multiple times that can be automated? Could the sales team have benefited from some pre-made saved templates to use if they are answering the same questions over and over again? Are you wasting significant time in one part of the pipeline? What is the biggest roadblock on your deals?

🔥 Now, look at the process through your prospect’s point of view and define your target persona’s buyer’s journey so that you can make sure your sales process is aligned with your buyer’s journey.

🔥 Bonus: CALL your customers and ask them what’s changed since using your product? How would they describe your product to a friend? Use that in your next sales pitch and work it into your process.

Looking for additional resources?

💫 Explore HubSpot training guides, templates, and academy to take advantage of their excellent free resources to guide you in building your sales process

🎶 Follow and sign up for Kevin "KD" Dorsey’s Patreon where he walks you through setting up a sales playbook and creating processes that get rep buy-in and participation

🙌🏽 Sign up for my Udemy Course for more on prospecting processes

A few final thoughts on Sales Process for Revenue Growth

Optimizing your sales processes is an ongoing task. You will need to revisit the process throughout the year to look for areas of improvement, iterate as needed, test out new theories, work closely with reps that are executing well and those that aren’t and consistently monitor the pipeline as your team grows. A great sales leader will be able to identify what the roadblocks are in the process - whether that’s automation, sales skills, product issues, tech and tools or culture - and work with the appropriate teams to resolve those issues. Remember - a sales process is not a strict set of rules for your reps to follow verbatim. Rather, think of it as a guide that your sales reps can use to manage their pipeline most effectively, without all the guesswork, while still maintaining their unique selling style.