Sales tips and tricks can help you land sales, but if you want true consistency, you need a sales process.
A series of steps you can follow, and a workflow to guide your team. You need an overarching structure around which your sales tactics can work.
Okay. Cool. But how are you supposed to build that sales process?
I’m glad you asked 😉
I’ll walk you through how to create a sales process in 6 simple steps.
Table of Contents
- Sales Process vs. Sales Philosophy
- The 3 Main Purposes of a Sales Process
- The 6 Steps of a Successful Sales Process
- Step 1: Do Your Preliminary Research
- Step 2: Identify the Stages of Your Sales Cycle
- Step 3: Analyze Connection Points Between Stages
- Step 4: Connect Your Sales and Marketing Efforts
- Step 5: Measure Your Results
- Step 6: Analyze and Fine-Tune
- Gathering the Right Metrics
Sales Process vs. Sales Philosophy
Before I get into the details of creating a sales process from scratch, I want to clarify some terminology.
Your sales process and your sales philosophy are two different things.
What do I mean by that?
Well, your sales philosophy is a collection of ideas and sentiments about your sales approach.
For example, you might feel like the best sales approach is an inbound sales methodology; in other words, you want prospects to naturally discover your brand and figure out it’s the solution they need.
Alternatively, you could view sales as a collaborative problem-solving endeavor; rather than persuading customers to buy your product, maybe you’re all about working together with customers to figure out how to solve their problems.
Your sales process, on the other hand, is the series of actionable steps you take to find prospects, move them through the stages of your sales funnel, and eventually get them to make purchases.
Your sales process is generally motivated by your sales philosophy, and there’s a kind of back-and-forth you’ll experience when developing both. However, it’s important to identify them as separate concepts.
The 3 Main Purposes of a Sales Process
So what should a sales process include? What does a sales process look like?
To answer that, we need to address the three main purposes of a sales process:
1. To improve consistency within the sales team.
If all your salespeople are following the same process, they’ll all be holding themselves accountable to the same approach. Individuals may have different approaches and sales methodologies, but their overall approach will be the same. Once the sales process is perfected, this can help you achieve much better results. For help, see our guide to sales team management.
2. To easily onboard and train new salespeople.
Training new salespeople can be hard. But it’s a lot easier when you have the right documentation in place. All your new trainees can consult your sales process documents for answers to their questions—and for tips on how to succeed.
3. To provide opportunities for meaningful improvement.
Most importantly, your sales process is a tool for strategy improvement. With a documented sales process, you’ll have a much easier time pinpointing exactly where your sales strategy is going wrong. You can gradually adjust your sales process as you learn new information, and inch your way to perfection.
Ideally, your sales process should be formally documented. It should have every stage of the process clearly described, in such a way that even a complete outsider can understand it. Beyond that, it should be easy for anyone on the sales team to access and review.
It should outline all the steps necessary to move a person from prospect to closed customer. The level of detail is up to you—it depends on how rigidly you want your salespeople to follow it.
It also needs to take some kind of malleable, ever-updating form. You’re going to revisit this sales process frequently, improving your approach with every new technique you learn and every piece of data you analyze. It should be easily accessible.
Now, how exactly are you supposed to create your sales process?
The 6 Steps of a Successful Sales Process
Ready for the good stuff? Here are the steps to creating a successful sales process.
Step 1: Do Your Preliminary Research
The first step is to do some preliminary research. You’ll be able to craft a much better process if you have a clear understanding of your company, your industry, your customers, and your business environment.
I’ll make things easier by asking you some guiding questions.
What is your current sales process?
Does your business currently have a sales process, or something like it, in place? How are you currently using it? What do you think the strengths and weaknesses are? Are there components that it’s missing? Are all your salespeople following it? You may be able to use it as a starting point.
What are the unique hallmarks of this industry?
What is it that makes this industry unique when it comes to sales? For example, do the customers tend to make very big purchases after a long deliberation? Or do they tend to buy a lot of little things over the course of years? Is your target audience narrow? Do you encounter a lot of objections? The better you understand your industry, the better your sales process will be.
How are businesses like yours selling?
Think about your competitors. What kinds of sales tactics are they using, and what processes are they following? For example, do they tend to have an inbound approach? Is there a long sales cycle, or a shorter one?
Who is your target audience?
This is a big question. Who are your target demographics, and how do they behave? What is important to them? How do they come to a purchasing decision? How much time do they need to become a customer?
How do your target demographics respond to sales?
What kinds of sales objections do you usually see from your target demographics? What are the typical holdups?
Step 2: Identify the Stages of Your Sales Cycle
Next, you’ll start developing an outline for your sales process.
The idea here is to identify the broad stages of your sales cycle. In other words, what is the sequence of stages your prospects will go through as they gradually transform from unwitting stranger to lifetime customer?
This is obviously going to look different for different businesses and different industries, so come up with your own custom stages.
You might follow something like this.
Your initial stage might be prospecting, the process of finding people who belong to your target audience and/or introducing them to your brand.
You might prospect for customers by cold calling or cold emailing (see our guide to cold emails vs cold calls). You might do it by purchasing lists or data. You could also use an inbound strategy, like content marketing or social media marketing.
The exact techniques don’t matter at this part of process creation; what’s important is that you outline the general stage. Be sure to check out our step-by-step walkthrough on email prospecting.
Once you have a list of customers, you might decide to make initial contact.
At this point, you’ll introduce your prospects to your brand for the first time. You might do that with an introductory email, a friendly phone call, or even an in person conversation. You could even make first contact with an advertisement or a piece of marketing collateral.
After getting a batch of people semi-interested in your brand (or at least familiar with it), you might move onto qualifying.
Qualifying is all about filtering out the leads who aren’t relevant for your business. It’s a way of minimizing wasted time, and maximizing the time you spend on leads who are most likely to convert.
This could include filtering your web traffic, asking qualifying questions, or guiding prospects through web forms.
Then, you might move onto nurturing. The goal with nurturing is to keep your brand top of mind for a prolonged period of time, potentially introducing a prospect to more products and services.
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This is often done with an email drip campaign or a content marketing campaign.
Once you’ve nurtured a prospect for a sufficient period of time, you’ll be in a position to make the pitch.
Here, many businesses make the attempt to close the sale. They introduce the product or service resolutely, and try to close the deal.
Objection management is often a part of the pitching process, but it may serve as its own phase of the sales cycle. Here, your goal will be identifying and gradually eliminating the objections your prospects have to your products or services.
As you manage objections, you’ll move to closing—the point where the deal comes to a close (or doesn’t). Here’s the phase where all your sales techniques will come in clutch. Pull out all the stops and onboard your new customer. Check out our guide on how to close the sale for tricks on how to do it!
Ongoing relationship building
In most businesses, the sales process doesn’t just stop when you bring on a customer. From there, your job becomes ongoing relationship building, which is a core tenet of relationship selling.
How do you make sure your customer stays a customer? How can you get them to buy more?
Step 3: Analyze Connection Points Between Stages
The third stage forces you to think through your sales process as you’ve currently outlined it.
The idea here is to analyze the connection points between your individual sales process stages. For example, what is it that makes a person move from the nurturing phase to the pitch phase?
Here, it’s helpful to define two dimensions: motivation and customer action.
With motivation, you have to ask yourself, what will make a prospect want to move from one stage to the next? Will they discover something new about their needs or about your product?
Will they have spent a certain amount of time considering their options? Will they reach a certain point of the year or their business cycle?
With customer action, you have to figure out what will drive the customer to take the next requisite action, or what action you can take to move them to the next phase.
For example, can you invite them to click a link to try out a product demo? Should you call them directly?
Step 4: Connect Your Sales and Marketing Efforts
Sales and marketing are two different strategies, though they share some overlap.
Both sales and marketing attempt to bring more people to your brand. However, marketing is more about raising awareness of your brand and driving people to the first few stages of the sales process. Sales is all about closing the deal.
Once you have a general outline of your sales process, it’s time to attach it to your marketing funnel.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Where do your marketing and sales strategies overlap?
What common ground is held by your sales and marketing strategies? For example, do you have an email drip campaign that serves purposes for both marketers and salespeople on your team? How are these managed, and how do they play into your process overall?
Do your marketing and sales strategies have the same foundational philosophies?
A disconnect between your sales and marketing teams could be devastating for your overall sales strategy. For example, are you sure your marketing and sales strategies are targeting the same audience segments? Are all team members aware of the sales process and following it closely?
Is the transition for customers smooth?
What does a customer experience as they go from being merely aware of a brand to actively engaging with a sales team? What are they feeling? What do they think of your brand as they go through these steps?
Step 5: Measure Your Results
Your sales process is functionally useless if you don’t know how it’s working.
The whole idea behind implementing a sales process is to give you a chance to determine where it’s working, where it’s failing, and how you can improve.
To do that, you’ll need to have a way to measure your results.
For example, how many prospects do you lose between each phase?
How do customer attitudes change as they move through the process?
What are the close rates for different types of customers?
Where do you see the most drop-offs?
There are hundreds of sales analytics tools you can use to get hard numbers on these questions and others. Make sure you measure these consistently, so you can see how your strategy develops over time.
Step 6: Analyze and Fine-Tune
Finally, you’ll need to analyze your data and start fine-tuning your sales process.
For example, let’s say you lose a ton of customers between the initial contact and qualifying phase. What could be going wrong here? Are you waiting too long to follow up with prospects? Does your messaging fail to connect with prospects?
The best way to tinker with your sales process is to experiment.
That’s right. Think like a scientist.
Start with a hypothesis, then design an experiment. Can you try a different email? A new style of advertising? New messaging from the ground up? Give it a whirl, see how it fares, and note the differences in your sales metrics.
If it works, keep it. If it doesn’t, experiment again.
It may not seem like much, but if you follow this formula consistently, you’ll gradually evolve your sales process to perfection. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in inside sales vs outside sales!
Gathering the Right Metrics
You’ve got the process down. But remember—you won’t get far unless you can measure your results!
That’s where EmailAnalytics comes in.
It’s a tool we’ve designed for analyzing your email communication, which is usually a big part of salesperson’s day.
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From there, you’ll gain access to just about every sales and productivity metric you’ve ever wanted to measure. Your average email response time. Your busiest days of the week and times of day. Your number of emails sent and received. Everything.
You can use these metrics to fine-tune your sales process, and finally start closing more deals.
Ready to get started? You can sign up for a free trial today!
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.