The sales process is the epicentre of everything in sales—getting it wrong can send shockwaves through your business. A lack of process means salespeople constantly wing it, sales cycles linger on for what seems like forever, and sales leaders are left frustrated and unable to manage their teams. All this translates to inconsistent sales results, a position no manager likes to be in.
The importance of an effective sales process
For growing companies, not having the right sales process can cause a lot of havoc. For fast-growth companies, it can spell certain doom since there’s no accurate way to predict where their next sale—and therefore paycheck—will come from.
A solid sales process can fix all that. However, not any old process will do: you need to tailor it to your business and customer.
“Implementing a sales process can lead to phenomenal and consistent results,” says Paul O’Donohue, SalesStar’s Founder and Global CEO. “Some of our best breakthroughs with clients have come when they’ve taken time to develop a process based on best practice.
“When our clients implement a well thought out sales process, they grow, on average, by 20 percent.”
How to develop a sales process in four steps
1. Make it milestone centric
With clear, well-defined stages, or milestones, there’s no need for your salespeople to make up a process on the fly. Milestones not only make your salespeople more effective and hold them accountable to completing the right steps, but they also help managers know exactly where sales are in the pipeline—and what needs to happen to progress them into the next phase.
“With a milestone centric process, you can then start to measure opportunities as they come through and make a planned sales forecast,” says Paul.
Lastly, milestones make it easier for sales managers to coach their salespeople. The visibility a process provides means sales managers can identify the steps their reps excel and struggle in. In short, it helps them identify why their salespeople are or aren’t meeting their targets.
For example, without a process, all a manager knows is that their rep isn’t meeting their quota. However, with a milestone process in place, a manager might see that their sales rep is doing an excellent job of finding leads, but then fails when it comes to following them up. From there, the manager can take steps to coach their rep in this specific area.
2. Map your process to your customer journey
According to the 2017 World-Class Sales Practices Study, over half of sales organisations (54 percent) do not formally align their sales process—or other aspects of how they sell—to the specific journey their customers take.
A sales process that is not suited to your business and ideal customer is the equivalent of trying to run a 100-metre race in a pair of oversized slippers. You can still compete, but you’re not going to win anything—instead, you’re more likely to trip.
To develop an effective sales process, it needs to be fit for purpose—a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. According to the same study, organisations that do align their process to their customer journey report sales quota attainment rates of up to 14 percent greater than the average. It’s just another reason why establishing who your target markets are in your sales plan is so essential.
3. Involve your team
“A company might have 100 salespeople, but there are not 100 ways to sell a product. There’s one best practice way,” says Paul.
Calling upon your top salespeople to help develop the sales process can help you understand what best practice looks like. However, it’s just as important to talk to all of your team to get an understanding of what doesn’t work.
Moreover, in helping to develop the sales process, they buy into it, are more likely to follow it and, as a result, become more effective. This all leads to consistent results and shorter sales cycles.
“The big breakthroughs we’ve had is when companies do this,” says Paul. “They go from a handful of people using best practice to everyone.”
Lastly, having one process makes it much easier for a sales manager to coach, since they’re dealing with just one process instead of 100.
4. Keep it simple
When it comes to sales processes, “keep it simple” applies. People won’t follow a process that has information overload. Short, simple and to the point serves best.
Tip: Don’t forget to document it!
Having a formal, documented process is a huge asset to sales managers, particularly when they are coaching and onboarding new staff.
“A lot of sales managers struggle to develop an effective process in today’s selling environment; even those who have been in the game for a while,” says Paul.
“Sales has changed a lot in the last few years; strategies have changed. A few subtle tweaks can make a big difference in your ability to have an effective process and achieve the results you want.”