Irrespective of industry, company size or product type, there is always a need for a sales team within an organization. You’ve completed hiring and have a team of rockstar salespeople waiting on you. The looming question on your mind is, “what now?” Within the team, the style of selling may vary from person to person, but a process is necessary to bring structure and order into a team of high-functioning salespeople. But, what is the sales process? More importantly, do you need one? Find the answers to these questions on this page.
Simply put, it is a repeatable set of actions and steps that a salesperson performs over a sales cycle to convert a prospect into a customer. Usually a tried-and-tested process, it acts as a guide for sales executives to move a deal through the sales pipeline and close it.
A process is necessary for any team who want to understand what happens on a timely basis. In a sales team, especially, there is a need to track metrics of activities like the number of emails sent, calls made, demos scheduled, and meetings completed. Think of the sales process as the atomic part of the revenue a team generates. A closer look at the process can indicate what went right/wrong and caused the hike/drop in the numbers.
But is there a need for a sales process? If you’re a sales manager handling a team that operates on no process, let me paint a picture. Your team is performing various activities each day, across accounts and deals. The only metric tracked is the number of closed deals and their value. There is no understanding of the number of activities performed by the salesperson on a daily basis. The revenue produced by the team is dipping, and no one has a clue as to why.
Does this sound familiar? Then yes, the team needs a sales process.
It is hard to analyze team performance if there are no activity metrics available. If you wish to understand how to take a deal forward, there has to be a set process which explains each stage of the process. Each salesperson should be accountable for sticking to the process and guiding the customer through a sale. With a process in place, it is easier to analyze bottlenecks and understand how each bottleneck could be tackled.
The terms sales process and sales methodology are often used interchangeably, but they are unique sales concepts with key differences.
The first step in the sales process is the search for new customers. A list of companies matching a use case is created. The shortlisted companies will have a potential challenge that can be solved by using the product. The ideal buyer from these companies is identified. An internal champion—not necessarily the decision maker—is contacted to establish a relationship with the company. The first touch point of conversation could be via a cold email or a cold call.
At this stage, the sales executive initiates a discovery call with the prospect to identify their challenges and pain points. They try and understand if the product can solve the prospect’s challenges. Sales executives explain to the prospect the features of the product that are relevant to their use case, focusing on how it could increase productivity and revenue.
Once qualified, the prospect has a potential customer status. The salesperson can then engage them in a Proof of Concept (POC). The POC intends to provide the prospect with an understanding of how the product can help them overcome their challenges. It is also an opportunity for the prospect to experiment with the product, using a free trial account for a limited period. The premium features of the product may be offered to the customer to help them evaluate the product as a whole.
Tackling objections is an invariant part of the sales cycle. Buyers are hesitant to agree to a product without much protest and need convincing. Based on their usage of the product, prospects can come back with various objections ranging from concerns over privacy to the pricing of the product. Though objections are a challenge, it can be an indicator of the prospect’s interest in the product. By successfully negotiating the objections, the prospect is convinced of the value of the product and be willing to invest in it.
Closer to the finish line, this stage includes activities like negotiations, the signing of final contracts, SLAs, implementation, customer success, support, and pricing. The two businesses discuss the terms of the partnership, and in some cases, the legal teams from both sides have a chat. Cue a happy dance from the sales team because the prospect is now a customer.
Customer success, though rarely done, is the underrated part of a sales process. However, nurturing a customer post-sale could ensure a decrease in churn. With exceptional customer support, the client may return to purchase a higher plan or even refer the product to a few businesses.
When all does not go well, and the customer does not buy the product, sales can still benefit from nurturing. Understanding the reason why the deal fell through would be an indicator of how to further nurture the prospect. In some cases, the timing may not be the best—the budget was already drafted, an important project is underway, or the decision maker is away on vacation. These are factors that are clearly beyond control. In others, they would have been looking for a feature that the product does not have. This, once again, is a difficult position to be in. It leads to an inevitable “Closed Lost.” But all hope is not lost, yet. Using email marketing, nurturing the lead could help revive them.
Sales processes vary according to the industry and product. Some may focus on customer acquisition, while others focus on retention. That said, the following steps are unchanging across sectors.
The best place to find the knowledge on creating a sales process is the company history. Look back on deals and accounts previously won and spot a pattern there. Identify how a pain point was leveraged to sell the customer on the absolute need for the product. It is easier to construct buyer personas by understanding who bought from you and exactly why they did it too. Based on the buyer personas, discern how the sales cycle proceeded and how each bottleneck was overcome.
Picture a funnel with water trickling through it. The wide brim can hold a handful of water droplets, but as it goes through the funnel, the drop drips individually. Similarly, the sales funnel starts off with a large number of leads, but only qualified leads move down further. For the funnel to make sense, each part of the funnel must be assigned a number. The top of the funnel must have, say, “X” number of leads. The middle of the funnel must have the qualified leads, ideally “X/2.” The bottom of the funnel should have deals moving to close, “X/4.” Each stage of the sales process should also have numbers associated with it. If a salesperson sends out 100 emails in a day, the expected open rate is 25, and the reply rate would be 1. Keeping this in mind, the salesperson has to send out 500 emails in a day to receive 5 leads, each day.
Each stage of the sales process must have different qualifying criteria. This criterion is defined by the number of interactions a prospect has with a salesperson and the outcome of it. In the first step of the process, a prospect is converted to a lead when they respond to an email or a call from the salesperson. The prospect is qualified when a pain point is identified as solvable by the product. They move through the next two stages when they engage with the salesperson in a product demo and negotiations of terms. The prospect is converted into a customer when they agree to the deal and purchase the product.
It has been established that much of the sales process is repetitive and monotonous. The activities done by a salesperson is the same across all leads, irrespective of deal size. Each stage of the sales process has a task that can be automated. Prospecting leads, sending cold emails and tracking email metrics are a consistent part of the salesperson’s routine. And that is just top of the funnel activities. Once a prospect is converted into a lead, the activities are again clockwork. Emails regarding meeting confirmation, follow-ups and those explaining the process of the trial account do not require much change. Reports tracking sales pipeline movement and executive metrics can be automated to re-introduce the fun into the sales process.
The ideal way to automate these tasks would be from within a CRM—given that all the necessary information is already within it. Data regarding customer activity on a web page or task reminders are available within a single framework. Sales process and sales pipeline management is made easier and the need for switching between windows of multiple applications is eliminated as all the processes happen within the CRM.
Fact: A salesperson spends 21% of their time sending emails to prospective customers. That is crucial time that could be spent interacting with customers. Eliminate typing the same email multiple times by creating a template that could be personalized for each contact. Follow up on the emails by analyzing metrics like open, click and reply from within the CRM and automate actions accordingly.
Consider an example. If a customer signs up for a product trial account, an automated welcome email could be the first touchpoint. As the customer traverses through the product trial, follow up emails could be sent containing information on how to set up the product, explaining modules of the product and how best to integrate with other apps.
Creating a performance report manually could be painstaking. Imagine if your CRM did it for you. Life would be so much simpler. Use the data present within the CRM wisely and generate reports within the CRM. You could set up for timely reports that gather information on a weekly or monthly basis and presents it to you in a pretty graph. For more specific functions, you can customize reports based on the parameters you wish to track.
For example: Track regular metrics like emails sent, phone calls completed and pipeline movements using automated reports. Keep track of deals won or customers in a higher price plan by customizing reports to be generated for each month.
The sales cycle is a repetitive one, with multiple errands that are repeated on a timely basis. Tasks like follow up emails, invoice generation or report generation are done on a recurring basis. Doing this manually on a never-ending loop could feel mundane to the sales executive. Automating this process in the form of a workflow for each step of the sales cycle will make their lives easier.
An example of automated workflows is setting triggers within the CRM, that when activated perform a task accordingly. If a lead responds to an email sent by a representative, the status of the lead could be automated to change to “Lead Responded,” without a manual type-in by the salesperson.
The top of your sales funnel could be overflowing with an excess of leads. By definition, these leads are people who have interacted with the product and website. But not all leads are same. A lead who replied to an email should be ranked higher than a lead who clicked on it. This ranking of leads on the basis of priority is known as lead scoring.
By assigning scores to leads, the funnel can be structured by priority. Reassigning these leads to salespeople based on score and territory could get mundane and tasking. Set defined rules for distribution in territory management and have the work done by the CRM.
A CRM records all the interactions between the customer and the company. This helps salespeople make decisions based on the insightful metrics tracked within the CRM. Further, improve customer experience with knowledge of how a customer traverses the product website. Get access to all the data—from customer emails, call logs to deal stages—right inside the CRM and ace the sales game.
If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, ready-to-use CRM system (plus a 30-day free trial to start off with), we’re here. Try Freshsales.
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