Your Guide to Understanding Sales Process
Hiring "A" players is not a repeatable or scalable solution for growing your business because there simply isn't enough "A" players in the marketplace. Even if you could load up on talented "A" players, they still need a proven path to follow. What you need is a sales process. A sales process can scale as your organization grows and it will support all sellers, regardless of talent level to predictable success. In fact, a study conducted by Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association found that B2B companies who had defined a formal sales process experienced 18% more revenue growth compared to companies that didn’t. But the benefits of a sales process go far beyond your bottom line, many of which I will touch in this post, your guide to understanding sales process.
What is a Sales Process?
By definition, a process is a systematic series of repeatable actions or steps intended to achieve a result. When followed, these steps lead to predictable and expected outcomes. A sales process defines the steps that a sales rep and the buyer need to take to complete the purchasing process, from lead, to opportunity, to close. It provides sales reps with a road map telling them exactly what they need to do next to move the opportunity forward and close the deal.
A documented sales process allows salespeople and sales managers to identify, qualify, diagnose, and measure opportunities and then determine the next step in the sales process. It also enables sales managers and sales reps to quickly and easily identify bottlenecks including skill deficiencies in their sales process and make the necessary adjustments. Your sales process should provide you, your manager, and your customer with a road map. The steps should include what needs to be completed and by whom to move your opportunity or job order forward and close the deal.
Anything that you do over and over again can be made more efficient and more effective by following a step by step process. Sales efforts that are executed without a well defined series of steps or actions will lead to unpredictable and unfavorable results.
Metaphorically speaking, think of your sales process like a trail guide. If you’re going for a hike in the mountains, your trail guide will tell you exactly what direction to go, to get from one campsite to the next, and how many miles you’ll have to traverse.
Along the way you will see sign posts confirming you are still heading in the right direction, how far you’ve come, and how far you still have to travel. Think of these sign posts as milestones representing each stage of your sales cycle. Seeing the sign posts is reassuring for hikers because it verifies they’re on the right path. Like a hiker out in the mountains, you also want reassurance you’re heading down the right path with your customer. Following a buyer aligned sales process will ensure you do just that.
The Value of Sales Process
The cornerstone of a good sales process is defined by knowing and aligning with how your buyers buy, rather than with how you prefer to sell. Studies have shown that following a sales process will help you win more deals, increase your deal size, and win deals faster with more frequency. One key to an effective sales process is designing it in such a way that it keeps you in sync with your buyer throughout their buying journey and purchasing process. Not only does this ensure you keep your buyer's needs front and center across all touch points, but it enables you to create a memorable and valuable customer experience. If you and your manager fail to understand and define how your buyers buy than you will have nothing to discuss and you end up just pitching your service. Misalignment with buyers is a critical and a common mistake you need to avoid.
Five Benefits of Following a Sales Process
Following a sales process will enable you and your sales manager to enjoy the following five benefits:
- Leverage a common framework for planning, reviewing, and executing your sales activities
- Use a common language to communicate with your team members to strategize on sales opportunities
- Make fewer mistakes because you’re reminded of the steps that you and your customer must complete. This will shorten your sales cycle because you will be able to work through the steps faster when they’re all laid out in advance instead of “winging it”
- Accelerate ramp up and time to quota attainment
Elements of Your Sales Process
Your sales process should account for the following:
- How you identify new accounts, new contacts, and new sales opportunities
- When in the sales process you qualify accounts, contacts, and job orders to determine if they are worth your time
- How your customers select and engage IT staffing firms
- How your customers hire and procure IT consultants
- How you close business
Customer Driven Verifiable Outcomes
Each step in your sales process should have measurable, verifiable outcomes indicating the completion of each stage. Every step should be tied to your customer completing a step in their buyer’s journey or purchasing process. There should be no question whether or not a step in the buyer’s process was completed or not. For example, many staffing companies think submitting a candidate to a client as a completed step in their sales process. While you can easily verify if this action was completed, it is tied to you taking action and NOT the customer, therefore making it a poor verifiable outcome. Instead the verifiable outcome should be the customer agreeing to interviewing the candidate being submitted or the completion of the candidate interview. This would be a customer driven verifiable outcome because it is measurable and it requires the client to take action by completing a step in their buying process.
Your sales process can be 5 steps, 8 steps or 12 steps, it really doesn’t matter. However, the more granular and detailed it becomes the less salespeople will want to use it and adopt it.
There you have it, your guide to understanding sales process. Now you might be wondering what is the difference between sales process and sales methodology or, how do I know if my sales process is working?
If you want to improve sales performance, download the free eBook titled "The Definitive Guide to Building a Buyer Aligned Sales Process."
About Dan Fisher
Dan Fisher is founder and owner of Menemsha Group, a provider of sales enablement solutions dedicated to helping IT staffing firms improve win rates, shorten their sales cycle, and increase revenue per sales rep. Since launching Menemsha Group in 2008, Dan has consulted with over 200 IT staffing firms and has invested over 5000 hours coaching IT staffing sales reps. He’s authored is his own proprietary sales methodology and has previously spoken at Staffing World, TechServe Alliance and Bullhorn Live 2012. Prior to launching Menemsha Group, Dan spent 16 years in the IT industry running local, regional and national sales teams. Dan worked for Kelly Services, Oracle Corporation and Alliance Consulting. Dan currently resides in Boston, Ma.