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How to map your sales process (with a free sales process template)

Sales process
Topics
What is a sales process?
Use a sales process template to create a roadmap
The 7 stages of the sales cycle
How to handle objections throughout the sales process
3 examples of industry-specific sales processes
How to create a sales process map in 4 simple steps
Setting up your sales process in a CRM
Final thoughts

Every business needs a clear sales process. Without it, you risk your sales strategy losing alignment and direction, which can impact your ability to track leads, nurture them through the sales funnel and close deals.

Fortunately, there’s a way to clearly outline your sales process for your reps and managers – a sales process map.

In this article, we outline the broad stages of a sales process and provide a sales process template as a solid starting point. We also describe how to create a roadmap based on the most important metrics to your organization.


What is a sales process?

A sales process is a structured, step-by-step formula that represents your sales cycle.

It standardizes the procedure and shows reps how to move leads through the sales pipeline. As a result, your team can easily track leads and close more deals.

A basic sales process generally includes the following stages:

  • Prospecting

  • Researching those prospects

  • Contacting leads

  • Lead qualification (evaluating leads to uncover those you’re likely to help most)

  • Presenting or pitching to leads

  • Closing the deal

  • Retaining the customer

Steps often vary from business to business, depending on how customers move through your sales funnel.

For example, if you’re selling a product instead of a service, you may or may not need to walk through a demo to convince leads to buy.

A well-defined sales process will also help you track sales activities that do and don’t work. Mapping these out means you better understand where leads are dropping out in your sales funnel.

For instance, if you’re finding you don’t get many responses to your emails, you can try new follow-up email templates to help yours stand out in busy inboxes.


Use a sales process template to create a roadmap

Here’s a template you can use as a starting point for mapping your sales process.

The template outlines a basic sales process map showing the most common, universal sales process steps and activities for each:

Sales process stage

Sales activity examples

Prospecting

(Finding new leads)

  • Attend networking events

  • Ask for introductions

  • Build your social media presence

Research

(Researching leads)

  • Speak to others at the prospect’s company

  • Google the industry and business

  • Interview current customers with similar needs

Making contact

(Reaching out to leads)

  • Cold call

  • Cold email

  • Reach out on social media

Lead qualification

(Deciding whether leads are a good fit)

  • Optimize lead capture forms

  • Ask the prospect for more details

  • Assess each lead’s’ online activities

Presentation

(Showing leads why you’re a good fit)

  • In-person demo

  • Schedule meetings

  • Walk through your proposal

Closing the deal

(Making the sale)

  • Offer a limited-time discount

  • Send case studies and testimonials

  • Leverage storytelling to create an emotional response

Customer retention

(Encouraging repeat purchases)

  • Set up a referral program

  • Collect feedback (e.g., surveys)

  • Email discounts and loyalty offers

There isn’t a perfect process or list of activities that work for every organization. Instead, sales management should tailor the process to their team’s goals and prospects’ needs.

For example, you may find that arranging a public product sampling results in more warm leads than reaching out on LinkedIn. You can replace the LinkedIn activities or scale back efforts.

Let’s say your sales process is pretty similar but includes a negotiation step where leads contact you to discuss pricing. In this situation, you’d keep the template as is but add the additional step.

Customize the existing template to reflect the stages of your unique sales process to get the most value from it.

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The 7 stages of the sales cycle

To help you identify the right steps in your sales process, let’s break down the typical stages in more detail.

1. Prospecting

In the prospecting stage, you try to find the best-fit potential customers for your company (i.e., those who fit your buyer personas).

Typically, a marketing team will collect these warm leads for your sales team through inbound efforts called lead generation.

However, some sales teams handle prospecting on their own. Depending on the structure of your organization, you can generate leads in other ways, including:

  • Someone entering their email address to download content from your website

  • Contact information captured during a conversation with a chatbot on a webpage

  • Someone signing up for your newsletter

  • A sales professional sifting through LinkedIn profiles

  • Your reps attending in-person networking events

At this stage, it’s unclear which prospects will be a good fit and who won’t. To be more certain, you need to look deeper into all potential clients in the research stage.

2. Research

During the research stage, your sales team will examine leads to learn more about them. Understanding more about a prospect or their company can help you better frame a conversation when you get in touch.

Here’s some of the information your reps might look for during this stage:

  • Details that can be helpful when starting the initial conversation (i.e., something to break the ice without sounding too “salesy”)

  • What problem the lead is trying to solve and how you can solve it

  • The best contact within a company to reach out to

  • The size of the lead’s business, including annual turnover

To find these answers, sales reps may spend significant time online – particularly on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.

They may also speak to multiple people at an organization to learn who the decision-maker is.

Customer relationship management tools can also help you research and manage prospective contacts. For example, Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature allows you to uncover publicly relevant data to identify quality leads.

Simply click the “Smart Data Search” button in the detail view sidebar of your Pipedrive account to reveal a person’s location, job title, social media accounts and more.


3. Making contact

Making contact is the first time you’ll speak to a sales prospect directly. The process begins with outreach, when you start nurturing the potential lead to the next stage of the sales funnel.

You can make first contact in a variety of ways, including phone calls (also known as cold calls), cold emails, texts or reaching out on social media.

Prospects can also reach out and book a discovery call to learn more about what your product or service does.

The optimal method of communication depends on your target audience. To find the right format, perform market research and learn where your audience spends their time online.

Run tests to see which tactic performs better (e.g., a direct message on Instagram or Facebook) or host an online survey to gather feedback directly from prospects.


4. Lead qualification

Lead qualification separates those who fit your ideal customer profile (ICP) from those who don’t.

At this point in the sales process, your reps determine which prospects are right for your business so they don’t spend time on leads who are unlikely to buy or probably the wrong fit for your product.

You can use several systems to qualify your leads. One of the most common is the BANT framework.

Here’s how it works:

  • Budget: Does your prospect have the budget for your product?

  • Authority: Can the prospect actually make the purchase, or do they need to convince someone else?

  • Need: Does the prospect truly need your product?

  • Timescale: Does the prospect seem ready to buy now?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, you’ve got a hot lead, and you can move them through the sales pipeline. If the answer to some or all questions is “no”, you should review their suitability.

Part of qualifying a lead is hearing and successfully overcoming that lead’s main sales objections. So, if someone doesn’t match the criteria from the BANT framework, see if you can do anything to change that.

For example, can you offer a discount to fit within their budget? Can you encourage them to buy now even if they’re saying they’re not ready?

If the lead definitely doesn’t qualify, remove them from the funnel and free up space for qualified leads to progress through the sales process.

5. Presentation

The sales presentation stage involves giving a proposal or demonstration to your qualified leads.

It’s your chance to outline your value proposition, focusing on how your product or service can solve a potential buyer’s business problems and why they should buy from you instead of your competitors.

Although “presentation” implies reading from a PowerPoint, that’s not the approach you have to take. Instead, sales reps should provide an engaging sales pitch that’s unique to each prospective customer.

Here are some best practices for delivering a successful sales presentation:

  • Be prepared to answer questions. If a lead has questions about a specific product feature, be prepared to provide answers on the spot. Note down questions from previous presentations to build a knowledge base your whole team can refer to.

  • Use facts and figures to back up your points. Tell leads the exact percentage and show evidence when you say your product has helped previous customers increase their sales. Use statistics to solidify your points and convey the real impact of your business.

  • Sum things up with a call to action. At the end of your presentation, give prospects a clear pathway to get in touch or buy the product. Should they call you? Email? Head to your website? If it’s not clear, they might drop it altogether.

An in-depth research stage makes crafting your pitch more straightforward as you can fully understand each lead’s unique circumstances, needs and pain points.

6. Closing the deal

Closing the deal is the stage of the sales process where prospective customers commit and make a purchase.

At this point, it’s make or break, so here are three guidelines for how to make a deal with qualified leads successfully:

  • Make it easy to say yes. When closing a deal, try not to make prospects jump through hoops. For example, create an efficient user experience on your website so they can easily purchase.

  • Be flexible, but not too flexible. If leads want to negotiate prices, you may need to make some concessions to make a sale. Be clear as a team about which limits are reasonable in advance. If you’re unsure on the day, speak to your colleagues or manager.

  • Don’t beg. When leads suddenly stop answering calls and returning messages, send a few follow-ups, then one final email explaining that you realize it’s not a good time. Tell them to reach out when they’re ready and schedule a follow-up for yourself in a few months.

If you want to close more deals, you need to prepare for every possible objection and understand what a win-win outcome looks like.

Remember, you’re not trying to manipulate a lead into buying something they don’t need. You’re gently persuading them you’re the best choice out of all your competitors to help them solve a problem.

7. Customer retention and referrals

The final step of the sales process is customer retention. Instead of focusing on new prospects, it involves keeping new customers happy so they’ll either continue paying for a subscription or make a repeat purchase in the future.

You can encourage retention by ensuring your customer support or success team follows up with customers at ideal times.

Ask how things are and if they’re still happy with your product or service. If there’s room for improvement, make changes to provide them with a better experience.

Once you’ve proved yourself and created a lasting relationship over time, you can even ask customers for referrals that can lead to new sales.

Retention is important because the sales process isn’t linear. It’s more of a cycle. Happy customers can tell friends, family and colleagues about their positive experience and funnel new prospects or leads into your pipeline.

Heat up your cold emails with 25 customizable email templates

These cold email templates sourced from Pipedrive sales experts will help you scale your prospecting, drive more replies and stay out of those trash folders.


How to handle objections throughout the sales process

A sales objection is the reason your prospect can’t or won’t buy your product or service. It’s the purpose behind every “no” you get throughout the sales process.

Part of a sales rep’s job is to overcome these objections and encourage leads to continue moving through the pipeline.

Two tactics for overcoming sales objections are planning your responses and actively listening.

Plan your responses

Create a list of objections that crop up regularly and create a response for each.

You can do this by gathering your team for collective ideation, reviewing forums and ranking sites in your niche and analyzing your own outreach channels.

For example, you can consult your old call transcripts and emails to better plan how to address each one.

Once you’ve done that, develop a script to handle these objections upfront during the initial contact stage.

Watch one of our sales training and techniques series videos to learn how to tackle common sales objections.

Actively listen to surprise objections

There will always be objections you don’t see coming. The best way to handle them is to actively listen to the objection and take your time before responding.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a moment to think things through so you can address the lead’s concerns and pain points with care and consideration.

Start by asking questions about this new objection to get a deeper understanding and use their answers to inform your response.

You can also take notes and tell the potential customer you’ll get back to them once you’ve had more time to consider thoroughly.

Find more of the best leads fast with your lead qualification ebook

Learn how to find more of the right leads faster. This 22 page ebook will help you build a scalable lead qualification process for your team.


3 examples of industry-specific sales processes

Sales processes can vary widely by industry, mostly because of legal requirements, niche products, a challenging target customer base or industry governance and regulations.

Here are a few examples of industries that use slightly different sales processes.

Real estate

The real estate sales process is long and complex because of multiple stakeholders and additional steps mandated by law.

Usually, you find multiple decision-makers in business-to-business (B2B) selling. However, real estate sales processes deal with consumers on both sides.

Instead of selling to one prospect, realtors act as the go-between for potential buyers and sellers. In such a competitive industry, real estate prospecting is often more challenging than other niches.

The negotiation stage of the process is often tense and drawn out as agents handle offers and counter-offers, keeping both parties up to date.

Alongside the usual sales process stages, agents complete title searches, have homes inspected, sometimes deal with additional legalities (e.g., opening escrow accounts) and more.

Financial services

Prospects can be more guarded when dealing with such a precious resource as money. Due to this, it can be more challenging to get people to trust financial agents without referrals.

The sales process for financial services usually comes with three challenges:

  • Finding new potential clients

  • Winning business in a saturated market

  • Spotting new opportunities with current clients

A financial sales process map often includes steps a salesperson has no control over, like application processing.

Application processing can take a varying amount of time and may require a good deal of paperwork to establish a new account or a transfer of assets.

Healthcare

The healthcare industry is governed by stringent laws and guidelines, so the selling process isn’t always linear.

There are often multiple decision-makers to deal with in B2B sales (if selling to hospitals, pharmacies or clinics), and companies may encounter numerous objections from experts in the medical field.

Even if selling exclusively to patients (e.g., health insurance), the presentation stage may turn into multiple calls or meetings. As with financial services, people are dealing with another precious commodity – their health.


How to create a sales process map in 4 simple steps

Now that you know what a sales process is, how can you build your own?

To guide you in the right direction, we’ve outlined four steps you can follow.

1. Determine your most important sales metrics

What key performance indicators (KPIs) are most important to your sales organization? Is it your sales cycle length, conversion rate or something else?

Sales metrics like these will help you monitor the success of your process and make the necessary changes when things aren’t going to plan.

When setting sales goals and metrics, it’s helpful to use the SMART methodology:

  • Specific – what is the goal, and how do you plan to achieve it?

  • Measurable – how will you measure success?

  • Achievable – is the goal going to be too difficult to reach?

  • Realistic – does it align with your current setup?

  • Time-based – how long do you have to reach the goal?

Instead of focusing on arbitrary numbers, SMART sales goals can help you unearth realistic metrics. Here’s what that looks like:

  • If it takes 10 initial calls out of 100 for your reps to close a deal, their close rate is 10%

  • To close 90 deals this year, they likely need to make 900 calls

  • A realistic target could be an average of 75 monthly calls or roughly 15 to 20 calls per week

Breaking down targets into smaller chunks can help them feel more achievable and inspire reps to start working towards them immediately.

To accurately track your goals alongside sales performance, look at Pipedrive’s sales CRM. With our platform, you can manage your activities and plans in real time and share updates with other salespeople in your team.

2. Identify key stakeholders

Identify any stakeholders that play a key role in your sales process to get a clear picture of who’s involved. Using this information, you can begin to better align teams and streamline your activities that make up the buyer’s journey.

For example, most sales processes require sales and marketing teams to work together. However, other departments like customer support may get involved too.

Let’s say your customer support team fixes an issue for a now very happy customer, so the rep asks if they would mind taking part in an interview. The marketing team uses the story (with permission) to create a case study on meeting customer needs. The sales team then emails the case study when prospecting new customers with similar needs.

By understanding that all of these departments play crucial but different roles in the sales process and customer journey, you can transform siloed processes into cross-functional teams and create one unified customer experience.

3. Define your sales process steps

Once you know what you hope to achieve and who’s involved, it’s time to outline your sales process.

Your sales process steps are the core areas we discussed above, such as prospecting, lead qualification and closing the deal.

Take your template and map out these stages, plus all the activities involved in nurturing a customer from lead to final sale.

Each activity in the process will belong to one of these steps. For example, the activity “cold call a qualified lead” would fall under the “making contact” step. Other activities will fall under multiple stages, such as handling objections.

With so many activities necessary to close sales, you need an intuitive way of tracking them all.

4. Track and monitor progress

A sales process is a living document (digital or otherwise). What works for you now may not work in the future, so you need to revise it regularly, bringing in your sales team for feedback during each revision.

The best way to continually track progress is to use sales process management software to get a clear picture of how your pipeline is performing and whether it’s working as it should. We’ll cover setting this up in the next section.

Tracking deal progress is particularly crucial for businesses with more than one or two people in charge of sales. It’s easy to lose track of whether you’re closing more or fewer deals than before without a tracking system.

With a system in place, those who manage sales teams can also encourage better collaboration and cooperation. A unified, transparent pipeline lets you see everyone’s workflows and activities, so you can learn what’s working for different reps (e.g., a particular incentive is closing deals faster) and improve across the board.


Setting up your sales process in a CRM

Documenting the stages of your sales process with a spreadsheet may work for smaller operations with few prospects.

A growing sales team, however, needs a flexible sales pipeline management tool that helps them spend less time doing admin and more time selling.

Using a CRM allows you to correlate action-based data from your sales tactics, prospects and customers in one location. Use it to visualize your process and track performance indicators like:

  • Forecast analysis. How many products is your team predicted to sell this week, month or year?

  • Territory coverage. How many prospects or customers have your team visited in their sales district? (Using tools like WeMapSales with Pipedrive.)

  • Quota analysis. Which reps are likely to hit their sales quota and why?

A cloud-based CRM like Pipedrive can help you create and customize an ideal sales process for your business.

Sales reps can use the platform from wherever they’re working, giving them instant access to everything contained in the sales process map.

Use the software to find contact details, use automation to send emails, try Marketplace integrations to improve efficiency and track sales performance measurement from fewer dashboards.

Keeping an eye on this data will enable faster, more frictionless decisions as you’ll be able to spot the challenges and opportunities in real time.


Final thoughts

A clear and effective sales process is crucial to helping your sales team effectively nurture leads through the sales funnel.

Now that you know what a sales process is, what the stages are and how to create and manage it, it’s time to put your newfound knowledge into practice.

Use Pipedrive to design a sales process that will help you build relationships with prospects, close more deals and navigate sales with confidence.

Get organized with your free sales pipeline excel template

Want to simplify the way you manage sales? Download this free sales pipeline template and test it out now.

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