Every B2B and SaaS business needs a clear sales process. Without it, you risk your sales strategy losing alignment and direction. This 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 to follow.
The solution? Creating a sales process map.
In this article, we’ll outline the steps of a basic sales process and provide a sales process template as a solid starting point. We’ll also describe how to create a sales process based on the metrics that are most important 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 sales process and shows sales reps how to move leads through the sales pipeline. As a result they can track leads with ease and close more deals.
A basic sales process generally includes the following stages:
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 might not need to do a presentation to nurture leads through the funnel.
A well-defined sales process will also help you track sales activities that do and don’t work. For instance, if you’re losing a lot of leads during the “managing objections” stage, you can analyze the cause and put things right.
An example of a sales process template
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.
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There isn’t a perfect sales process that works for every sales organization. Instead, sales managers need to tailor the process to their sales team’s goals.
This is where using a sales process template is helpful.
You can customize an existing template to reflect the stages of your sales process. For example, let’s say your sales process is pretty similar to the example in the image above but also includes a negotiation step–where leads contact you to discuss pricing. In this situation, you’d use the template as your baseline and add the additional step.
The 7 steps of a basic sales process
To help you identify the right steps for your sales process, let’s break down some common steps in more detail.
1. Lead generation
Lead generation involves finding and attracting potential customers for your business.
Typically speaking, an inbound marketing team will generate warm leads for your sales team. But depending on the structure of your organization, leads may be generated in other ways, including:
During the research step –sometimes called lead prospecting–, your sales team will examine leads to find out more about them. Here’s some of the information your sales team might look for during this stage:
Information that can be helpful when starting the initial conversation –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 to reach out to
The size of the lead’s business, including annual turnover
To find this information, sales reps may spend a significant amount of time online – particularly on social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. They may also speak to contacts at an organization to find the best person to talk to.
There are CRM tools that can also help you research and manage prospective contacts. For example, Pipedrive’s Smart Contact Data feature allows you to research publicly relevant data so you can identify quality leads.
3. Making contact
Making contact involves reaching out to the prospect to get the ball rolling and start nurturing them through the sales funnel.
You can make initial contact in a variety of ways, including making phone calls (also known as cold calls), sending a cold email or text or reaching out on social media.
The right method of communication depends on your target audience. To find the right format, perform market research. For example, run some A/B tests to see what performs better or host an online survey to gather feedback directly from prospects.
4. Lead qualification
Lead qualification is about finding the ideal prospects who need your product or service. At this point in the sales process, it’s time for your reps to determine which prospects are right for your business so they don’t waste their time on leads who are unlikely to buy or who might be wrong 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: Do they truly need your product?
Timescale: Do they 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 a lead doesn’t match the criteria from the BANT framework, see if there’s anything you can do to change that.
For example, can you offer a discount to fit within their budget? Or 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. This frees up space for qualified leads to keep moving through the sales process.
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 the ways your product or service can solve their business problems and why they should buy from you instead of your competitors.
Although the word “presentation” implies reading a spiel from a Powerpoint presentation, that’s not the approach you should take. Instead, sales reps should provide an engaging sales pitch that’s unique to the prospective customer.
Here are some best practices for delivering a successful sales presentation:
Be ready to ask questions and field objections
If a lead has questions about a specific product feature, be prepared to provide answers on the spot.
Use facts and figures to back up your points
For example, if you’re telling leads that your product has helped previous customers increase their sales, tell them by how much. Was it 10%? 20%? 50%? Use statistics to solidify your points and show the real impact of your business.
Sum things up with a call to action
At the end of your presentation, make sure your prospects have a clear pathway to get in touch or buy the product. Should they call you? Email? Head to your website? Tell them exactly what to do. If it’s not clear, they might drop it altogether.
6. Closing the deal
Closing the deal is the stage where prospective customers commit and make a purchase.
Here are some guidelines for closing a deal successfully:
Make it easy to say yes
Your prospect has just been through the sales pipeline. When it comes to closing a deal, don’t make them jump through hoops. Instead, make it easy for them to cross over the finish line and finalize the deal. For example, having an efficient user experience on your website so they can easily make a purchase.
Be flexible, but not too flexible
If leads want to negotiate prices, you may need to make some concessions to make some sales. Be clear as a team about what limits are reasonable for those concessions in advance. If you’re unsure about how much leeway is too much, speak to your team or manager.
You might think a lead is ready to buy, but they suddenly stop answering phone calls and returning messages. After a few follow-ups, send a 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’ time.
7. Customer retention
The final step of the sales process is customer retention. This involves keeping new customers happy so they’ll either continue paying for a subscription for your product or service or make a repeat purchase in the future.
Have your customer support or success team follow up with their customers every once in a while. 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.
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How to handle sales objections
A sales objection is the reason your prospect can’t or won’t buy your product or service. It’s every “no” you get during the lead qualification stage. Part of a sales rep’s job is to handle these objections and encourage leads to continue moving through the sales pipeline.
Here are two tips for how to handle objections.
Plan your responses to common objections
Create a list of objections that crop up regularly and create a response for each. You can consult your old call transcripts and emails to plan how to address each objection. Then, develop a script that you can use to help your prospect overcome these objections.
Pause and 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 when responding. Take time to think things through and address the lead’s concerns and pain points with care and consideration. Start by asking questions about their objections to get a deeper understanding. Use their answers to inform your response.
You can find some expert suggestions on how to overcome objections in our sales objections tool or, watch one of the videos in our sales training and techniques series to find out how to tackle common sales objections.
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Industry-specific sales processes
Not all industries follow the same sales process, mostly because of legal requirements, niche products, a challenging target customer base or because of industry governance and regulations.
Here are a few examples of industries that use slightly different sales processes.
The sales process for real estate is long and complex because of additional steps mandated by law. Agents must open escrow accounts, complete title searches, have homes inspected and more.
A financial sales process map often includes steps a salesperson has no control over, like application processing. Application processing can take a while and may require a good deal of paperwork to establish a new account or a transfer of assets.
The healthcare industry is governed by stringent laws and guidelines, so the sales process for a healthcare company isn’t always linear. There are often multiple decision-makers to deal with and healthcare companies may encounter multiple objections from experts in the medical field.
How to create a sales process map in 5 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 five steps you can follow.
1. Determine your most important sales metrics
What KPIs are most important to your sales organization? Is it the length of your sales cycle, your conversion rate or something else? These metrics will help you monitor the success of your sales process and make the necessary changes when things aren’t going to plan.
When it comes to setting goals and metrics, it’s helpful to use the SMART goals methodology. Set clear goals that measure success by making sure your goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based.
To accurately track your goals alongside sales performance, take a look at Pipedrive’s sales CRM. With our platform, you can manage your activities and goals in real time and share updates with other salespeople in your team.
2. Identify key stakeholders
Next, identify any stakeholders that play a key role in your sales process. This will give you a clear picture of who’s involved and help you align teams to streamline the sales process.
For example, most sales processes require sales and marketing teams to work together. By understanding that both of these teams play a role in the sales process, you can make sure they’re both up to date with the current sales process and streamline your entire workflow.
Using a cloud-based CRM like Pipedrive is particularly helpful here. With our software, everyone in the business has access to the sales process and activities in one location.
3. Map your ideal process
Once you know what you hope to achieve and who’s involved in the process, it’s time to outline your sales process. Map out all the activities involved in nurturing a customer from lead to final sale.
4. Define the steps
With all your activities outlined, you can now define the steps of your sales process. The steps are the core areas of your sales process we talked through above, such as lead generation, lead qualification and closing the deal.
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.
5. Track and monitor progress
A sales process is a living document. What works for you now may not work in the future, which is why 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. This will give you a clear picture of how your sales process is performing and whether it’s working as it should. If it’s not, you can update and improve it.
Use a sales CRM to manage your sales process
Documenting a sales process with a spreadsheet may work for smaller teams 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.
Use Pipedrive’s sales CRM to create and customize a sales process that’s perfect for your business. Sales reps can use the platform from wherever they’re working, giving them instant access to the sales process map. They can complete sales activities, use automation to send sales emails, use our integrations to improve efficiency and track sales performance all within one location.
Try Pipedrive for free to see how it can help you better manage your sales process.
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 sales process steps are and how to create and manage a sales process, 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.
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