As a small business owner, anything that can help make your business run more efficiently is the holy grail, especially when it comes to selling (because that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day). That is why, no matter how small you are, every small business should have a sales process. A sales process, according to Hubspot, refers to a repeatable set of steps a sales person takes to move a prospect from an early-stage lead to a closed customer. An efficient sales process will assist in closing more deals by providing a framework to follow. It will boost conversions, close deals, and make sure your sales process is providing customers with a positive and consistent experience each and every time. If you already have a sales process in place, great! However, if you don’t have one or haven’t updated yours in a while, you will find this article helpful. Below you will find a guide to building a framework for an effective sales process that you can then personalise to suit your business and customers.
The Sales Process
Here is a guide to a ‘typical’ sales process that most businesses will follow.
The first step in your sales process is "prospecting". There are several ways you can prospect for new sales, but it will ultimately come down to your buyer persona, buyer journey and what works well for your industry. Some effective forms of prospecting include: networking at industry events or local business events, joining a referral network like a BNI, or using LinkedIn to search for people who fit your ideal buyer.
Whether your leads come from outbound prospecting or inbound inquiries, you need to have a process that first determines if you can help them. Information like name, phone number, email, location and their challenge (or need) is a good place to start. No matter what information you need to qualify a lead, you do need a way to document what information is required at the ‘connect’ stage to move them to the next stage. It is also important to identify those who aren't a good fit early on in the sales process, so you don't waste your precious time with the wrong people.
Discovery and Explore
Depending on what you are selling, this is the step where you get clear on the scope of work needed so you can provide a price, details of the scope of work (what you will do) and the timeframe in which it will be completed. Again, it’s important to have this documented with a consistent process that gathers information that can then be used in a quote or proposal.
The next step in your sales process is to provide your new lead with your scope of work, ideas, option and pricing. However, it’s more than just giving a quote, its important to communicate why your potential client should choose your company and not the competition.
How to Improve Your Sales Process
Once you have a sales process in place, it’s important you are constantly reviewing and improving it. Here’s a guide on how to improve your sales process.
1. Audit your current sales process
To improve your sales process, you need to know what is and isn’t working. How do you do this? One way can be to analyse each step in the sales process and identify ways to improve the transition from one step to another. What did the interactions between sales and customers look like from start to finish? What were the key touchpoints? Where did things taper off? You can also look at how long the sales process took, and how much time elapsed between each step. It’s also a good idea to note the different motivations and/or challenges that prompted each deal to reach a close.
2. Align the sales process with the way customers buy
A lot of people create a sales process to suit their business, but the key is to align it to the way customers buy. To start you will need to complete a buyer persona and the buyer’s journey. Then, align your sales process to the way your customers buy making sure that the information they are looking for at each stage is readily available, this will help you build stronger relationships with prospects and ultimately close more customers.
3. Document the process
Write down, or map out your sales process with detailed information on who is responsible for each step, what they need to be do including links to resources and templates. If part of your process is automated include this too so you can see the entire sales process, and every touch point your potential customers will have with your company.
4. Have the right tools
Once you have a documented sales process you should be looking for the right tools to make it efficient. A CRM (Customer Record Management) will give you the tools you need to keep all the customer information in one spot. A CRM will also typically include a pipeline which means you’ll have a visual display of the sales process and can easily see where all your potential customers are in the sales process. In addition your CRM may also include dashboard reports which will give you key information in real time, no need to spend time running reports to see key sales information like projected sales v’s actual sales for the month.
Perhaps most importantly, CRMs provide insight into where your sales process is working, and where there are bottlenecks in the process. This allows you to make the necessary changes to keep buyers moving quickly through the process.
5. Measure your sales process results
A crucial step of improving your sales process is measuring your results. A good sales process is always evolving as you identify ways to more efficiently move prospects through the pipeline. Are there parts of the process where prospects aren’t moving? Why? How can you improve this?