What Is a Sales Process?
The sales process is a set of steps that a salesperson takes in order to move a prospective buyer through the sales funnel, i.e. from the initial awareness stage to interest, desire, and then finally to entice action.
Awareness: The customer is aware of a certain commercial offering.
Interest: The customer expresses a broad interest in the commercial offering.
Desire: The customer aspires to purchase a specific brand, service, or product.
Action: The customer takes action that brings them closer to the purchase of the desired brand, service, or product.
The process itself varies considerably between industries, businesses, and salespeople, and everyone has a different set of criteria and paths to follow in order to close a sale.
The sales process is a model that has been adapted over time, as marketing experts and academics apply their understanding of evolving consumer behaviors, and take into account advancing technical solutions and the differences observed in modern purchasing patterns. Also referred to as the purchase funnel, the model has been applied to a broad range of domains, including lead generation, online search, and PPC advertising.
While the term sales process relates to the pathway a consumer travels as they move from a state of product awareness to purchase as a converted customer, it can also be used as the basis for CRM programs and campaigns focused on lead management, which are designed to target all of the different stages of the customer journey.
- Sales workflow
- Sales stages
- Purchase funnel
- Purchasing funnel
Benefits of an Effective Sales Process
A business’s sales process can make or break its foundations. This makes it doubly critical for companies to ensure they have an effective sales process in place, in order to reap the benefits it provides and reduce customer churn.
More efficient selling
A water-tight sales process reaps many benefits, one of which is more efficient selling. By ensuring everyone follows the same process, uses the same technology, systems and solutions, and keeps sales funnels data up to date, inefficiencies are naturally weeded out. The result of this is that there’s no longer a need for things such as multiple follow-ups, it also reduces the risk of customer data loss and provides sales reps with a concrete base for their sales, which they can use time and time again to secure prospects.
Faster sales rep onboarding
If everyone in an organization is following the same sales process, it becomes much easier to update, upgrade and change specific elements of it. For example, if a company needs to ramp up sales efforts to meet quarterly targets, it may want to look at hiring more sales reps. With an effective sales process already in place, onboarding new team members become much easier, and it’s also much easier to train new starters when everyone’s using the same tools and systems.
Consistent sales come from two key areas – consistency across an organization and consistency across the sales process itself.
The sales process can provide sales consistency, allowing sales managers to quickly diagnose where any problems are and recommend changes in behavior to make sure that their sales reps are doing and saying the right things at the correct times as part of the overall sales process. The outcome is then greater consistency of selling behaviors across the organization, as a result of a more effective sales process, which will also then accelerate sales results.
Quantifiable and trackable
The sales process is centered around reporting, measuring, and tracking sales. That’s why an effective sales process results in more quantifiable and trackable sales results. By utilizing the right technology, systems, and processes, and applying them to the whole sales team, businesses can easily see and track each customer touch point, providing greater transparency and visibility to everyone involved.
More engaged and happier sales reps
Sales processes that are effective go beyond increasing sales, maintaining customer expectations, and improving sales efficiency, it also means an improved experience for sales reps too. Having a more streamlined sales process, that works not only for the business and its target customers, but also for sales reps, results in employees being more engaged, willing to learn, and wanting to see results, and ultimately, this transpires into happier employees that are more likely to remain loyal to a company, saving time, resources and cost for businesses.
There are numerous benefits associated with having an effective sales process in place, but for businesses that first want to look at how they can create increased effectiveness within the sales process, they must first look at how to improve it.
How to Improve your Sales Process
There are a few key things that businesses can do to improve their sales process, in order to turn their ineffective sales process into an effective one.
Analyze your current sales process – what works and what doesn’t
The first step to improving the sales process is to analyze the current one. It’s essential that businesses look at what’s working well for them, and what’s not working so well. Once areas with room for improvement have been identified, companies can hone in on why those aspects aren’t as efficient. Perhaps back-end systems aren’t linked up correctly, therefore they’re not providing the sales team with real-time data, which is resulting in multiple follow-ups from different reps to the same customer. This can have a devastating impact on a potential customer’s experience and could ultimately lead to lost clients and revenue.
Outline the buyer’s journey
An effective sales process should be mindful of every part of the customer journey. Businesses need to map out the buyer’s journey and each potential touchpoint if they want to improve the overall sales process. One way businesses can map out these journeys is by developing buyer personas, categorizing different target audiences into groups, and defining their common characteristics, buyer behaviors, and preferred purchase journey. Businesses need to keep in mind factors such as different generations and preferred sales channels, i.e. digital versus brick-and-mortar, etc.
Define Each Step of the Sales Process
While awareness, interest, desire, and action encompass the four key components of the purchase journey, there are between five and seven specific steps that encompass the sales process:
- Prospecting: Hubspot describes prospecting as “the process of initiating and developing new business by searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers for your products or services.”
- Preparation: This is where the sales rep then conducts research and analysis into the customer(s) they want to target, their pain points, and how the product/ service they are selling can alleviate those pain points.
- Approach: Next, it’s time to actually approach the customer. This may be through an event, networking, email, or phone – research shows that 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone – SMS or even through targeted marketing or advertising techniques. There are a few different types of approach methods, including
- Premium – where the salesperson offers a gift within the first interaction
- Question – engaging the potential customer by posing a question
- Product – offering a free trial or sample of the goods/ service being offered
- Presentation: This is perhaps one if not the most important steps, demonstrating how the product or service being sold to the prospect can alleviate the challenges that they’re facing.
- Handling objections: Once the presentation aspect is over, no doubt, the customer will have concerns and trepidations. This is the phase where the sales rep needs to address these concerns and reassures the prospect.
- Closing: The prospect now decides whether they’re going to move forward with the deal or not.
- Follow-up: The final stage of the cycle is to follow up. This stage is essential for the sales rep to maintain a relationship, keeping a customer retained, satisfied, engaged, and loyal – possibly upselling in the process.
There are many potential barriers to a successful sales process, such as lack of resources and resources, inefficient systems and processes, miscommunications, and the list goes on. Businesses need to ensure agility and continuity with their sales process. Businesses should talk to their sales reps to discover where those roadblocks are and, in order to deal with and remove them.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential to see how sales reps and their teams are performing. However, it’s not all about meeting quarterly quotas. KPIs should also include things like how many prospects a sales rep has reached out to, how many points of contact have been made, or how many times the sales process has been started, and completed to fruition. Businesses need to establish the KPIs and ensure they’re aligned with overall sales goals.
Test and Measure
An effective sales process is not one-size-fits-all. Depending on the business objectives and intended outcomes of the sales process, it will need to be constantly tested and measured to stay relevant and achieve the desired results. Businesses need to regularly touch base with sales reps to identify areas of improvement and gain feedback. If and when new systems, technology, or processes are put in place, they must be regularly tested to ensure they’re churning out the desired outcomes.
The Digital Transformation of The Sales Process
Digital transformation of sales encompasses automating parts of the sales process and also establishing an eCommerce system for the sale of goods and services online. From a business perspective, eCommerce has changed the way in which a seller and its clients communicate. New digital sales channels such as marketplaces and social media are emerging regularly, and businesses need to ensure they have an agile and adaptive sales process that can grow and meet changing consumer expectations, and math behaviors.
Having the right infrastructure and technology in place enables businesses to improve upon their sales process. For example, an effective CPQ solution simplifies the quoting process for configurable products. This means that businesses and sales reps save significant amounts of time, hassle, and resources, which can then be focused on other areas of the sales process.
DealHub’s CPQ solution provides businesses with more accurate quotes, increased lead conversion rates, quote generation and deal sizes, and a shortened sales cycle.
People Also Ask
What are the sales process steps?
5. Handling objections
What are examples of the sales process?
The sales process will look different for each company, its industry, and its customer base.
For example, a successful B2B software company nearly doubled sales every year for its first three years of operation and then had substantial increases for many years afterward by establishing precise pipeline management near the beginning, which entailed a sales process with 13 steps.
Whereas another successful software company, this time in the B2C space, that customizes its systems for its clients, followed a sustainable sales process, which included just five steps:
1. Initial contact – where interest is obtained and requirements for the potential system are acquired.
2. Design stage – the potential system is designed per obtained specifications.
3. Proposal to client.
4. Proof to client – showcasing that the solution meets the client’s needs, and all key decision makers are convinced.
What’s the difference between the sales process and sales methodology?
Sometimes, companies misuse the terms sales process and sales methodology.
A sales process is a series of actionable steps that are unique to an organization that sales reps follow. However, sales methodology is a broader concept, it’s a set of practices that a business might adopt that often inform how a sales process is built and conducted in the first place.