We are all salespeople. Whether you like it or not, whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, we’re all in the business of selling. You may not think you are, but every time you talk to someone and try to persuade them to do something, you’re actually selling. You’re selling your beliefs, your ideas, your products, and even your very own self!
That said, in the business world where you may have quotas in place to close a certain number of deals every month, it’s important to have an effective sales process in place. And in this article, I’m going to share with you why you need a sales process and how you can develop your own to maximize your chances of success.
Firstly, what is a sales process?
In a perfect world, you want to have a 100% closing rate. That is, everyone you’ve ever sold to will eventually end up buying your product or service. But alas, this rarely happens in the real word, if ever.
This is where a sales process comes in. By definition, a sales process is a strategy or framework to help you close as many sales as possible. It’s a series of steps designed to help you increase your efficiency and effectivity in the long run.
The right sales process can do wonders for your productivity. Instead of doing some random sales task, you’re able to focus on what really matters the most – converting your leads into paying clients!
And what’s even more awesome is that the more you stick to the process, the more familiar it becomes to you. Over time, you can expect your productivity – and your sales numbers – to skyrocket!
Here’s a quick slideshow on what a sales process (or cycle) is:
Is it necessary to have a sales playbook in place?
The short answer is yes. There are many advantages to having a solid sales process in place. In this section, I’ll list some of the best reasons why you should start implementing a sales process for yourself or your entire team:
- It helps you become more consistent
A sales process is literally your roadmap to success. If you do the same steps over and over again, you become more consistent in doing it. You become far more efficient than you’ll ever be than if you didn’t follow a specific set of tasks and just went about doing things randomly.
Following a series of steps to achieve the goal (of converting prospects into paying clients) helps you become a more consistent salesperson. And the more the sales process gets ingrained in your routine, the easier it becomes for you. You’re able to create a more consistent voice for your brand, which also helps with your credibility as a salesperson.
Plus, once you start seeing positive results from your sales process, you’re able to replicate the same success. There are plenty of factors as to why certain deals don’t go through. But if you study your successful deals, then you can follow the same process over and over again. Over time, you’ll be able to get more consistent results.
- The sales routine can help reduce stress and burnout
Routines may sound boring, but in reality, especially in the fast-moving world of sales, the consistency becomes your anchor. It helps keep you sane and motivated to achieve your goals.
Without a sales process in place, you’d probably know where to begin. But what about the next steps? You’d probably have a thousand different ways to do things. And you wouldn’t know which one is the right approach.
The right process will keep you from chasing down leads you know deep-down aren’t going to pan out. You can instead focus all your energy on converting leads you know can benefit greatly from your offer.
- Identify areas of improvement
No sales process starts out perfect. The truth is that the best sales processes need to be refined and improved countless times. If you’re just starting to develop your own sales process, expect to spend months or even years before you see the fruits of your labor.
Even if you follow your process consistently, you’ll realize that some tasks aren’t as effective as another. Or that some tasks actually turn people away from your brand. So, you streamline and improve as you go along. Eventually, you’ll arrive at a sales process that will yield the best possible results!
- Helps improve discipline
Now, most sales professionals are fortunate in that they don’t need to worry about being tied to their desks from 8-5. Or whatever their legal definition of a working day is. Most are actually pretty independent. They can go out whenever they need to meet with new prospects. They can clock out to deliver a sales presentation or even take clients out for lunch.
As you can probably already tell, it takes a certain level of discipline to make sure the day goes according to plan. Without that discipline, you’re at risk of taking random breaks throughout the day. Instead of meeting potential clients, you’re out watching movies or taking extremely long breaks on company dime.
Of course, every sales job is different, and many companies don’t micromanage their sales staff. But at the end of the day, it’s important to accomplish something. Especially if you need to reach a specific number of sales by month’s end!
That said, a personal or company-mandated sales process will help reduce the churn. It can actually motivate the salesperson to guide a potential client through their buying journey. That is, they’ll take the client by the hand and take them from the awareness stage to the purchase stage!
- Offer a better customer experience
A customer-centric sales process will help you offer a better experience to your prospects. From the moment you engage with them until they become paying customers, their comfort and satisfaction should always be a priority.
Don’t forget that the sales process is about THEM – your customers. Sure, it helps you streamline the process to get more sales. But at the end of the day, it all boils down to how you treat your customers.
The better their experience, the better it will be for your brand. Positive reviews can do a lot for your business, whereas negative feedback can literally destroy your reputation. So, if you’re encountering tons of negative reviews, then you need to level up your game and figure out how you can improve.
Build a positive relationship with your customers, and they’ll be more likely to refer their friends and acquaintances your way. Don’t fall into the used-car-salesman stereotype that most people have of sales professionals. Instead, demonstrate that what you’re offering has the potential to change their life for the better!
What are the elements of an effective sales process?
Sales experts have a varying opinion on this subject. Some say there are 3 elements, others say 5, 7 or maybe even 8. For this section, I took some notes from Jeff Bloomfield’s course on Sales Foundations.
According to him, an effective sales process has 3 stages. The first one is the pre-sales stage, then the customer engagement stage, and lastly, the post-sales stage. Each stage has its own set of elements, like you’ll learn below:
Stage 1: Pre-sales stage
Before you meet with any of your prospects, you need to do a lot of planning and preparation. Winging your sales call or your sales presentation isn’t going to cut it in most cases.
You risk annoying your client for being a lousy sales agent and eventually losing the sale. That said, here are some of the activities you usually do on pre-sales activities (these can vary according to the kind of selling you do):
- Planning phase
The planning phase forms the very foundation of your sales process. All the work you do in this stage will help you create the right sales strategy for your brand. In this stage, you identify who your prospects are (who your products are for). You learn about the industry and research your competitors.
If you can get your hands on your competitors’ products, grab it and study it. This will help you come up with a strategy that will put your brand head and shoulders above everyone else in the industry!
Obviously, the planning phase will take time. Try not to rush your research because what you learn may ultimately help you close all your deals in the future!
- Preparation phase
Once you’ve done your research, it’s time to move onto the next phase. This is where you write your call plan and build stories that will help your prospects relate better to your brand.
In here, you create your presentation (don’t forget to check out our time-saving PowerPoint templates!) and anticipate any objections that may come your way.
And lastly, this is where you need to practice your speech and your presentation. As the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.
Now, your presentation may not always go according to practice. Make it a point to be prepared to make a few missteps and mistakes along the way.
Stage 2: Customer engagement stage
If you’ve done your preparation in Stage 1, Stage 2 is most likely going to be a breeze for you. This stage is where your planning and pre-sales activities are demonstrated. So, if you didn’t prepare at all, your prospects are going to know soon enough.
Basically, what happens in this stage is you create a connection with your audience. You don’t just do a presentation where it’s you who does all the talking.
Preferably, a discussion or conversation will occur during the meeting. You want to make sure your offer is going to be a good fit for them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get them to open up so you can give suggestions.
Identify their problems and offer your solution. You give your solution in your presentation. You can use PowerPoint to illustrate your point, or you can do a product demonstration. Either way, having a visual component to your presentation is going to help them make the right decision.
Again, you don’t want to be aggressive and push your offer down their throats. If you do that and fulfill the typical salesperson stereotype, then you’ll lose credibility. And in the world of sales, credibility is key to getting people to trust you.
During the course of your presentation, you’ll most probably have a few objections thrown your way. If you did your research and anticipated possible objections, you should have answers for them right away.
Otherwise, you can always tell them you’ll ask around and get back to them at a later date. You can then give a definitive answer during a follow-up session.
Of course, we all want to get the sale right after the presentation. But it’s not always the case. In fact, the more expensive and high-end the product you’re offering, the higher the probability your prospect is going to ask for more time to decide. Don’t be afraid to say ‘Yes, you’ll wait,’ but don’t forget to follow up as well.
Your sales strategy should have a guideline on follow ups. How many times do you need to follow up and what’s the interval between each follow up attempt? Many salespeople follow up once or twice, and then they cross that prospect off their list.
Did you know 80% of sales require at least 5 follow up calls after the initial meeting or presentation?
People like to get wooed, I guess. We like to feel valued and important, and we often reward those who persevere and continue getting in touch with us. It shows us how serious the salesperson is. If you can let your sincerity shine through, you’ll get a ‘yes’ before you get to that 5th follow up call!
Stage 3: Post sales activities stage
Once your prospect turns into a paying client or customer, you move on to the third and final stage of a highly effective sales process. You may think you can just skip this stage because you already got the sale. But the truth is that this is still a very important part of a successful sales strategy.
This is because getting existing customers to buy from you again is much easier than getting a new prospect to do the same thing! You’ve already gained their trust, so build a long-lasting relationship with them. Show them they didn’t make a mistake by trusting you.
That said, at this stage, help your customer implement your solution. Depending on the nature of your product, there might be an onboarding process. Whatever the case may be, make sure you provide solid customer service and support.
Bad customer service sucks. It’s one of those things that can quickly make a good customer turn into an angry one.
Lastly, ask them for their feedback (on both product and service) and use it to refine and improve your sales process.
Bonus: A free sales process presentation template
If you’re looking for a free sales process template which you can use in your presentation, then you’re in luck. Here’s a Sales Flow Presentation Template which you can download right now in our Template Hub. Here’s what the slides look like:
Sales Flow Cycle Diagram Slide
Sales Flow Chart Slide
Professional Sales Flow Chart Slide
Use any of these slides to show your company’s sales flow process. You can easily edit the template to show any of the 3 stages. Or if you like, you can use it to summarize your entire sales process.
This template pack is great for onboarding new members of the sales team. You don’t need to draw everything by hand. And neither are you limited to giving just a verbal description of your entire sales playbook.
You can use this free template pack as a visual aid, so it’s easier for your new sales staff to understand how each step works. Don’t leave anything to the imagination. After all, you do want to maximize your chances of success – make sure everyone on your team is on the same page!
An effective sales process can do wonders for your business. Sure, you may not arrive at a perfect strategy right away. But if you review your process regularly, you’ll be able to spot its weaknesses. Refine your weak spots and implement better strategies in its place. Before you know it, your sales process is converting your prospects like a well-oiled machine!