The art of turning prospects into customers
A clever, fluid and formalised sales process is one of the most powerful weapons you can use to turn your prospects into customers. Increasing sales, attracting talent, enhancing your forecast, improving your brand image… Here are just a few reasons to implement a smooth sales process in your sales team. It ensures you do the right things at the right time for the right reason and lets you know what works-and what doesn’t.
Since it’s a process you’ll always get back to and is the backbone around which you can structure your activity, you should (re)take a look at the actual design of your sales process.
In an increasingly competitive environment, we like to think that sales and marketing become real value added in your offer, because beyond the intrinsic qualities of your product, it’s the way you sell and the experience you offer to your B2B prospects that will tip the balance (or not) for your company.
It has come to that: what you show of your sales process to your customer (understand “buying”) is part of your offer.
Quick check: if you can’t show me your sales process, then you most likely don’t have a proper process.
If your sales process boils down to looking for a contact, sending them prospecting emails, waiting for them to reply, then scheduling an appointment, and finally winning the deal -or not, you might get business done, but in the long run it’ll become ineffective.
It’s not uncommon to hear that sales processes are difficult to implement in a team because they are seen as a constraining and ill-adapted burden. And you’re right, sometimes, it might be the case, but having no process leaves room for approximate, heterogeneous and non-optimised methods throughout the company.
Beyond differentiation itself, it’s used to articulate your best sales practices, tools and behaviours and disseminate them throughout your team for consistent and rapid adoption.
It is a set of repeatable and precise steps that a salesperson performs methodically to move a buyer from the “prospect” to “customer”. It should be tool-oriented, i.e. for each step it provides tools to help the salesperson carry out that step better and faster. Obviously, a sales process should be formalised, because this makes things clear for the whole team and leaves no room for interpretation. It also serves as a medium for discussion and sharing.
The invaluable reflection
Your sales process should be the reflection of your customers’ usual buying process, it should be oriented towards your prospects, their agenda, goals, and buying habits
Think of it as a prospect’s journey, from the appearance of a need, an objective or a problem, to the completion of the actual purchase to satisfy them.
Basic you may say, but the secret lies in the level of detail of the sales process.
The 10 keys to a performing sales process
1) The sales process should be buyer/customer-centric
Buyers already have access to more information about your product. Marketing is more and more efficient in its capacity and knows how to answer common questions in a convincing way: what the prerogative of sales representatives was once is now freely available, anonymously. There is no need to cling to your tempting descriptions and pitches. They have become useless. Worse, they exasperate disillusioned buyers who react in contradiction.
Reinvent yourself! You now can focus more on your prospect’s unique situation. The real talent of a salesperson today is to articulate a clear value proposition that creates a mental picture of the preferable situation your prospect will access through your solution. The real value added of the salesperson is to allow the buyer to be perfectly understood, but also to understand the best the solution has to offer.
2) It should be formalised
Although most salespeople seem to be aware that they are going through — more or less — the same process, very few decide to clarify it.
Nevertheless, it’s important because everyone should have the same level of information and because formalising it helps you improve it. How could you improve something that’s not tangible?
As the saying goes: “verba volant scripta manent”. Spoken words fly away, written words REMAIN. In short: What is not written does not exist!
3) It should include tools to help with the use of the process
Since it’s quicker and easier to use the sales process than not to, why wouldn’t your sales do it? They will respect it! It should be tailored to your prospects and customer but suiting those using it; salespeople. A golden rule recalled in The 25th hour: what you do more than once should be automated, eg: Commercial proposals, reminders, summary emails, account review with clients etc.
If a task is seen as binding by the sales team: either it’s not understood, they find it of little to no use, or it’s too tedious, time spent/ benefits ratio is not optimal.
4) You should include salespeople in the making of the process
When designing your sales process, it’s essential to take into account the opinion of your salespeople, for 3 reasons:
1. They probably have more appropriate ideas than you do,
2. That’s the best way to get them to respect it,
3. Since an ideal sales process is both pleasant for a prospect but also for sales people: it must be pleasant to follow.
Feel free to communicate clearly about your intention to improve the sales process (for them, and for your company’s Board of Directors), and ask them what they think. From this point will quickly emerge the priorities that need to be reworked and this will give you a good basis to guide your thinking.
Some salespeople have aspirations that go beyond the boundaries of pure selling. Let them express themselves on such an exercise, distribute responsibilities, they will be all the more motivated.
5) The process should be objective
When assessing the health of your pipeline and making forecasts you are used to relying on the appreciation of the salespeople: “he loved the product during the demo, we’ve got him! 85%! ». Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work and sometimes you can get the impression that things are “slipping” without understanding why.
To avoid this pitfall, you need to be able to base the evaluation of your business steps on objective and verifiable criteria like:
1. The prospect has formalised an objective
2.The objective is quantified
3. The prospect is able to justify the need to fulfil this objective and the means to do so.
Having a clear and reliable picture of the stage your salespeople are at in their sales process helps sales managers make their forecasts more reliable. Following this, it’ll be possible to predict sales results based on the number of leads only (from an equivalent source). This is a major advantage when setting sales objectives.
6) It should be translated into the CRM
You have spent time producing a successful sales process, your team is motivated, but … Your CRM continues to show the same old steps and does not align with this new way of working.
– Bad habits die hard: give your sales team the opportunity changes them.
– The structuring of the CRM is part of the psychology of the salesperson. If the information is contradictory with the sales process, it creates inconsistencies that can be disruptive to the spirit of your team.
-It will create consistency in everyone’s vocabulary.
7) It should be followed from day one
Enjoy the full power of a well-built sales process!
By providing a clear structure from the outset to your newcomers, you allow them to create useful reference points for assimilating the entire onboarding process.
If your sales training for new recruits boils down to watching/coaching existing salespeople, you could benefit greatly from a formalised sales process. Not only will it offer specific sales steps to follow, it will also outline the key competencies to have at each sales step, the expected results and what is expected from the salespeople for each sales step.
8) Marketing should be your ally
Would an impeccable and shared sales process be the cure for the infamous and eternal “confrontations” between the sales and marketing teams?
It is undoubtedly part of the answer!
The marketing team is your best friend. One of its roles, as we know, is to help you convince through supports, white papers, guides…
To ensure accurate alignment between the two departments, the process is an excellent foundation to provide clarity and help marketing understand how you operate.
9) It should be respected by your team
You mobilised your entire team, you spent hours on it: you’ve formalised it in a masterful way. You have it, it’s the best sales process. Well done!
Obviously, if no one respects the sales process, all this work will have been in vain. Too bad!
Implementing a feedback loop will raise awareness about the sales process!
10) It should be updated on time
Everything changes, and the sales process is no exception to this rule. It’s made to live! It is important to review the basics regularly and make sure that it reflects the reality of the market, the changing needs of customers, the specifics of your sales team and organisation.
As you use it, you will discover areas for improvement in this process. Some cases may not apply as you would have hoped in theory. These adaptations must be reflected in the process.
What a process does …
According to research conducted by the Sales Management Association, 90% of the world’s top-performing companies use a formalised sales process to structure the approach of their sales team.
If you haven’t already done so, you have every reason to perfect your sales process.
Of course, relying on your salespeople’s innate talent and drive to grow your sales may seem like a good idea. However, selling is a structured science that requires much more preciseness than you might think. A good sales process allows you to get closer to an ideal scenario for both your prospects and your sales representatives. It also offers harmony in practices and the assurance of optimising the performance of each salesperson in the team.
This is why today’s high-growth companies spend a considerable amount of time improving their sales process on a continuous basis.
Without an effective formalised model to follow, your team risks underperforming. Find out what can be automated, made easier, or eliminated to allow your sales reps to do what matters most: sell.
If you think you’ve already improved everything and sales aren’t growing, the problem may be elsewhere. Meet Your Market is here to help.