It will be much more difficult for sales reps to close deals consistently if they don’t know exactly how to get there. This is where a sales process comes in. As with implementing any business processes, a structured and effective sales process will help streamline the sales journey and result in a more efficient and consistent sales team.
In fact, according to a Harvard Business Review (HBR) study, businesses that utilize a standardized sales process see up to a 28% increase in revenue in comparison to those who are not. But, if you are one of those companies that are not, you may be wondering where to start when it comes to creating a sales process from scratch. Or even improving on an existing one. We’re here to help.
In this article, we’ll break down exactly what is a sales process, why it is important, and examples of types of sales processes, as well as a way you can optimize the sales process you decide to implement.
What Is a Sales Process?
A sales process is the specific, defined, and repeatable set of steps that a sales rep follows to bring a prospect from the early stage of initial awareness to a closed deal. By having a structured sales process, sales reps then have a clear “roadmap” to follow when it comes to their actual sales efforts.
In general, a sales process will consist of between 5 and 7 steps. These steps include:
- Prospecting - The focus is on finding new potential customers and qualifying those leads
- Preparation - This step revolves around the research and preparation that is done to get ready for the initial contact with a prospect
- Approach - Focus is on making initial contact with the prospect, as well as gathering more information about their needs, pain points, etc.
- Presentation - This step is all about presenting to the prospect how your product or service meets their needs and will be a solution for them
- Handling objections - Focus is on listening to and addressing the prospect’s concerns and questions
- Close - This is the step where the prospect is converted into a customer and they decide to move forward with your company
- Follow-up - The sales process does not end at the close. This crucial step is all about continuing to build strong communication with the customer, reinforcing value, and looking out for cross-sell and upsell opportunities
Once you understand the seven basic steps of the process, it is important to tweak and tailor your team’s sales process to your product or service as well as your customer base. Depending on the methodology you choose, this may mean focusing more heavily on one step, flipping the order of some of the steps, or even cutting out steps that are not necessary to your business.
Sales Process versus Sales Methodology
People often confuse a sales process and a sales methodology as being the same thing. But, even though they are closely related, they are, in fact, two different things. To put it simply:
The sales methodology is the mindset, while the sales process is the execution of that mindset in actionable steps.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that once you define your sales process it should not be set in stone that way forever. Several times a year, you should be proactively analyzing it to pinpoint what is working, what may not be, and what needs to be changed to improve the sales process. It needs to be amended regularly to ensure it reflects your customers’ changing needs, your industry’s current market, your business specifics, and your team’s skills.
The Importance of Having a Structured Sales Process
Overall, having a structured sales process is critical to helping your sales reps close more deals and increase sales revenue. This is because, with a sales process, your sales team has a defined framework to follow. This framework empowers your reps to do the most effective things at the most effective times.
To break it down a little further, there are some specific long-term benefits to creating, mapping, and implementing a defined sales process. These include:
- Increased number of qualified prospects
- Reduced number of prospects falling through the cracks
- Increased consistency in the experience that every prospect goes through
- Improved quality and longevity of customer relationships
- Increased customer value (lifetime)
- Reduced customer retention costs
- Shortening onboarding time for new sales reps
A sales process is very important from a managerial perspective as well. Having one in place creates the space for you to focus on what is most important: planning, distributing territories and/or leads, prioritizing tasks, optimizing your team’s time and workload, as well as putting together more accurate sales forecasts.
Sales Process Examples
When it comes to deciding on how to implement a sales process, there is no one size fits all solution. Sales situations, customer profiles, company characteristics, etc all vary. So, the type of sales process you decide to implement should be the one that best suits your buyer persona.
To help you determine the best sales process for your team, we’ve broken down some of the top sales process examples. Each of these is built around a specific sales methodology and puts increased emphasis on one or more parts of the process, depending on the methodology. These sales process types include:
Sandler Sales Process
The Sandler sales process, known as the Sandler Selling System, was created by the renowned sales-trainer David Sandler for his Sandler Training clients.
This sales process is built to shift sales reps to trusted consultants who determine early on in the process if their solution fits their prospects’ needs. If it doesn’t, the rep quickly moves on without wasting time. In the end, the “sales consultant” will have created a situation where the buyer is convincing the seller to sell versus the seller convincing the buyer to buy.
In this process, more emphasis is put on the relationship building, lead qualification, and deal closing aspects of the process. The steps in the Sandler sales process are:
- Bonding & Rapport - As one of the most important stages in this process, this step focuses on building a trusted business relationship. One where the sales rep strives to get a deep understanding of the prospect and their business values.
- Up-Front Contract - In this step, the rep outlines for the prospect, either formally or informally, how the rest of the sales process will go. This usually also includes when and how the communication will happen moving forward.
- Pain - The focus here is on asking questions to get down to the core problems or pain points that the prospect is trying to solve.
- Budget - As part of the qualification of the prospect, this step gets money issues out on the table. The rep should get an idea of the prospect’s budget, other cost aspects of the product using your product or service (time, training, personnel, etc.), as well as the prospect’s potential cost of not utilizing your solution to their pain point.
- Decision - In this step, the sales rep determines the prospect’s decision-making process, and if anyone else needs to be involved in the final decision. If they do, this is when they need to be brought into the discussion. At this point, the rep also asks questions to determine what needs to happen for the prospect to be able to make a decision. At this point, if the process was followed properly, the prospect will be asking to close the deal themselves.
- Fulfillment - In this step, after making sure the decision-makers are satisfied that their expectations are being met by the rep’s solution, the contract is signed and the deal closes.
- Post-Sell - This important step in the process focuses on the sales rep continuing to maintain the business relationship and keep the customer happy.
Challenger Sales Process
The Challenger sales process/methodology was created by Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson, founders of Challenger Performance Optimization Inc., in their book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation. In essence, with this sales process, sales reps will be challenging their prospects to think outside the box.
The three core parts of this sales process that differentiate it from others are:
- Teaching the prospect to look at a unique perspective and consider new opportunities
- Tailoring the sales pitch/presentation to meet the unique needs of the prospect and provide an alternative solution
- Taking control of the sales experience
The steps of the Challenger sales process follow these stages:
- Warmup - This step focuses on the sales rep starting to build credibility with the prospect. This is largely done by researching, investigating, and understanding the prospect’s needs and pain points.
- Reframe the conversation - The goal of this step is for the sales rep to evoke curiosity and get the prospect to shift their thinking about what the answer to their pain points might be and look at new alternatives.
- Rational drowning - In this step, the rep will be addressing any misconceptions the prospect had about how they will solve their problems. Reps should be showing the prospect how the most rational decision is to consider other alternatives than they may have originally thought of.
- Emotional impact - This step focuses on capitalizing on the emotional impact of the buying process. Sales reps do this by making a “new” solution personally relatable and valuable for the prospect. This step also involves showing prospects what can happen if they don’t change their outlook.
- Value proposition - In this step, the main goal is to educate the prospect about what the ideal solution to their problem looks like, without mentioning your product yet. By this point, the prospect should be connecting the dots themselves and starting to sell themselves on your product before the rep has.
- Your solution - This is where sales reps fill in the blanks and show the prospect that their product/service is the exact solution they are now envisioning.
MEDDIC Sales Process
One of the most disciplined and quantitative approaches, the MEDDIC sales process puts the most emphasis on qualifying the prospects and pinpointing the strongest opportunities. Invented by Richard Dunkel and Jack Napoli of the Parametric Technology Corporation’s sales development team, this process involves qualifying prospects throughout several stages of the process and is great for B2B companies or those targeting complex and high-tech prospects.
In this process, the sales reps start by working through the acronym MEDDIC:
- M (Metric): Ie. How much money can you make or save your prospect?
- E (Economic buyer): Who is the main decision-maker at the prospect’s company?
- D (Decision criteria): What are the factors that this decision-maker will consider?
- D (Decision process): What is the buying/decision process like at your prospect’s company?
- I (Identify plan): What are your prospect’s main objectives and targets right now?
- C (Champion): Who is someone within the prospect’s company who will most likely champion for your product?
Ideally, your sales rep should have the answer to as many of these questions as possible before initially going to the prospect. Many of these questions can be answered ahead of time through research.
This qualification is done during the first several steps of the MEDDIC sales process. But, during this process, your reps should always be working to qualify the leads further. Here is an example of the MEDDIC process in action:
- Discovery/Identify initiatives - This step is where most of the qualification is done. Sales reps also focus on discovering the prospect’s business values and problems they are looking to solve.
- Create value proposition - The goal of this step is to start framing how your product/service would be valuable to the prospect, utilize valuable metrics to emphasize this, and start to develop the champions for your offering.
- Execute competitive strategy - In this step, reps will be aiming to set your product apart from the competition by aligning it with the decision-criteria of the prospect, spotlighting what differentiates your product/service, and influencing buying criteria.
- Validation - The focus of this step is for the rep to position and validate your product/service as the solution and the means to meet the prospect’s objectives.
- Proposal - This step is where the sales rep confirms the decision process and officially presents the proposed solution through the use of quotes or standard contracts. The champions can be utilized further at this point.
- Negotiate/Close - As the final step of the process, in this stage sales reps will finalize negotiations, ensure the needs of the prospect are met, and close the sale through finalized contracts.
SNAP Selling Process
If you are looking for a short sales process, the SNAP Selling process is perfect. This is especially true in scenarios where your sales reps are not able to get many interactions with prospects. Created in 2012 by Jill Konrath, SNAP Selling aims to speed up the sales workflow under the assumption that prospects are both busy and distracted.
In this process, sales reps follow the acronym SNAP:
- S (Keep it simple): Keep it simple, easy, and clear. Make it very easy for prospects to shift their current habits and adopt your product or service.
- N (Be iNvaluable): Your prospects are short on time and often overwhelmed. You need to quickly become the trusted advisor for prospects and showcase the value of your product above your competition.
- A (Always align): Align your position and offerings with the prospect’s beliefs and needs, making them want to buy from you.
- P (Raise priorities): To win deals, focus on how your solution meets/helps with the prospect’s priorities.
This sales process also focuses on three key buyer decisions: allowing access, choosing to move away from the status quo, and changing resources. When sales reps focus on the four principles above as well as these three buyer decisions, they’ll create an easy purchasing pathway for their prospects and keep deals on track.
Improve Your Sales Process Through Automation
No matter what the details of your chosen sales process look like, there is one powerful thing that can help optimize it—sales automation. Automation and workflow tools can help streamline your sales process by automating many of the manual, time-consuming daily tasks your reps have to do every day.
Some parts and aspects of the sales workflow that can be automated include:
- Route planning
- Activity logging
- Outbound calling
- Sales presentations
- Deal tracking
- Document/contract sharing
Automation makes your sales process much more efficient and effective. Your reps can focus less time on administrative tasks and more time and effort on selling to prospects and customers. In fact, according to an IDC survey, sales teams that utilize automation tools can see a 30% increase in deal closures.
Map My Customers is one of these tools that can help automate and streamline several different stages of your team’s process. From robust lead generation capabilities to follow-up and activity automation and many things in between. Thus, empowering your reps, reducing the amount of time spent on admin tasks, and helping to shorten the sales cycle.
Utilizing a Streamlined Sales Process to Elevate Your Team’s Efforts
One common theme you may notice throughout many of these sales process examples we’ve covered above is providing a solution for the prospect or customer. As you can see, exactly how you get to that final solution stage can vary depending on the type of sales process.
But, having a structured sales process, in general, will prove to be invaluable to your company and its sales efforts. Once you’ve pinpointed the exact process that would be the best fit for your company, implementing it will empower your sales reps to more effectively meet the needs of qualified prospects and customers. Including sales workflow tools and automation in the mix will optimize your company’s sales like never before.
To boost sales productivity, start testing out one of the above sales processes with your team today!