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By Liz Stone December 18, 2017

When It Comes to Sales Process, a Standardized Approach Won't Work

Some sales consultants will tout that a proven methodology, if followed, will yield results. They’ll proceed to unveil a complicated-looking template, put your logo on it, and promise if you follow it exactly you’ll be wildly successful.

This never works. Yes, every sales process shares commonalities. They have five to eight similar stages such as prospecting, qualification, needs assessment, solution presentations, and closing). They share similar tools such as account blueprints, sales decks and proposals. And they involve a lot of people from sales to marketing to upper management.

But if your sales process isn’t mapped to your buyer and your company culture, and isn't clearly-defined to all involved, it will fall flat. For a sales process to be effective, it needs to become a core piece of your sales organization. This requires thoughtfulness and a great deal of customization. 

Every sales process should be customized in the following ways: 

To your target buyer

You need to understand who you are selling to before you map out how you sell your product to them. Who your target buyer is and how they make purchasing decisions is critical to the success of your sales process.

Do research before making a process; talk to your customers that fit the profile of your ideal prospect. Gain insight into their buying behaviors from your experienced salespeople who have worked with these kinds of people before. Once your persona's preferences and buying process have been identified, you can start crafting a sales process with your buyer in mind.

To the people involved
There are many people involved in a sales process. During pre-sales this could be your marketing, business development, or channel partners teams. In mid-sales, subject matter experts or technical salespeople, upper management or leadership are involved to convey credibility. Financial departments get involved in the proposal/contracts phase. And client services or onboarding specialist step in once the sale is colsed.

All of these people should know their roles and responsibilities in the sales process and should be willing to give their time and attention. If it’s unclear who does what, or if not enough time is given to complete responsibilities, sales will continually get stuck or lost. 

To how you communicate
Language is the most powerful tool we have. A common sales language needs to be clearly-defined or else sales people, and management alike, will come up with their own interpretations of where a sale is at in the process, or what the process is altogether. Definitions lead to fewer miscommunications and higher accountability. The following should be defined for your sales process

  • Target buyer and their buying process - who are you selling to, and how they buy
  • The sales process stages and steps within each - the actions that need to occur in each phase of the sales process to move an opportunity through it
  • Entry and exit criteria of each stage - the actions and outcomes needed in each stage before you can continue on to the next one
  • Opportunity qualification criteria - the characteristics of a good prospect, and how to continually qualify through the process so as not to waste time on prospects gone bad
  • Tools and best practices to use at each stage -  tools, techniques and strategies to employ at different points in the process
  • Sales metrics - the performance metrics being used to measure sales team and process effectiveness
  • How the sales process maps with CRM - what to input into CRM to show the status of an opportunity
  • Sales terminology - sales terms used in the sales process and their meaning
  • Industry and internal acronyms and jargon your own terminology used in the process

To how you measure sales success
Sales process metrics are used to track opportunities as they move from a lead to a closed sale, measure sales team performance, and make sales projections. What you track and benchmark against depends on your goals and industry, but some sales process metrics you should be measuring are:

  • Time spent in each stage, to identify what stages are taking the longest and where there may be some bottlenecks or skills missing on behalf of salespeople
  • Sales by lead source, to show which lead sources move most effectively through the sales process. Certain lead sources may require a slight variation of the process you follow.
  • Average length of sales cycle, which shows how many days it takes your sales reps to take a lead through the process. If it’s longer than you want or expect, it’s time to revisit the sales process and find areas of optimization.
  • Win rate, showing what number of leads entering your sales process resulted in sales. This provides insight into sales reps that may need coaching or to be moved to another role, if they consistently have low win rates.
  • Sales tool usage, meaning are your sales people using the sales collateral provided to them as they go through the process? If not, they may be wasting time recreating it, or they may not be using anything at all.
  • Sales action metrics, set goals based on sales process actions within a specified time period, such as # of first meetings, # of needs assessments, # of proposals, etc. These can be on a team or individual basis for compensation and motivational purposes.  
  • Percentage to close by stage, showing the probability of an opportunity turning to a closed sale as it progresses through the sales process. 

If you're experiencing lower-than-desired close rates or a long sales cycle, it may be because your sales process isn't customized to who you're selling to or everyone on your sales team has their own idea of how to sell your product. 

Get started by evaluating your sales process. If you don't like what you see, contact Sales Result to discuss your sales process concerns, and learn how a customized sales process could help you achieve your goals. 

Topics: Sales Process

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