Having a clearly defined sales process for your business is just as important as the product and service you offer. However, if you’re like many small
business owners, you may be wearing too many hats, and don’t have the time to sit down and document important business processes like the sales process.
Keeping everything in your head appears easier when you’re time poor but the reality is, you run the risk of important tasks falling through the cracks
- important tasks like not following up with leads in a timely manner. If this all sounds familiar to you, you’re in the right place. This article
will provide you with a quick guide to creating an effective sales process. But first – what is a sales process and why do you need one?
What is a sales process?
Basically, a sales process is the list of steps and tasks that keep potential customers moving through the pipeline. An effective sales process must be aligned with the way your customers buy - read about the buyers journey here to learn more. Each step should add value to the sales process by educating your potential customers with information they are looking for, that also complements your business.
What are the benefits of a sales process?
There are actually a range of benefits for having a documented sales process. One of the main benefits of having a sales process is that it will help to increase your revenue. This is achieved by making sure that none of your potential customers fall through the cracks. It also gives you a benchmark to start analysing conversions from one step in the process to another so you can identify areas that need to be improved so you can close more leads into customers. Other ways your business will benefit from a sales process is by improving internal efficiencies. This means you can look at ways to automate part of the process to save time or have another staff member handle part of the process. A sales process that is aligned with the way your customers buy will improve the customer experience and help to build your brand and reputation, and potentially generate more inquiries. And finally it will reduce the stress associated with keeping everything in your head and staying up at night wondering if you remembered to follow up with that new inquiry.
How to create an effective sales process
Below is a generic sales process that is a great foundation from which to start. You can tweak this to work best for your company, industry and customers.
The first step in your sales process is "prospecting". There are several ways you can prospect for new sales, but it will ultimately come down to your buyer persona, buyer journey and what works well for your industry. It will also depend on your personality! Some effective forms of prospecting include: networking at industry events or local business events, joining a referral network like a BNI, or using LinkedIn to search for people who fit your ideal buyer and calling them. Take some time to think about ways you can get in front of people who should be buying from you.
The next step is connecting. Whether your leads come from outbound prospecting or inbound inquiries, you need to have a process that first determines if you can help them. That is, what information do you need to know about these people to qualify them as potential leads? Information like name, phone number, email, location and their challenge (or need) is a good place to start. You may even need to know their company name and job title. No matter what information you need to qualify a lead, you do need a way to document what information is required at the ‘connect’ stage to move them to the next stage - discovery. It is equally important to identify those who aren't a good fit early on in the sales process, so you don't waste your precious time with the wrong people.
Depending on what you are selling, this is the step where you get clear on the scope of work needed so you can provide a price, details of the scope of work/deliverables and the timeframe in which it will be completed. For example: if you are a residential landscaper your discovery process would include a site visit so you can take measurements, and go through a list of standard questions about the job so you can provide a design that meets your clients expectations. If you provide a professional service like accounting, insurance or legal you may call this Fact Finding. Either way, it’s important to have this documented with a consistent process that gathers information that can then be used in a quote or proposal.
Exploratory and pricing
The next step in your sales process is to provide your new lead with your scope of work, ideas, option and pricing. However, it’s more than just giving a quote. You want to tell your potential client why they should use your company and not the competition. Having a template (or webpage) you can use that includes examples of past clients, reviews and results is important. Once you have submitted your quote, it’s equally important to have a process that follows up to ensure they received the quote, understood the scope of work, and that they don't sit on it for too long. For example, you may have a documented process that says:
Book in time to present the quote.
- After the meeting, email the quote with agreement.
- Follow up call the next day. And if you still don't have an answer, another follow up call after 7 days. This is the step that a lot of business owners forget about – they get the quotes out and then forget to follow up or leave it too long to follow up!
Get yourself a CRM
The final step is to get yourself a CRM to manage the sales process. It is important to have the right tools and the place to start is with a CRM. CRM stands for customer relationship management, it is a system for managing relationships with your customers. And as you know, without customers there is no business, so looking after your customers is key to business growth and success. As your business grows, it's vital to have one central place where all your information about your customers lives (your head is not a good enough place). Having all your customer data in one place will provide valuable insights so you can improve your marketing, your sales, optimise internal processes and improve the customer experience.Without this information being readily available you run the risk of losing revenue and profits, not to mention the impact of increased workload affecting your health.
Your CRM should also include a visual pipeline and dashboarding reporting. Your pipeline should be aligned with each stage of your sales process as this will enable you to easily see what stage each of your leads are at. Then, the dashboard will give you real time updates of the current status of your leads, actions items that are due and revenue in the pipeline.
Keep in mind your sales process needs to be flexible and adapt to the changing needs of your customers.To learn more about creating an effective marketing and sales strategic plan, register for the on demand workshop.
About the author: Stacie Chalmers is the managing director of The Inbound Marketing Company (TIMCo), a global Inbound Marketing and Sales Agency based in Australia, with clients in North America and Australia.