Why Your Sales Processes Should Evolve and Grow
Last month we covered sales strategies and why it is absolutely vital for you to have them well mapped out in your business.
This time we’re going to cover Sales Processes – what they are and why you have to have them if you want to ensure not only sales grow but a smooth buying process for your customers.
What is a Sales Process?
A sales process is a series of steps (processes) designed so a sales person may take a prospective buyer from initial interest through to a closed sale. There are usually between 5 – 7 identifiable stages – here at the Sales Coach we use a 7-step model which will be covered in detail later in this article.
Why Do You Need One?
Can you imagine trying to do something, anything, in your business without having some kind of plan or structure in place by which you can manage both expectations and outcomes?
- When you are looking for staff do you simply walk out of the door, grab the nearest passing people and employ them?
- Do you pay your team whatever you want, whenever you can be bothered?
- Does your accounting system consist of you chucking a few receipts in a plastic bag and hoping for the best?
The answer to all the above is NO (well at least we hope it is!).
So why would you try to run a sales operation without having plans, systems and processes in place?
You may have been lucky in the early days with sales happening ‘just because’ but the emphasis here is on the word lucky. You need to be able to grow your sales if your business is to prosper – and you can’t do that by trusting to luck!
Picture this, you employ a new sales person. They come highly recommended and have a brilliant track record. Yet months down the line they are failing to reach targets and seem disaffected so, you call them into a meeting to find out what’s going on…
The first thing they say is…”there’s no standard procedure – everyone does things their own way – there is no consistency – I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, when or how!”
The only reason they could say this is IF THERE IS NO SYSTEM. What you have in your sales team and your business in general is a bunch of individuals trying their best but without any structure to inform them.
Remember, in previous articles, we have talked about getting your teams and departments working together? A comprehensive Sales Process will help this to happen – everyone in your business will be able to see a cohesive overall strategy is in place and, thanks to a documented Process, will know where their particular role sits and what they need to do to make things happen.
Documented and understood processes also means your sales teams have structure to their selling activities, making it easier to analyse results…if everyone has the same basic guidelines to selling your products, why do some of the team perform better than others?
In addition, if a Sales Process demonstrably shows results (i.e. increased sales) then your sales team will be fully onboard – after all improving sales will deliver increased remuneration to them.
Your Sales Process will also form an integral part of your Sales Forecasting, as well as being a great way to underline confidence in your business – demonstrating that you know what you are doing in other words!
What About the Customers?
As your business grows, your customer/client base will too; having a structured process for converting leads, into prospects and then into closed sales will ensure that ALL your buyers will experience the same journey.
One of the biggest complaints from customers is that they don’t feel valued during the sales process. They are treated as merely a ‘sale’, not an individual (applicable even if they are acting on behalf of an organisation).
Creating a great sales process which documents and tracks a customer’s journey through your Sales Funnel (see below) will ensure that they receive the right service, at the right time and at the right price – hopefully resulting in a sale!
Remember, these days at least 57% of your potential customers will have already made their purchase decision based on online research. Many of them really won’t want to interact with you in any way other than online so you need to be ready to either accept this kind of scenario OR be able to convince them otherwise via your targeted marketing approach and your ongoing Sales Process.
Your Sales Process should improve your NPS (net promoter score) and CSI (customer satisfaction score) considerably as your customers will feel valued and respected, rather than pressurised and confused.
What Will You Need to Create Your Sales Process?
A CRM System (Customer Relationship Management)
What is a CRM?
If you have ever used a spreadsheet to track your customers journey, then you have created your own basic CRM.
You will have recorded:
- The customer name and contact details
- How the lead was gained and when
- Who spoke to them and when
- What their enquiry was (what is it they want to buy)
- Follow up date(s) will have been logged
- Follow up calls logged
- Sale (or not) recorded
What a dedicated CRM system can provide that your spreadsheet would struggle to do (unless you are an absolute Excel wizard!) is link everything together to your email and calendar system.
Used fully and correctly your CRM will become a literal data repository for ALL customer interactions. It will improve customer relations (because your dealings with them will appear seamless even if different team members work with them) and it will also improve Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) because your customer base will feel they are known, recognised and valued by your company – they are therefore more likely to become repeat, even loyal customers.
We can’t advise you on the best system but ask around other similar businesses, what do they use. Try to get the software companies to provide a free trial period where you and your sales manager can test the functionality before rolling out to your teams.
A Sales Funnel
A sales funnel is fundamentally the way you bring your customers closer to your offer and ultimately to a sale.
In order for you to track the progress through this sales funnel, you need a way to record all your customer interactions – hence the importance of a robust CRM system (see above)
At the Sales Coach we break down the sales process into sections…
Suspect. Prospect. Approach. Negotiate. Close. Order. Pay.
You should be able to set up your CRM system in such a way that you will be able to label your customers according to their journey through this funnel.
Following the SPANCOP system and recording data accurately within your chosen CRM will allow you to create processes in and around each of the separate headings. This means that if you have different groups or teams working at different levels within your sales team they will all be fully aware of their part in the overall Sales Process.
Equally, ensuring departments such as marketing and finance are part of the Sales Process and have access to the CRM will smooth the customer journey through the funnel.
Let’s have a look at each level in a little more detail:
Starting at the very top of the funnel – the widest part – this is where you should theoretically have the greatest number of potential customer details. We tag these as ‘suspects’ – they are the leads, the approaches, the speculative contacts.
Get them in your CRM, no matter how speculative because if you don’t record them how can you hope to track and follow up on them?
Now you have these ‘suspects’ recorded you can begin the process of reaching out to them in order to move them further down the funnel. You could use email, phone calls, videos. Your approach should have been set down in your Sales Strategy in conjunction with your marketing team, so your sales teams should be aware of the steps to take.
Using the appropriate methods you should have been able to establish which ‘suspects’ are legitimate potential customers and you can move them down the funnel to sit in your ‘prospects’ section. These are more qualified leads that you can now begin to work on further to convert to sales.
Approach and Analyse
You now have a ‘prospects’ list and can begin to reach out to the potential customer in a more personalised basis in order to establish that there is a genuine interest in your product. Your sales team will need to ascertain the customers pain points and begin the process of ensuring your offering fits their needs and requirements.
Your list of potential customers (out of the original interest) will have reduced considerably by the time you reach this phase. Arguably this is the most important part of the process as this is where your sales personnel, having already ascertained there is a need for what you are selling, convince the prospect that this is indeed the case! At the end of this level you will have either a commitment to purchase, a definite no, or a customer who will remain in the ‘negotiate’ phase a little longer.
The deal is done – now to the legal side of thing, contracts and agreements. Until everything is agreed and signed you could still lose the sale. Don’t be tempted to think this stage is a matter of tying up the loose ends, keep the dealings efficient and effective.
Well done – you’re over the SPANCOP finishing line…well almost! Don’t allow your team to become complacent though, they may have done their part in closing the deal but remind them that, to the customer, they are the faces of the organisation…their contact point. Make sure that everything is recorded in your CRM – even little things like knowing the name of a customers’ spouse or child, could help at some point in the future (remember CLV?).
Collecting payments should be straightforward, especially if your terms and conditions are stringent. But this needn’t be the end of your contact with a customer. Provided you comply with GDPR regs you should be contacting them on a regular basis, both to see how they are getting on with their purchase, but also to keep them in the loop re. new products which may also be of interest.
- Without a Sales Process you are relying on luck rather than judgement
- You NEED at CRM
- Departments and teams will operate more efficiently and effectively if there are processes to follow
- Sales team will have structure to follow in their day to day work and will have a method of tracking the customer journey effectively
- Customers will feel valued and respected
- NPS, CSI and CLV will all show improvements once a cohesive Sales Process is in place
Selling is constantly evolving. Your buyers are too. You need to make sure that you are able to match their changing requirements by modifying your Sales Processes if necessary.
Never rest on past successes – look at businesses such as Kodak, Nokia and IBM…massive multinational companies who failed to recognise changing market places and subsequently collapsed.
Use your Sales Process to communicate with your buyers, ask them what it is they want and need?
Keep ahead of the game and innovate – don’t expect to be able to sell the same thing in the same way for the entirety of your business’ existence!
You could of course opt to just trust to luck – but we wouldn’t recommend it!
If you enjoyed this post please take time to read some of my other blogs:
Steve Knapp is the Founder and Owner of Steve Knapp Sales. With 30+ years of B2B successful sales, sales management and sales leadership experience. Steve created The 5 Principles of Sales Excellence & has used this to drive sustained sales performance in one of the most successful companies in the world. To discuss your sales requirements contact Steve on [email protected]