What is a sales process? Why is it important?
- 5 steps to build a sales process that mirrors the buyer journey (Part 2)
- How to future-proof your sales process & avoid failure (Part 3)
This is part 1 of a sales process blog series based on conversations with Insightly VP of Sales, Mark Ripley.
If you sell something, you already have a sales process—even if you’ve never written it down.
Of course, some companies invest a lot of time and effort to create detailed flowcharts, diagrams, and work instructions for every stage of the sales process. Others do not formally define their sales processes, aside from allowing their sales reps to “do what they do.” Both approaches are examples of sales processes, yet a more formalized approach can be much more effective.
What’s the ideal sales process for your business?
To help you figure out, here are a few tips for defining and improving your sales process.
What is a sales process?
A sales process is a series of steps that your company takes to guide prospective buyers toward a purchase.
If you’re a cooking enthusiast, it may be constructive to compare your sales process to preparing your favorite recipe. Following the recipe allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Deviating from the recipe—or ignoring it entirely—usually leaves a bad taste in your mouth and makes you feel like you wasted your time.
“Like any good recipe, a well-crafted sales process creates consistent results, time and time again,” says Mark Ripley, Vice President of Sales at Insightly. “As you start to grow your business, your sales process becomes even more important.”
Stop and think about your sales process as it stands today:
- What “steps” do you and your team go through to close a deal?
- Do these steps align with the pipeline stages in your CRM?
- Does everyone in your sales organization follow the same steps to close a deal?
- Or, do they just go through the motions and ignore your “recipe”?
Spend time studying your current sales process along with its strengths and weaknesses. Remember, you already have a sales process—good or bad! Now is the time to understand what is working and what’s not.
Benefits of developing a better sales process
If you’ve been in business for very long, your existing sales process has at least delivered some measurable results. Cut yourself some slack and be thankful for the success you’ve enjoyed.
That being said, there’s always room for improvement. And, as Mark points out, continuously refining your sales process puts your business in a better position to enjoy the following benefits.
More data for ongoing measurement & continuous improvement
Whether you realize it or not, you likely have a substantial amount of data at your fingertips. It might be messy and require some cleanup, but it’s a start. Analyzing historical deal data enables you to understand your future data needs, which creates a virtuous cycle for enhancing the sales process.
“Measuring conversion rates and everything else in your sales process provides a surgical approach to understanding what needs to be improved,” says Mark.
Key takeaway: Use data to take a snapshot of your existing sales process. Then, look for new measurement opportunities to generate more data for ongoing improvement.
Enhanced coaching for your sales team
Armed with reliable data about your sales process, you’re in a much better spot to anticipate challenges, provide actionable coaching to your team, and be the best leader that you can be.
“Data makes it easier to paint a vision of success and inspire your sales reps,” says Mark.
For example, closely monitoring your team’s average close rate on qualified opportunities should make it easier to identify reps who need specialized training or assistance with late-stage deals. Likewise, tracking the success of cold outreach efforts can help you predict acquisition costs and inform decisions about talent allocation.
Key takeaway: Simply telling your team to “try harder” is not a winning strategy. You need a transparent, data-driven sales process that provides the right insights for elevating sales rep performance.
As you add additional sales reps, layers of management, geographic locations, product lines, and general complexity, a haphazard sales process turns into serious liability for your business.
“If you want to scale, that’s where a sales process becomes mission critical,” says Mark.
Key takeaway: If you have ambitions of growing your sales team beyond a handful of reps, you need a reliable, repeatable sales process.
No article about sales processes would be complete if it ignored a key topic: revenue optimization. Maximizing revenue is the whole point of a sales process.
When properly designed and implemented, a sales process makes it easier for your company to generate revenue—and do so without adding headcount.
“Your sales process can help you increase your revenue per rep in a number of different ways,” says Mark. “If you’re taking the right measurements, constantly tweaking things, and coaching effectively, you should start to experience more revenue per rep.”
Key takeaway: Think of your sales process as a tool that helps you drive more revenue in an increasingly efficient way.
Next up, model your sales process to the buying process
Stay tuned for our next article about sales processes, which will provide specific steps for modeling your sales process to the customer’s buying journey.
Check out more sales tips on the Insightly blog.