by Krista Moore
Today we’d like to discuss why having a sales process is so important and begin to help you better understand the key elements that make a sales process successful. Chances are you already have something like a sales process in place, but unlikely that you have taken the time to document it, create support material for it, train around it, and ensure everyone is executing it in the same manner.
A successful sales process is a proven, documented sales approach with messaging and job aids that represent your winning model for gaining, penetrating and retaining accounts. A formal process would include standardized scripts that ensure everyone is saying the same things, conveying the same message to customers, and is supported by consistent job aids and marketing tools that are appropriately aligned to the steps and activities in the process.
Sales reps appreciate a standardized process because it helps them be more efficient, develop stronger skills through repetition, and spares them from having to reinvent the wheel with every prospect or opportunity. When they get stuck in pursuit of an opportunity, a process provides them guidance with suggested next steps, instead of leaving them floundering and feeling stalled in their efforts. Sales reps also gain a sense of company commitment, support, and dedication toward the sales department and their efforts. But the greatest satisfaction—for both the company and its sales reps—comes when they see the true outcomes of being more professional and closing more accounts faster.
Sales managers and business owners appreciate the sales process concept. Once the process is defined, it is easier to manage the sales funnel and the expectations surrounding sales activities. A process creates a system of accountability to new business and better information for estimating new cash flow. Managers can also determine where in the sales process the sales reps are getting stuck so they can address these issues sooner rather than later. Sales reps’ problems are often the result of not giving the appropriate amount of effort, or their selling style or methods aren’t effective; a process takes the guesswork out of the latter, and allows a manager to manage the sales reps behavior and activities accordingly. Then the results will come.
The idea of qualifying leads can be daunting, especially if you do not have a lead generator, database, or a CRM to assist. You should first consider a lead generation system. Examples of such a system might include your local chamber of commerce, business journals, existing customer referrals, Hoovers, or DMB. Consider the waste of time, money, and energy involved when sales reps are left struggling to identify their own prospects in an unorganized way.
Some companies consider the sale process begins after lead generation, and others believe the sales process technically does not begin until you have prequalified the lead and determined they are an ideal customer and a valid opportunity for your business. In such cases, prequalification may represent the first step in your sales process.
When we work with business owners on sales process creation and job aid designs, we customize these tools to their strengths, brand, and messaging. Then we supplement and enhance these tools with best practices, proven paths, and a library full of job aids and sales training resources. The outcome is a documented, phased sales process with steps, established goals, activities, and job aids for each step.
Below is a sample outline that demonstrates possible steps in each phase.
Phase 1 – Get Appointment
Goal: To get an appointment
Activities: Make the phone call. Leave a voice message if you don’t speak to them live, and then follow-up with an email.
Job Aids: A script for leaving an effective voice message, a talk track that is creating values, a sample template of an email that can be sent with the same messaging as the conversation, a template email thanking the prospect for the appointment while setting the agenda and expectations.
Without this, your prospect may reasonably think Who is this? What’s in it for me? Why should I listen? This type of customer response makes it difficult to get to the next phase of your sale process, resulting in wasted time as well as a potential loss of opportunity.
Phase 2 – Uncover Needs
Goal: Have a successful sales call and uncover an opportunity.
Activity: Pre-plan the call and prepare an effective opening statement for the meeting.
Job Aid: A professional script, conversation guide, sample questions to uncover needs.
Lacking this type of preparation and planning, your reps may have a tendency to show and tell, talk too much about your company and not ask questions and uncover the needs of the prospect. They may be doing their own thing instead of representing the company in the manner you prefer, or a manner that has already proven successful.
Phase 3 – Present Proposal
Goal: Close the business
Activity: Prepare a price offer as well as a service proposal.
Job Aid: Sample template proposals, talk track for handling objections.
Without a structured, customer-specific proposal, a sales rep may fall back on simply providing a price list and a catalog, rather than presenting a full program and addressing concerns. When sales reps focus purely on price, they squander the opportunity to communicate the full spectrum of value your company offers its customers. The customer may also feel that the sales rep didn’t listen to his specific needs.
Phase 4 – Closing
Goal: Get the commitment
Activity: Prepare an implementation plan and eliminate the customer’s fear of change.
Job Aid: Sample implementation plan, talk track and tips for addressing the fear of change and asking for the business.
Failing the approach of this last phase… well, you know the rest of the story.
We hope that this has given you an idea not only how to establish a formal sales process, but also demonstrated why a process is necessary for the continued success of your business. By giving your sales reps the structure and support of a sales process, you help them develop their strengths and effectiveness, while affirming that the features and value of your company are properly represented to each and every customer.