Every small business owner knows the key to predictable revenue and growth is a strong sales process. And just as important as having a solid process, is making sure it fits the team. Especially for a small business, where the sales team may wear other hats (or be two people), the process needs to mesh with their particular needs.  The truth is, there’s really no one “right” sales process anyway. It’s based instead on your market (perhaps even your niche within the market), the internal dynamics of your company and culture, and the needs of your salespeople and customers.

Building the process doesn’t have to feel like rocket science. At its core it’s just a fairly easy-to-follow progression of steps that allows your reps to control the sales conversation with potential buyers. Creating that process requires an understanding of both your sales people and your customers.

Start with the customers you have.

Ultimately the sales process is about your customer, so you need to know their challenges, objections sales people might face, and what a positive sales call looks like. You also want some direct feedback from customers about your product or service (which may also need tweaking).  Making these preliminary calls is essential market research, allowing you to better understand your customers’ needs, so you can determine the best way to approach and sell to them moving forward.

sales process

Establish criteria for qualifying leads.

Clearly, you need “Someone” to sell you products and services to-But that doesn’t mean everyone. It’s not a great use of your team’s time to chase unqualified sales leads that were never really potential customers. Determine what your customers have in common and create baseline criteria for your team to use in figuring out whom to target. That criteria for qualifying leads might answer questions like:

  •    What solutions are your prospects currently using?
  •    Why are they looking for a new solution?
  •      Does your product or service solve a problem or alleviate a pain point?
  •      Does it save them money? Time?
  •      Can your ideal buyer afford it?
  •      How long does it typically take your buyer to make a purchasing decision?

Using four or five questions to determine which leads are the most likely to convert to customers is especially important for a small sales team who will feel stretched thin if they are chasing down a lot of dead end leads.  Also, work with your marketing team (which might also double as your sales team) on ways for them to generate leads in the most time-efficient manner. That might mean online ads, email lists and newsletters, social media, trade shows, community events and word-of-mouth referrals. All of these can be efficient lead generators and more effective than cold calls.

Create a script.

Call it what you will—script, elevator pitch—it’s both the way you show a customer the value of what you’re selling and how the sales process works.  Develop that script and keep refining it until it’s a concise story. One that introduces your product or service, presents its features and benefits, explains your pricing, and that asks those qualifying questions you’ve established. Make sure that in addition to drawing attention to the benefits of what you’re selling you also mention the common pain points. This is another way of qualifying the lead—if any of the common pain points are a deal breaker for a potential client, better to learn that sooner than later.  

Put in a place a step-by-step plan for following-through.

Many salespeople think once a person has made the decision to purchase, their job is mostly done. But research shows 80 percent of sales need on average five follow-ups to close the deal. That’s why follow-up is a critical—and often the longest–part of a sales process. The follow-through plan should include things like checking in to uncover any last minute objections, sharing case studies and ROI calculators to reiterate your value, and even sending a personal note thanking them for their time.

Once your customer purchases from you ensure they understand how to use the product or service, pointing them to online tutorials and videos and sending educational materials they might need. And finally, check in down the road—making sure you have met or exceeded their expectations from the sales process.

Determine the level of digital support that’s needed.

Your sales team will need some level of digital support as they pitch and sell to potential customers, depending on what it is they are selling. That starts with your website or a landing page that speaks directly to customers coming to you online through referrals, partners, blog posts, advertisements or a Google search. Make it easy for visitors to navigate your site on a mobile device or the desktop, and to find detailed product or service descriptions.

Ask your team what kinds of information the website needs to support their sales efforts and help customers make a decision (or use the product or service) and build that in. It’s usually best to focus on the problems solved by what your company sells, rather than an overly technical description of its bells and whistles. If you sell small speakers, for example, tout the space they save and the amazing sound quality more than the polypropylene woofer and air motion transformer tweeter. Include tutorials and product demonstrations that show customers, clearly and simply, how your product or service works.

sales process

Make sure your salespeople are consistently using the process you’ve carefully mapped out.

After all this work, it’s important that your team is actually using the system that’s been created to help them. Research from IDC shows about 40 percent of sales reps don’t actively use the sales process or methodology on a regular basis. Include your sales team’s feedback as you design each step of the process and they will be more likely to buy into it, like it, and use it. An easy way to alleviate much of the time-intensive labor of follow-up is through marketing automation. Setting up simple campaigns through your marketing automation and CRM software can save hours of time and missed opportunities in the long run.

By molding the sales process around your ideal customer and the unique needs of your sales team, your small business will be in better position to convert more leads into happy, lifelong customers.