I’ll get straight to the point: a lot of businesses are still experiencing slower sales and revenue due to COVID. Businesses around the world are worried about how they’ll fare and what they can do to make things pick back up this year. The reality is, we’ve still got a long road ahead of us. If you’re going to last and see some positive changes, you have to tackle your sales efforts proactively

You may already have a sales process, but it’s time to take a long, hard look at it and adjust.  Your sales process isn’t any good if you’re continuing to see sales decline. And even if the reason, like a global pandemic, is out of your control, you have to look at the things you can control.

Having a clear-cut set of steps for how things get done helps you navigate your various initiatives and keep your entire team on track. It can also help you streamline your day-to-day for better sales performance

This is key in sales, where even one misstep or inefficiency can mean missing out on a customer. It can take a lot of trial and error to nail down your sales process, especially when you’re just starting out or trying to come back from some very slow months. To save you some time, we’ve put together a couple of recommendations for how to create a seamless sales process and get on the path to a more productive way of doing things so you can be more prepared for what this year will throw at you. 

When tackling your sales process, you need to obviously understand what a sales process is, but you also need to brush up on the right methodologies to use. 

What is a Sales Process?

A sales process is a predetermined, step-by-step framework that a sales team uses to move prospects and leads down the sales funnel toward a purchase. The stronger the sales process, the more clarity that reps have about how to move potential buyers from point A to point B, even in cases when unique adjustments need to be made.

What is a Sales Methodology?

A company’s sales methodology is the philosophy that guides its sales process. Think about it like a guide for how reps interact with leads, with established rules for selling a product or service that are designed to be in line with an organization’s identity and goals. 

How to Create a Sales Process

Now that we’ve addressed the two biggest factors involved with sales practices let’s break down a sales process you can easily implement. 

Step One: Establish Your Sales Methodology

There are so many different ways to approach sales, and some of them are going to work better for your purposes than others. It’s important to figure out what will work best for your company and your sales team  — a process in itself and one that might require some experimentation.

Some of the most common sales methodologies include:

  • ABM (Account-Based Marketing) – A B2B sales strategy where you identify your ideal clients and their decision-makers and then target those decision-makers directly with targeted messaging and other types of outreach.
  • Challenger Approach – A competition-driven sales strategy that seeks to amplify your expertise to boost brand authority and separate yourself from those who are offering similar products or services.
  • SPIN Selling – A customer-centric model geared toward solving specific problems. SPIN stands for the four types of questions that a potential customer might have and that you should address: 
    • Situation 
    • Problem
    • Implication
    • Need-Payoff.
  • Value Selling – Illustrating your product or service’s value in relation to a specific problem that a potential customer has to make it an attractive solution.
  • Solution Selling – An approach to sales that starts with identifying a problem and then turns to exactly how your product or service can solve it. It’s similar to value selling; however, the focus is put more prominently on the problem and the required specific improvements.
  • Inbound Selling – Gently nurturing leads with personalized and helpful content and communications instead of seeking to get them to purchase as quickly as possible.
  • Consultative – Working one-on-one with a potential customer to determine their main challenges and how to solve them. This helps establish your company as a partner instead of just a business trying to score a sale.

Determine which sales methodology works best for your team and provides you with the best outcomes. You may even decide to take a little bit of what works from various methodologies and form something that’s all your own. The key here is to examine your current or previous approaches to determine what is or isn’t working well with your prospects. Use your small business CRM to track previous tactics and interactions that will provide you with a pulse on successful and not-so-successful efforts. 

We’ve found that when you use marketing automation, you’re able to cultivate an inbound selling approach with minimal effort. Doing so will also afford you the time to focus on and incorporate other selling methodologies into your overall strategy. But, more on that later. 

Step Two: Establish Your Sales Pipeline

Sales isn’t always a linear process, but it’s still essential to have a clear idea of the rungs of the ladder that separate strangers from brand loyalists. For many companies, it looks a little bit like this:

  1. Gain a prospect.
  2. Turn that prospect into a lead.
  3. Turn that lead into a qualified lead.
  4. Provide that qualified lead with valuable content to help educate them on their problem.
  5. Present your product or service as a solution.
  6. Consult and assess questions.
  7. Close.
  8. Continue to nurture and educate.

On each rung of the ladder, you should have unique and proven practices in place that help guide a potential customer to the next step. While having a fantastic product or service is obviously helpful, it’s not going to totally sell itself. You need to establish a process that enables you to guide your prospects closer and closer to a sale and in a way that nurtures and empowers them to make the decision

An effective sales process isn’t passive, nor is the end result totally out of your control. The more strategy you put into place as your prospects turn into leads, customers, returning customers, brand loyalists, and brand advocates, the fewer potential sales you’re going to have slipping through the cracks. This can also set you up for some additional revenue when new sales are drying up. 

Step Three: Study What You’re Selling

Product knowledge is essential for staying on track with the sales process. Having to seek out other sources for answers to questions about how a product or service works disrupt the flow of conversation and can even halt it altogether, so it’s up to reps to serve as their own experts.

Have reps try out the product or service they’re selling and create a clean line of communication between the sales team and developers so that there are never any lingering questions about how things function.

Step Four: Establish Your Ideal Buyer

A great sales process is as much about selling to the right person as it is selling the right way. And for that, you need to have a full picture idea of your ideal buyer (or buyers), with fleshed-out personas that clarify their needs, interests, challenges, and preferences.

Download our Buyer Persona Workbook to help you establish who you should be selling to. 

Equally important here is to connect the dots between buyer and product, taking those aforementioned needs, interests, challenges, and preferences and determining exactly what your product or service does to check off the necessary boxes. A sales process isn’t meant to be universal. Instead, it’s all about identifying the exact path your buyers take to purchase and meeting them at every key touchpoint.

Step Five: Outline Your Sales Approach

You don’t need to have a pre-written script for all reps to follow, but you should have a general outline of how to effectively sell your product or service. Keep in mind that this outline can and should be fluid, allowing for flexibility when things go off course — as they often do. What’s important is that the approach is well-thought-out and accessible to reps and that it enables better sales without locking reps into corners they can’t back themselves out of.

Step Six: Work on Your Sales Pitch

Your sales pitch is just one part of your larger approach and process, but it’s a big one. This step goes beyond your value proposition to encompass things like how you’ll handle objections, how you’ll nail your closing, and you’ll follow up later on. Again, set these out in a clear format for your reps and give concrete ideas and examples based on your sales methodology. This is a good place to lay out any guidelines around language, particularly when it comes to the words or phrases you absolutely do (or absolutely don’t) want included in the pitch.

How to Make Enhancements to Your Sales Process

Having a process down pat doesn’t always ensure success. There will be moments when you’ll need to adjust or make enhancements to your process, as things can always get stagnant from time to time. If that’s ever the case, try some of these tips to get things moving again. 

Identify Missed Opportunities

Have sales and marketing come together to examine what your typical sales process looks like. Maybe your sales team isn’t aware of all the content you have created that is meant to enable them, and therefore they’re missing out on certain opportunities to effectively engage and educate leads. Either way, it will be important for your marketing team to fully understand how your sales team approaches prospects and the various ways they sell to them. 

Perhaps there’s too much time between interactions or emails in a drip campaign. If you don’t find that balance by sending emails just enough (but not too much), you can easily fly off the radar of your leads and lose them before you even have them. 

Re-examine Your Buyer Personas

Who you sell to can change over time, especially when pandemics sweep through and drastically change the landscape. Perhaps your ideal buyer no longer has the budget you once perceived them to have (because let’s be honest, everyone’s budgets are thin right now). That is something you’ll want to adjust or at least take note of in your documented marketing plan

Re-examine the Funnel

Maybe your funnel and the way you have your nurture campaigns set up needs a little work. Is any content dated? Could you make improvements to your email copy that could motivate buyers to take more action? Or maybe there’s a step or area that customers traditionally fall off at. Identify these crucial areas to see where you can make adjustments. 

Measure and Refine Over Time

You may not have it all figured out immediately. But, if you measure your results consistently, you’ll be able to determine trends that will make forecasting sales for the next quarter more realistic. Don’t neglect to track your open rates, click-through rates, and your conversions, as well as your monthly sales revenue from other efforts. See what methods are continuously bringing in results, and double down on those. It’s vital that you make changes and don’t get complacent because what is working now (or isn’t) could change instantly.

Quick Tips to Remember During the Sales Process

  • Put prospects’ needs first. Always look at your process from the perspective of your prospects, especially when it comes to seeking out obstacles you might inadvertently be putting in the way of a successful sale.
  • Anticipate questions and challenges. Get ahead of potential hurdles by anticipating what questions and challenges your prospects might have and working out solutions in advance.
  • Be solution-oriented. Shrugging your shoulders won’t get you very far, but providing actionable solutions to your prospects’ challenges absolutely will.
  • Don’t be pushy. Even the most thorough of sales processes must walk the line between being effective and coming on too strong.

How Marketing Automation Helps Improve Your Sales Process

Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand in the modern work environment, and automation can be used in both areas to keep them moving along on their own and together.

Utilize marketing automation to better qualify your leads and track behaviors that give more insight into your buyers’ preferences. You can also use marketing automation to gather insights for sales enablement materials that can be used to improve your sales process and ensure you convert as many leads as possible.

A marketing automation tool can assist you with setting up an inbound process to support your outbound. Make it easy for prospects to initiate the sales process on their end and, if needed, adjust your introductory pitch to accommodate inbound requests.

The secret to sales success is that there is no secret. There is no single way to navigate the sales process that will work for all companies and all consumers every single time. Instead, your chances of success lie in your ability to plan, measure, and adapt.