Defining the 7 Sales Process Steps
Without a formalized Sales Process in place, sales reps are left to their instincts, supported by what worked for them in the past. Each sales rep follows their own steps, and gradually tweaks as required. When things go smoothly this works fine, however when things don’t, issues can arise. This also isn’t very effective when considering bringing new sales team members on board and getting them up and running in a timely manner.
Recalling the first blog in this series a Sales Process is a set of specific and repeatable steps for sales teams to follow to nurture prospects into leads and then into customers.
Every business should have a Sales Process mapped out, and it is not something that can be just cut-and-pasted. The actual Sales Process map that a sales team follows should be unique for that business, since there are so many factors at play. A business can even have multiple Sales Processes for different buyer personas or different products or services.
A future blog post will dig deeper into how you can map out your own business’ Sales Process, but before that, it is important to know what works well and can be considered the most common and universal sales process steps.
Doing some research online, you’ll find many examples of the Sales Process. Typically it will range from 5 to 8 steps, with the actual steps varying quite broadly. While this lack of uniformity can lead to potential confusion, we’ve found that the core steps are the following:
Expanding this even further, the most common framework you’ll find has the following 7 steps:
- Engaging and Qualifying
- Objection Handling
1. Prospecting – Find new leads
Prospecting is the process of obtaining new leads. It is always the first step of the sales process and is key in the success of the steps that follow. Prospecting is an important activity in most sales reps daily or weekly plan. When prospecting is done well, it can save your sales reps time in the future by focusing on the right type of prospect, ultimately increasing the likelihood of a successful sale.
Focus your prospecting by creating buyer personas and ideal customer profiles from past successful sales. Spend the time to understand their needs and challenges, and where your offerings can fit in to meet their needs and overcome their challenges.
Prospecting can take many forms, both online and offline. For many businesses, leads may come from the efforts of the inbound marketing team, ready to engage with your sales team. Other examples of prospecting include emailing, selling and engagement on social platforms like LinkedIn and Quora, cold calling, attending conferences or industry events, and planning webinars.
Referral marketing can be one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways in obtaining new prospects.
2. Engaging and Qualifying – Interact to find out if they’re the right fit
Now that you’ve got a list of interested leads, your sales reps need to take action. They need to establish whether the prospects are a good fit for your business, and how likely it is that they’ll continue through their buyer’s journey with you. Essentially, you’re trying to figure out if spending the time on this lead will be worth it in the long run.
To qualify a lead, your sales reps will need to engage in a discovery call or email, and try to determine the following:
- What their role is in the company
- What are their day-to-day responsibilities
- What problem(s) are they looking to solve
- Why this is important for their business
- What other solutions are they considering
It is worth it to spend some time to research and evaluate which Sales Qualification method works best for your business.
3. Researching – Learn more about their needs and problems
Once the product-prospect fit has been established, it’s time to learn more about the prospects needs. Through engaging in this step effectively, sales reps can gather key information to enable them to create an experienced tailored to the client. This helps to increase trust, helps the sales rep anticipate future potential hurdles and roadblocks, and ultimately helps to increase the likelihood of a successful sale.
Some things you may want to learn before presenting a possible solution include:
- What budget are they working with?
- What is their timeline?
- Which problems are urgent and which are important?
- How will they measure success?
4. Pitching – Present your solution
Pitching is when it’s finally time to share your proposal with your prospect. This is a vital step in the Sales Process that all previous actions have been leading to. It can also be very time consuming, which emphasizes why qualifying prospects prior to this is so important, so you don’t waste the valuable time of your sales reps.
Make sure that the pitch is centered around your customer’s needs. Don’t just do a canned pitch, be prepared to adjust on the fly by addressing questions and objections, and asking questions of your own as well. Your sales reps need to present your offerings my highlighting the value proposition and how it can resolve their business challenges.
Depending on the prospect and your offering, you may want to further tailor the proposal by including others in your sales pitch, such as an engineer, someone from IT, or an executive to address high-level business questions that the sales rep is unable to address sufficiently.
5. Objection Handling – Answer their questions
Questions and concerns come up in every business deal. They often come up either during the pitch or after, once the prospect has had time to think about your offer and discuss internally. Handling objections properly, and with an empathetic and attentive attitude can be a make-or-break point of the deal, which is why it’s a step in the Sales Process.
Common objections include budgeting or cost concerns, onboarding or lack of time, comparisons with your competitors, or issues with the contract.
If the research and lead qualification steps were performed well, your sales rep would have likely encountered some or all of these objections already, have been able to anticipate them and are already prepared, or potentially have had them addressed.
6. Closing – Don’t let the sale walk out the door
Once all previous stages have been sufficiently addressed and there is enough evidence of a mutually-beneficial deal between the sales organization and the customer, it is time to close the deal. This is the ‘end-goal’ that all sales reps are trying to achieve.
Depending on your businesses sales structure, this may come in different forms, whether its submission of a quote or proposal, final negotiations, contracts are signed, or payments are made, etc.
7. Nurturing – Get repeat business from customers, or referrals
Closing was the ‘end-goal’ of the sales process, but that’s not when it officially ends. Following up very important in ensuring customer satisfaction. Your sales reps should check in and ensure that customers are receiving what they purchased.
Once you’ve successfully closed, the sales rep then usually passes the customer over to an account manager or a customer success agent, and the sales rep should be involved in the transition. This will ensure a positive experience for the customer as they move on to onboarding and increase the likelihood that feel the positive effects of your offering.
This process is key in building strong customer relationships, it keeps you in contact, increases satisfaction, and improves retention. It also opens up the potential for repeat business, cross selling, upselling, and can aid in future marketing efforts through referrals, while also gathering testimonials and positive reviews as well.
Mapping your unique Sales Process
Again, these Sales Process steps are the most common that you’ll find in most businesses. However, to maximize effectiveness, every business should take this framework as a baseline, analyze their own business, and modify it to best suit what works for their specific case, workflows, offerings, and most importantly, their customers. It is also important to specify in more depth the details of each steps, expectations, actions to take, etc. This is all done through the building of a Sales Process map, which we will discuss in the next blog in this series.