Mapping your Business’ Sales Process
A Sales Process can be compared to a diet. The world is full of different nutritional guides and diets from simply eating everything, to very restrictive diets to help manage a chronic disease, such as a gluten-free diet. While you could simply grab and adopt one of these diets as-is for yourself, it will work, but you’ll find that over time, you'll get more attuned to your own needs, and modify the diet through observation, testing, as well as accommodating for your changing preferences and how you’re reacting to the diet.
In a similar manner, Sales Processes have a lot of templates out there, including the one we detailed in the second post of this guide. One can be adopted into your business and have a positive impact, simply because it provides structure and guidance. Building your Sales Process specifically for your company is key to its success. The combination of how your business operates, the makeup of your team, and your customers’ needs and expectations makes your business unique, and your Sales Process should reflect that in order to maximize results.
Actually mapping out your Sales Process and making it available to everyone involved ensures that it is consistent throughout your business and easily learned and adopted by new hires. This will essentially be a blueprint that anyone involved can follow to stay on track of a potential deal, no matter where the prospect is in the buying process.
Ultimately, what you’re looking to create is a flowchart which includes steps that can be taken at every decision point of a prospect, with the benefits of:
- Reducing the amount of time that it takes to get through to closing
- Keeping everyone in the loop
- Improving the confidence of your sales team in dealing with customers and potential objections
- Helps new Sales Team members get up and running faster and more effectively
- Increasing your business’ overall conversion rate and revenue
Start from the end - Set a Clear Goal
The first step is to identify what you are trying to achieve. Has anything changed and needs to be addressed; have sales decreased? Is there room for improvement? Has there been a major shift in the marketplace? Or do you need a more formal process in place that will be easier to track, manage, and update in the future in response to external forces as well as changes within your own business? Maybe it’s straight-forward and you just want to increase sales, grow your customer base, or improve customer retention.
Start at the end. Determine the goal you are trying to achieve, and work your way backwards to determine the steps that it takes to get there. It is important to clearly identify what you are trying to achieve; Setting a goal and keeping it top-of-mind throughout the process ensures that you can stay focused and don’t get lost in the details.
Get buy-in and involve everyone who has an impact on the process
Understand that this will certainly be no small effort. Implementing a change like this can no doubt be difficult, but the payoff can be enormous. In order for this to succeed however, you will need input from the entire sales team, and other teams involved in the sales process, or those who interact closely with sales.
Make sure that everyone is made aware of the benefit and reasons behind the undertaking of mapping the Sales Process. This will encourage them to make their own valuable contributions, as well as adopt the changes once the Sales Process is put into place.
Most businesses have several stakeholders involved in a sale before it is closed. Even though the sales team is at the forefront, the Sales Process may involve members of different teams throughout the business. This may include project teams, the marketing team, IT department, customer support, or customer success teams, among others. Avoid the mistake of not considering the knowledge and experience of everyone who is part of the client acquisition process.
Involve these stakeholders in mapping of the Sales Process. Set up meetings with each department individually. Depending on your capabilities and the size of your business, it may also be beneficial to get everyone together. During the meetings encourage people to share their opinions, as they can offer valuable insights and fresh perspectives that your sales team may have not considered.
Before actually starting to build the cycle, you will also need buy-in from your salespeople. It’s one thing to spend the time to research and build the Sales Cycle, but it’s something else entirely to get it implemented across the board.
Salespeople tend to be habitual. Especially since a lot of sales jobs are commission-based, they end up working in a more individualistic way to find what works best for them, both financially, and from a flow-based perspective. It is important to ensure that your sales team feels involved and the benefits are made clear to them.
Analyze your Current Sales Process
Metrics and historical data are invaluable to any business process, and the Sales Process is no different. While to many, sales may be an art of personal strengths and gut-instincts, as in you have-it-or-you-don’t, patterns emerge through experience. Some things work, and others don’t, and the Sales Process is built off of this experience to key in on what works, and ensuring awareness of what doesn’t.
Ask yourself some questions:
- What is your customer’s journey?
- What actions will you take and consider their impact from the customer’s perspective?
- How each step can impact the customer journey?
- How does it impact their experience, how can it be improved?
- What is your company’s sales funnel?
- Ensure that you have one in place, and if not, consider solidifying this first.
- If your funnel is out of date, reassess it to make sure it addresses your business’ framework today.
- Are you adding enough value to the customer?
- Every interaction should in some way have a tangible benefit to the customer.
- Keep their experience in mind throughout every step of the sales process. This can be a key differentiator between yourself and competitors.
- What are successful sales reps doing?
- Find out what strategies have led to successful results for them
- You may find out what is best isn’t what is actually happening
- Encourage collaboration to share insights across functions
Have yourself and your team take a detailed look at past deals that were successfully closed. Analyze every step that the customer had to go through to until the deal was finalized. Note down key information such as:
- At what points did the customer interact
- Were there any unexpected bumps along the way and how were they dealt with?
- How much time the entire process took?
- How much time elapsed between each step in the process?
- Are there were any commonalities among the faster sales, can this be replicated?
- Was there any specific action, or cause, that moved the customer to the next step?
- What exit criteria was required to be met in each step of the sales process?
Don’t just look at a few examples, gather as much data as you can from different members of the sales team. The more you have to go on, the more refined and effective you can make your sales process.
Looking at examples where the sale didn’t go as planned is valuable as well. Remember, the Sales Process is supposed to provide your sales reps with a plan that has the highest likelihood to end with a successfully closed deal, while also being efficient. Analyzing lost deals will give you the knowledge to be able to weed out which leads are not a great fit or are unlikely to close, but this can also help your sales reps to anticipate potential roadblocks and problems, enabling you to deal with them easier.
Also pay special attention to sales which were successful, but deviated from the ‘typical path’. Find out what happened, and try to identify why they worked. These types of sales may represent a path less traveled, but could reveal a golden nugget of strategy that would not normally be thought of or even considered.
Connect steps with the steps in the buyer’s journey
Remember that through all of this, your ultimate goal is to provide your customers with a great and memorable experience. This is why it is key to align the steps of your Sales Process with the stages or your buyer journey. Consider your different buyer personas, who they are, and their needs. Assess how their needs change during each step of their buyer journey and what triggers them to move on to the next step.
Similarly to how you analyzed the historical data from past successful sales from your business’ perspective, you’ll want to do the same from the customer’s perspective, particularly focusing on moments and details that made the customers take action, as well as those that caused friction.
Determine and map the steps, actions, parameters, and timeframe
Now that you’ve done all of the analysis, you’re finally ready to put ‘pen to paper’ and map your Sales Process. At first you can either do this one a white board, note pad, or even a dedicated application like LucidChart, whatever works best for you and your team. However, remember that you’ll want to make the final version organized, clear, and be able to be easily shared and accessed.
During this process, it cannot be stressed enough that you want to focus on your customers by aligning the steps of your Sales Process with the stages of your customer journey. Keep in mind to map what is actually happening in your business, not what you think should happen.
When mapping the Sales Process, for each step ensure to include:
- The name of the step
- The requirements for a deal to be considered the step
- The goal, and what is expected to happen within the step
- What teams/stakeholders may have an influence over the success of the step, or are necessary
- Potential roadblocks during the step and suggestions on how to deal with them
- A checklist of what needs to happen for a deal to move onto the next step (the actions)
- Connect each step to the coinciding step within buyers journey and include actions that need to be taken by the buyer to trigger moving onto the next step
- If you were able to determine a timeframe, list the expected amount of time that each step should take
Providing all of this information on the Sales Process map will ensure that your sales team has a clear plan of action to follow.
Implement, share, test, track, and adjust
Now that you’ve got a plan in place, have made it easily accessible, and are starting to utilize it, it’s important to continually track your Sales Process. Rarely is anything perfect the first time around, the same can be said for even the best Sales Process. Even more, the dynamics of business are constantly changing; competitors change their focus, new competitors enter the market, the needs of customer change, alternative products/services emerge, etc.
Continually tracking your sales process by tracking key sales metrics and KPIs and seeing what is working and where there’s room for improvement will help you stay on top, and ensure its effectiveness.
Tips for mapping your Sales Process:
- Try not to make your steps too vague, ambiguous
- Avoid making too many steps, or being too specific. Be specific but don’t focus on the small details.
- Always keep the needs of the customer top-of-mind
- Avoid detailing steps that are not actionable
- Focus on mapping your process. Instead of fitting your process to your map
- Don’t forget about what you are trying to achieve/your end goal
- Ensure you’re following up and measuring KPIs
- Continually work on and adjust your Sales Process
Put in the work to Map your Sales Process now and reap the rewards going forward
As with any big undertaking, mapping your business’ Sales Process many be daunting at first, but stick to it and you’ll see just how significant of an effect performing it correctly can have on your business. The most time consuming part of the process is actually gathering and analyzing all of the information about past sales, once this is done properly executed, the task of actually mapping the process is relatively straightforward.
Again, not only does this provide an immediate impact, but having a formal process in place and documented makes it easy to reassess and adjust as the needs arise.
You may also want to consider making Sales Process maps for your different offerings if they differ in scale and scope, target customer, sales personnel, etc.