The lack of a defined sales process causes serious damage to an SME. You can’t sell effectively if you don’t have a process in place.
Creating processes in your business is such an important thing.
Without them, chaos reigns. Every time you work with a new client, the techniques you use differ from those you used for the previous client. You’re constantly improvising, which means the business has no stability.
It’s almost impossible to grow when you don’t have great processes in place.
That’s especially true of your sales process. A haphazard approach to sales isn’t going to help your business. You’ll approach every new opportunity with no idea about what to do or what makes your business special.
And that means you leave money on the table.
In this article, we dive deep on what a sales process is and how you can create one for your business. You’ll read about real examples from ActionCOACH clients who’ve successfully developed their own processes.
Plus, you’ll understand what you need to create a successful sales process for your own business.
What is a Sales Process?
The idea behind a sales process is pretty simple.
It’s just a defined set of steps that your salespeople use to move clients through your sales funnel. These steps show your people how to take prospects from the awareness stage through to the buying stage.
It’s essentially how you manage the customer’s journey.
A sales process starts when you establish a prospect’s need for whatever you have to offer. And it ends when they convert into a customer.
The process will consist of several steps, which may differ depending on your business.
The problem is that many business owners don’t outline these steps. They bring salespeople in and just let them do their thing.
As long as the sales keep coming, they don’t see a problem.
But what happens if your expert salesperson leaves the company?
You haven’t documented their process and you have no idea what they did to achieve so many sales. That means you can’t train your new hire to follow the same process as the previous salesperson.
Your sales process allows you to standardise your procedures so you can measure their effectiveness.
But those aren’t the only reasons why a good process is so important.
Why is a Sales Process Important?
Before developing a sales process, you need to understand why you need to have one in the first place.
Here are three more reasons why a sales process is so important.
Reason #1 – Boosting Your Sales
You may find that your sales start to stall. This is especially the case if you create the business as a producer and don’t focus on the sales side of things.
Having a quality product is extremely important. But you need to have a process to ensure people understand the product’s quality and realise they need it.
ActionCOACH client Conron Stockcrete didn’t have a defined sales process in place. Here’s the effect that creating one had on their business:
Conron Stockcrete is a true innovator in the water trough space. The family behind the business has extensive experience in working with livestock. This allowed them to create a product that they knew their niche would love.
They had the product. But their sales were patchy at best. The company simply didn’t have any processes in place to help them to achieve more sales.
That all changed when they started working with ActionCOACH business coach Mark Blume.
Mark encouraged company co-founder Joel Conron to switch from a production role to a sales role. This new focus allowed Joel to figure out the exact steps needed to sell the company’s product.
This allowed him to systemise the sales process.
Conron Stockcrete improved its sales nine times over when they created their process.
Reason #2 – You Can Create Consistent Targets
Most business owners set targets for their sales teams.
However, a lack of a defined process means you can’t achieve those targets consistently. Your salespeople all go away and do their own thing. The results they get vary based on their individual talents rather than the training you’ve provided.
That’s an issue that ActionCOACH client A Dozen Roses had to deal with.
A Dozen Roses is a florist that found their business struggling. Once they admitted to themselves that they needed help, they got in touch with ActionCOACH Marcus Kroek.
Marcus highlighted the importance of having a defined process for sales. This would allow them to figure out their breakeven figures and ensure they knew what they needed to achieve to reach them.
With this data to hand, A Dozen Roses created new sales processes for the business. They now have defined daily, weekly, and monthly sales targets in place.
They saw an immediate uptick in sales as a result of taking these steps. On Valentine’s Day, which is one of the busiest days of the year for the business, they enjoyed a 14% increase in sales.
Having a defined process allows A Dozen Roses to identify how much money it needs to generate and how it can get there.
This allows for a more consistent approach to sales that’s also teachable. If they hire new people, they can show them exactly how to sell in a way that represents the brand.
This consistency bleeds over into the service they provide to clients. People now know what to expect when they come to the business, which gives them a foundation on which to build a brand.
Reason #3 – You Make it Easier for Clients to Buy
Without a defined process, you make things so much harder for your clients.
Buying from you becomes a hardship. The client may have to constantly chase you up for information. Or, they could get lost in your system, which makes it impossible to buy from you.
Mark Cuban is an investor, entrepreneur, and the owner of American basketball franchise the Dallas Mavericks.
He makes this point crystal clear when he says:
“Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.”
A good sales process can become a competitive advantage. It’s how you set yourself apart from the businesses that force their customers to jump through hoops just to make a purchase.
The Most Important Sales Process Steps
There’s no completely set sales process for small businesses. Every business has different products and client bases. That means you’re working with different client needs and need to create a process that works for you.
Having said that, there are some steps that tend to appear in most processes. Here are six that you should consider adding to yours.
Step #1 – Create a Consistent Greeting
The opening moments of a conversation are extremely important from a sales perspective.
UK-based ActionCOACH business coach Rob Pickering says that consistency is the key.
“Use a consistent greeting, e.g. when answering the phone say “Good morning XYZ Electronics, John speaking, how may I help you?” Have versions for calling out, visiting clients, using at a trade show, etc.”
You’ll notice that consistency is a common theme when creating a sales process.
Establishing a greeting ensures that all of your people talk to new prospects in the same way. It gets the sales conversation off on the right foot.
Step #2 – Build Trust
Once you’ve greeted the prospect, it’s tempting to jump straight into the sales pitch.
UK-based ActionCOACH Colin Harding points out that this is a mistake.
He says that you need to build trust with the prospect before moving them through your sales funnel. Remember that it’s likely the prospect has gotten in touch to gather information. They need you to show that you’re an authority in your space before they consider buying from you.
Establishing set procedures on how people in your business should act is a good first step. This worked for ActionCOACH client Loyal I.T.
Loyal I.T. came to ActionCOACH business coach Marcus Kroek with no set rules on how they do business.
That meant they found it difficult to build trust with clients. A muddled philosophy led to them sending out mixed messages.
With Marcus’ help, they’ve created a Procedures Manual for use in their sales process. This outlines how their people must act when dealing with clients.
Again, it comes down to consistency. Make sure everyone on the team sings from the same hymn sheet. Show your team what procedures to follow when talking to new clients. As importantly, define those procedures so that you can use them in your training.
This ensures that your people know how to deliver the experience that customers expect when they contact you.
Step #3 – Establish the Need
Once you’ve built trust, it’s time to establish customer need.
Again, you’re not focused on selling here. ActionCOACH Rob Pickering says that this step is all about qualifying the prospect.
The idea is to ask questions about why the client thinks they need your product or service. This helps you to see if they’re a good fit for what you have to offer. It also provides you with information that you can use in the next step of the process.
Step #4 – Define Your Solution
With the need established, it’s time to start talking about your solution.
Discuss your product or service based on the needs that the client told you about. If you have multiple products, focus on the one that best suits the client’s needs.
Again, you’re not jumping straight into a sales pitch here. Instead, you’re looking to show the client that you’ve listened to what they have to say. Now, you’re highlighting a potential solution based on the information they provided to you.
What’s key here is that you understand the difference between benefits and features.
A feature is something technical that your product offers. Typically, these are things that a client could learn about the product through their own research. Examples include things like product dimensions and what the product does.
The benefits relate to how the product will fulfil a client’s needs and make their lives better. Take the Conron Stockcrete example from earlier. A benefit in their case would be how their troughs allow for more efficient livestock feeding. Thus, the client spends less time on that process, which leaves them free to spend time elsewhere.
You can discuss the features briefly. However, your aim here is to highlight how your product benefits the client, thus fulfilling their need.
Step #5 – Arrange a Meeting
Once you’ve established the needs and product benefits, it’s time to move towards converting the prospect.
This may involve arranging a meeting.
Not every sales process will have this step. If you sell products online or through a shop, arranging a meeting with a client is rarely something that you’ll need to do.
However, it is a part of the process for many business owners. If you’re selling a high-cost item or an ongoing service, the client may want to meet you in person before going ahead. For example, if you design websites, your clients probably want to establish that they can work with you.
Thus, they’ll need to meet you before going ahead.
Step #6 – Complete the Sale
With trust built, need established, and benefits discussed, you’re ready to complete the sale.
Assuming you’ve followed the previous steps, the client should be in a position where they’re happy to go ahead. If they’re not, you may need to repeat some of the steps to build more trust and better understand what the client needs.
Creating Your Sales Process
That covers the basic steps of a sales process.
But as mentioned, processes differ depending on the business. You need to establish your own process using the following tips.
Tip #1 – Identify What Your Sales Process Needs to Contain
This is where understanding your buyer’s process becomes important. Analyse the path that a customer currently takes when dealing with your business.
Typically, they’ll go through at least some of the following stages:
- Awareness. The customer finds out about you, likely through some of your marketing material. At this point, they’re looking to find out more about you and what you have to offer. In the sales process above, the first three steps deal with the awareness stage. You introduce yourself to the client, build a rapport, and establish what they need.
- Consideration. Once the client sees you as a potential solution provider, they enter the consideration stage. This is where they’ll evaluate if the solution you offer meets the specific needs they bring to the table.
- Decision. This is the make or break moment. The client has decided what type of solution they need for their problem. Now, they’re looking for the right tool or product. They’ll likely research your products online. However, they’ll also be more open to you contacting them and talking directly about the product.
Your customers may go through other stages on their journey.
The important thing is that your sales process moves the customer along on that journey. Create steps that do this while eliminating any that won’t move your customers forward.
Tip #2 – Make Sure the Process Isn’t Too Long or Too Short
Perhaps you have an established sales process. But you don’t know if it’s too long or too short. In either case, you could lose potential customers.
There are signs that your process isn’t working as well as it should. These include the following:
- Your team isn’t using the processes you’ve created. This suggests that the process isn’t effective.
- Most of your revenue comes from only a small portion of your sales team. If this is the case, you may need to improve how you communicate the process.
- Lots of customers drop off halfway through the process. When this happens, it’s likely that you’ve added too many steps and made it difficult for the customer to buy.
- Your sales rarely, if ever, match what you forecast.
Examine your process if you notice any of these issues.
Tip #3 – Test and Measure the Process
Developing a sales process isn’t a “set and forget” task. You need to revisit it repeatedly to make sure it’s creating the results that you expect from it.
Examples of how to test your processes include the following:
- Measure how many of your people actually use the process. If 90+% use it, that suggests it’s working.
- Measure your win rates compared to what you had before creating the process. You should see an improvement in successful sales from the same size lead pool.
- Test how long it takes customers to go from awareness to making a purchase. A good process should result in less time taken to achieve the sale.
- Measure how many leads you turn into opportunities and how many of those opportunities turn into sales.
Set benchmarks for each of these metrics. If the process doesn’t result in you hitting your benchmarks, there’s an issue that you need to resolve.
Having a sales process is crucial because it lends structure to your business. It standardises how you approach potential clients, which creates consistency.
That consistency leads to more trust from clients and superior performance from your team. A great process also makes it easier to train new people so they can perform at a high level.
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