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Article 13 min read

Sales process fundamentals: a guide to consistently closing deals in a changing world

Get your sales team on the right track by building a clear, easy-to-adopt sales process.

By Alaura Weaver

Last updated June 9, 2023

If you have a clearly defined sales process in place, your company can earn 28% more revenue than competitors who don’t have one.

The key phrase here is clearly defined sales process: a Gartner survey reported that 20% of deals were lost or stalled due to complex internal policies and procedures. With 63% of sales reps’ time spent on tasks other than selling, it’s no wonder productive sales processes fall by the wayside.

Plus, in a year of social and economic upheaval like 2020, even more is at stake. Uncertain times call for guideposts your reps can look to for a sense of stability and purpose. Your sales process can be that guidepost.

A recent McKinsey report on how sales have changed during COVID-19 states:

“Re-orchestrating the customer experience and the accompanying sales processes across channels should be at the top of the list for sales leaders trying to manage effectively through this crisis and plan for recovery.”

Creating and implementing a streamlined sales process strengthens your sales department. It helps sales reps better understand their customers’ journeys and keeps the whole team focused and aligned with common goals.

Get your sales team on the right track by building a clear, easy-to-adopt sales process. This framework will empower your team to reliably deliver results — no matter what’s happening in the world.

What is a sales process?

A sales process is a series of steps a salesperson takes to build a business relationship that ends in a sale. Every time a rep takes replicable, consistent action toward making a sale, they’re following a sales process.

High-performing sales teams often follow an established process. Managers enforce it through sales rep training and coaching. They use digital tools to power lead generation, opportunity-tracking, pipeline management and customer communication.

What does a successful sales process look like?

Sales process stages

A successful sales process framework has five main phases:

  1. Prospecting

    Sourcing new leads and potential buyers. During the prospecting phase, sales and marketing teams collaborate to connect with prospective customers, or leads. Prospecting requires thorough research on target customers to understand their pain points and their decision-making process.
  2. Qualifying

    Learning about specific customer needs and matching them with potential offerings. In this stage, sales reps often consult directly with prospective customers to better understand their buying process and requirements. Reps also identify key decision-makers.
  3. Presenting

    Introducing the offering to the prospect. The presenting phase typically involves direct communications and interactions between sales teams and prospective customers. Sales and marketing teams must work together to craft the right messaging in order to earn the trust of potential buyers. Customer communications should address any concerns that leads have about the offering.
  4. Closing

    Finalising the deal. Closing a sale involves addressing any final concerns and confirming the details that will ultimately cause the customer to buy. This can often mean adjusting pricing, proposing a plan or negotiating the terms of a contract.
  5. Following up

    Staying in touch with the customer. The follow-up phase is key to maintaining long-term relationships that translate into more revenue. Once a sale is finalised, it’s important for sales teams to continue the conversation even beyond handoff to customer support.

The B2B sales process

The fundamental stages of the sales process don’t change, but the way they’re put into practise can change based on several factors, including your industry.

B2B sales methodologies focus on identifying and reaching qualified decision-makers within companies and building long-term business relationships that grow over time. The success of the B2B sales process hinges on the depth of research reps perform to uncover opportunities. Many B2B sales depend on more than one team working together across companies to make deals happen:

  1. Prospecting: finding the right decision-makers

    B2B sales reps interact with as many as 10 people in a buying group — all of whom inform on decision-making — to make a sale. B2B sales methodologies offer a way to quickly identify and qualify the best prospects and turn them into leads and opportunities.
  2. Qualifying: asking the right questions

    It’s imperative that B2B reps understand the buying process and requirements of each of their target accounts. B2B sales teams use aforementioned sales methodologies to help them ask the right questions to gather data. It also helps sales teams to determine if a prospective customer is a good fit for their offerings — if they discover that the company isn’t a good match, it’s best to pursue other, better qualified opportunities. After a prospect is fully qualified, a rep can make smart recommendations and anticipate any roadblocks to purchasing.
  3. Presenting: keeping the conversation going

    Once they reach the right contacts, B2B teams need to come up with the right messaging to gain buy-in from other decision-makers and sell the product. These communications can happen over multiple conversations, meetings and follow-ups at every stage of the process. Keeping track of customer communications is essential.
  4. Closing: partnering across teams

    Depending on the product or service, the closing stage may involve bringing in an implementation team to discuss rollout. If it’s a major deal that could impact the entire company, the sales team may need to get executive leadership involved to iron out the details. The more directly involved other customer teams are in the sales process, the less confusion there will be once the sale is finalised. Plus, collaboration across teams means rapid decisions that help speed up the sales cycle.
  5. Following up: building long-term relationships

    Closing a deal is just the beginning of a business relationship. B2B sales reps often work with customers beyond the initial sale to help prove the return on the customer’s investment. Successful B2B customer relationships result in more revenue from upselling. That’s why following up and requesting referrals is an important (and often overlooked) stage of the B2B sales process.

Learn more: Steps of the sales process

An example of a sales process playbook for a B2B company [Source]

All of these moving parts can lead to a convoluted sales process, in which reps spend more time reporting than actually selling. The tools you use to keep track of your sales process should make your reps’ jobs easier, not more complicated.

Learn more: B2B sales methodologies

Why creating a clear sales process is more important than ever

A formal sales process anchors reps in best practice, so they stay on track towards their goals.

When supported by a sales management platform, your sales process helps leadership track progress toward overall company goals.

The entire company wins as a result.

A clearly defined sales process is even more crucial during turbulent times

In 2020, sales teams who are used to selling in-person are facing a new reality: remote selling. Masterful live sales presenters suddenly have to work their magic via Zoom. Field reps who thrived on face-to-face encounters with customers now struggle with isolation as the reps work from home.

Besides the massive shifts in logistics and operations, sales organisations have realigned their product positioning and focus on customer needs. In the space of a few months, reps have dramatically shifted their strategies and messaging to keep customer conversations going.

All this sudden change can be disorienting for seasoned outside sales reps. A clear sales process gives your team a consistent routine to stick to during uncertain times.

A Zoom presentation may feel different from pitching in a conference room, but it’s still part of the presentation phase of the sales process. Hashing out the details of a contract may now happen via Slack instead of in an office, but it’s still part of the closing stage. Your sales process is like a tool kit that you equip your reps with that they can use in times of emergency.

4 tactics for creating a sales process that’s easy to adopt

There’s no one right sales process. What matters is how you communicate the process to your team and how easy your process is to adopt.

Create a sales process that makes sense for your team by using the following tactics:

Ultimately, your approach to delivering customer outcomes and team communications will be the driving factor behind your sales process. If you listen to customers and share knowledge with your team, you’ll be able to create a clear process that your sales team can rally around.

You can also benefit by choosing the right sales suite for today’s sales processes:

Learn more: CRM buyers kit

Develop your sales process for clarity, not complexity

As you’re building your sales process, always keep in mind who you’re building it for: your customers.

High-performing sales teams look to customer expectations to inform their processes. The best sales processes are equally focused on delivering on customer needs.

If your customer is positioned at the centre of your process, it will make reps’ jobs easier, so they can deliver the most revenue.

The more certainty and clarity your sales process can provide, the happier your sales reps and your customers will be.

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