Clearly define your sales process from beginning to end

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Define the steps of your sales process

Cory Bray and Hilmon Sorey, in The Sales Enablement Playbook, define a sales process as “a set of clearly defined steps and methods of communication between a company and its prospects.” It is important to have a buyer-centric perspective when mapping out the sales process. Once you know who you’re selling to, you need to understand the sales process from their perspective and base the process on that.

Once the buyer’s journey is mapped out, it’s time to take a hard look at your sales process and redefine your steps.

Your sales representatives need a plan

Your salespeople need outlined steps to help good-fit prospects move forward in their journey.

Step 1: Define your target persona and their buyer journey

With a defined target persona and their buyer’s journey, you’ll have a great starting point for building a customer-centric sales end-to-end sales process map.

Step 2: Identify the steps of your sales process map

1.  Lay out the buyer’s journey for your target persona.

2.  What’s the process they go through to buy your product?

3.  Identify the places where they can’t move forward without help from a sales rep.

4.  Define clear exit criteria.

Step 3: Identify the places where your buyer can’t move forward without help from a sales rep.

Keep your sales process human

In building a sales process, you aren’t trying to turn your sales team into a bunch of robots. That would be counterproductive. Remember they are human and they are making sales to humans.

All the value in sales is in the variants

“Six Sigma – the whole point of Six Sigma was to eliminate variants. It was to create algorithms in your operation. Jake Welch, who was a huge proponent of Six Sigma, was famous for saying there's only two disciplines that he didn't think he could Six Sigma. He said the two disciplines were law and sales. I would say, by extension, marketing. When we were asked why, he said the purpose of Six Sigma is to eliminate variants. The problem with sales is all value is in the variants.”

-Doug Davidoff, CEO of Imagine Business Development

This is an important idea. Instead of dictating the minute details of what your reps say and do, your sales process should function as guardrails for your reps to operate within. The real value of your sales process is helping your reps understand what they need to accomplish.

Allow salespeople to be themselves

Leave room for your reps to be themselves and to adapt to the needs of individual prospects.

Step 4: Define Clear Exit Criteria for Each Step in Your Sales Process

What are “exit criteria”? Exit criteria are the things that must happen for a sale to move from one stage of your sales process to the next. They also help your sales reps identify "tire kickers".

Overlay the sales process on your buyer’s journey

Once you know the journey your buyer’s take, you can overlay the steps your sales reps need to take to help people move forward in that journey.

"So exit criteria needs to be based upon the amount of engagement that a logical person would find reasonable to move to the next step. In other words, if I'm having a cold call with somebody and I have a product that requires a demo with two or three people in the room, and maybe then going back and talking about it and then coming back with some further technical questions and me satisfying those. It makes zero sense for me in my initial conversation to try to push somebody to a close. That's an obvious example, right? So exit criteria needs to align with the goals of the organization as it relates to engaging a prospect, creating trust and rapport, and moving something through its process. And it's different for different organizations."

-Hilmon Sorey and Cory Bray 

So, how does the sales representative move the prospect forward?

For each step in your sales process, ask yourself:

  • What does the rep need to do to help the prospect move forward?
  • What indicates that the rep has completed their role in that phase of the buying process?
  • Is there certain information they need to collect from the prospect?
  • Are there certain commitments they need to secure?

Moving the prospect forward, having indicators of completing the buying process with the prospect, obtaining the necessary information from the prospect, and securing any necessary commitments comprise the exit criteria.

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Build Your Sales Process into Your Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)

Your Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) should be your company’s source of truth for every sale’s status.

After the sales steps are defined, streamline the process.

Once you have all of the steps identified and their exit criteria defined, you need to streamline it a bit. The goal, here, is to reduce that long, complicated process into unambiguous steps that can be stored in a CRM. Your CRM should be your company’s source of truth for every sale’s status. In order for that to happen, you need to have your sales process represented in your CRM by a series of steps that mean the same thing to every person on your team. Go through your CRM steps and remove anything that doesn’t meet these four standards: Required, Factual, inspectable, and Buyer-centric. 

What are the standards for qualifying sales steps?

The four standards of qualifying sales steps:

  • Required
  • Factual
  • Inspectable
  • Buyer-centric

What are the required steps in the sales process?

Required Sales Step: a required step is one that you want your reps to take in every sale, no matter what. For every single sale, this requirement needs to occur with the sale.

What steps in the sales process are flexible?

Take out anything that can reasonably be skipped without hurting the customer's long-term success and happiness. 

If you’ve laid your sales process out in a really detailed way, there might be several steps that aren’t strictly required. For example, if you have steps about following up with a person, you can probably leave those out. You want your sales process to be the things your reps must do in every sale.

What steps in your sales process are expendable?

Take out anything that can reasonably be skipped without hurting the customer's long-term success and happiness.

Is there too much redundancy in your sales process?

You should also be on the lookout for redundancy in your sales process. Remove redundancy in your process. Remember, looking at your sales process from your buyer’s perspective will help. Will they feel like that third meeting is productive and moving things forward, or will they feel like it’s just one more twist in the maze you’re dragging them through?

What about follow-up in your sales process?

Follow-up is the action your reps take when a prospect starts to lose momentum. Include follow-up as a part of each step. Follow-up is not a stand-alone step, so don’t include that in your sales process.  Hopefully, you won’t lose momentum with your prospect in the sales process. Instead, have a plan for what to do in each step if the exit criteria aren’t met. Follow-up might be part of that, but it won’t be a separate step.

What are the factual steps in the sales process?

A factual step is tied to a specific action rather than being based on a feeling. You want your pipeline based on real actions. You want your reps qualifying a lead based on a clear yes or no answer in each sales step.

What are inspectable steps in the sales process?

An inspectable step is one that can be verified by a record inside the CRM. Factual steps must be qualified. A factual step might be taken, but if you can’t prove that by looking inside the CRM, it doesn’t really count. For example, if you’re in B2B sales, or if you sell high-ticket items directly to consumers, there will probably be times during any given sale when the prospect will need to take internal actions you can’t see.

That might be things like discussing the sale with other stakeholders, getting advice from trusted advisors, or even getting a good night’s sleep before making a decision. These things might factually happen, but there’s really no way for you to verify that. So even if these things need to happen in every sale, they aren’t part of your sales process. So, look at your sales process and remove anything that doesn’t involve direct action from your sales reps.

Your Sales Process is Controlled by Direct Actions

You can learn more about mapping a sales process by checking out the Revenue Operations Certification. Your sales process needs to focus on the things that are in your team’s control. The direct actions you and your team can do, laid out in the sales process clearly, can help your company find and retain great customers.

This brings us back to defining the sales process from the buyer’s perspective. Define the steps of your sales process, and in those steps, you can identify what you control and what actions you can take. Once you  understand how to improve your sales process and increase business, include this in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM). The CRM is your company’s source of truth and can help you keep everything streamlined, consistent, and clear.

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