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August 6, 2015

How to Define a Sales Process That Doesn't Suck


One of the challenges growing businesses face is standardizing a sales process. You might be trying to improve on your sales team’s performance, only to realize you don’t have clear definitions of leads, prospects, and deals.


Whether you’re hiring your first salesperson, or trying to implement a CRM, a defined sales process is essential for understanding your pipeline and required for you to begin to help offering sales management advice (whether you’re a sales manager or not).


3 Questions to Answer When Setting up Your Sales Process

If you want to develop a successful sales process, start as soon as you begin to define people as more than just customers and prospects. Once you understand the need for different deal stages and lead stages, you’ve begun the sales process. What are some of the common considerations for beginning your first sales process, and how do you actually plan the thing out?

A sales process is going to vary by organization type, industry, size, and maturity, so there’s not one “correct” way of setting up your sales process. But there are a few questions that every sales process should answer. Let’s look at three big ones.

What Makes for a Qualified Prospect?

This may seem obvious, but when you’re trying to scale your sales team, it can be important to define what really makes for a qualified prospect. Equally important is listing out some common disqualifiers. Being able to easily share this information with your sales team is really useful, and as your understanding of the customer evolves, you can continue to add more information to these definitions.

With the qualifications understood, many organizations want to include this as a stage in the sales process. It will vary depending on the number of leads a salesperson is responsible for and whether they only deal with qualified leads or not. Typically there’s some level of qualification done before leads are handed off to sales, but this will vary between organizations.

Don’t make your qualifications simple, they need to be something that tells you something substantive. If you sell roofs, your qualified leads are not just everyone with a house. That’s your target market. You’re selling to people who are trying to fix their house up to sell, people who have been in their house for 5-10 years, or people who’ve suffered hail damage recently. Understanding the difference is critical.

How Many Steps Should I Have in My Sales Process?

Many CRMs come pre-configured to accommodate very complex sales processes, I assume to prove they can handle it. Many organizations aren’t in need of complex sales processes. Above all, they need a sales process that makes sense to everyone who uses it, and then allows the manager to identify points where the system breaks down.

Instead of focusing on specificity, adoption should be your main focus. Here’s some examples of starting points for sales processes:


Sample Deal-only Sales Process

Interested: holding bay for people who have expressed some interest. Deal amounts should be set to zero, since they’re unknown at this point.

Qualified: A conversation has taken place and the prospect has been determined to be a good fit for your product/service (this might be a short meeting that ends with the expectation of a more in-depth call to follow)

Discovery Meeting: A more in-depth conversation around the contact’s goals and needs

Sales Assessment/Trial: This should be an exercise designed to demonstrate value to the prospect and provide you with the needed information to make a compelling proposal

Present & Close: Show your final proposed solution to the prospect

Closed-Won: the deal is done

Closed-Lost:  no deal

What are the advantages of this sales process? It’s clear, simple, and has concrete steps between each stage. While the process can be somewhat rigid, there’s no rule saying a prospect has to make a stop at each stage in the process.

How Can I Gather Feedback to Improve the Process?

One benefit of creating a sales process is your ability to see what’s working and what isn’t. By collecting enough information, you can begin to see where your sales team is being successful, and where the process can be improved.

The most obvious way to gather feedback is to evaluate your closing percentages company-wide and also among your individual team members. Looking for trends here can be very valuable. Ask your top performers what they do that sets them apart, and look for how you can incorporate that into the process for everyone else.

Looking through closed-lost deals should also be part of the regular process. It can be really useful to predefine closed-lost reasons, then have your team provide short write-ups for what happened. Are you losing out to competition or inaction? This information can inform what your team needs to close more deals, and how you can improve the process for them.

A sales process has to be revisited regularly, and will gradually get more complex as you understand more about your customers and how they buy. But it’s important you lay the groundwork early on for a process that can scale and also mature. Answering these questions will give you a good place to start.


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