Learn to create a sales process for your team to convert a lead to a customer.
At any stage of your business, whether you’re just starting or you run a fully established organization, the success of your business is highly dependent on the success of your sales team.
After all, new business is what keeps the engine running. Make sure to leverage the full power of tailored Sales Advising to drive profitable growth.
A robust sales process can be a key driver in helping you to achieve your business’ sales and revenue goals.
What Is a Sales Process?
A sales process refers to the journey a customer goes through when making a purchase. This is not to be confused with a marketing funnel, which can be simplified as getting the attention of a potential buyer and converting them to a lead.
Sales is the process of converting that lead into revenue.
Sometimes this can all happen quickly, like an eCommerce store. For B2B, it’s usually a longer process with more steps. For this article, we will be examining how to create a funnel to convert leads to customers.
To grow a sustainable business, you must develop a robust, scalable sales process.
In working with hundreds of entrepreneurs, we’ve found the first step in developing a successful sales process is by mapping out your desired process, measuring results, and making small tweaks along the way.
We have pulled our resources together to create a guide that you can use to build a scalable sales funnel for your business. This post will talk about how to establish a foundation, map your process, optimize your funnel, and make it repeatable. We’ll also share a few key takeaways, including:
- How to document your current process by analyzing your customer journey.
- How to build out a new sales funnel unique to your business needs.
- A practical method and easy to use tool to help you measure your success at each stage of your sales process.
With these resources, you’ll have the tools you need to build a repeatable and scalable process that you can train throughout your organization.
The buying process is another way of saying the steps taken to make a purchase. This process can differ from business to business. For example, if you have direct sale items, the buying process is relatively straightforward, but if, for example, you sell real estate, the process from start to finish will be much longer.
Think about the stages the buyer will go through as they decide if they want to buy from your company. Typically, the buying process requires a lot of thought and actions behind the scenes before a decision is made to make a purchase. With the exception of impulse buys, consumers generally do their research before deciding to buy. The more a buyer knows about your product or service before they enter the purchasing phase, the more likely they are to buy from you.
Take time to run through a typical scenario from start to finish. Put yourself in the shoes of a potential buyer and identify the steps you would take from first recognizing you have a problem through the purchase process.
By putting yourself in their shoes, it’s easier to think of the stages and how to present the information to help the customer move forward in your funnel toward the purchase.
By understanding the elements of your current process, you can start building your funnel.
Why Is a Sales Process Important for Your Sales Team?
Without creating a sales process, you aren’t able to track accountability for your sales reps. Beyond helping your sales teams, having a standardized sales process can help you in a variety of ways, such as:
- Attract more qualified leads: Having a sales process outlines the ideal buyer’s journey and persona as well as the ideal customer profile (ICP) for prospective customers. This allows your team to understand who they should be talking to instead of talking to all potential customers who might not convert.
- Ensure you’re on the right course: Did you know that prospects need to hear from you at least seven times before they feel comfortable making a purchase? In reality, most times, sales processes don’t include enough follow-up. Maybe you follow up a couple of times before moving on to the next prospect. Having a sales process can build in this stage to prevent opportunities from falling by the wayside.
- Utilize the ideal talent: Building your own sales process also means that you’re able to gain insight into performance at every turn. It’s easy to track how many emails were sent by a salesperson in addition to the metrics associated with it such as the bounce rate, open rate, etc. An effective sales process will utilize this data to see who needs help in various sales stages.
- Understand bottlenecks to make progress on deals: Each person on your sales team should be held accountable for following your outlined sales methodology. When you have an established sales cycle in place, you can learn more about what is causing hiccups in the sales process stages.
- Create more accurate sales forecasting: With a clearly defined sales process, you can gain a better understanding of what your projected revenue will be in a given time period. This means that your team can work to keep your funnel full and help increase revenue.
Chapter 1. Sales Process Steps
As you continue to think about your current process, you can start to define your new process. It’s important to keep your customer’s mindset front and center as you think about each stage and the information they need to convert to the next step. While each organization and industry will have its own process, these are the common stages: lead, qualify, initial meeting, proposal, close sale.
In any business, the first step of your sales process will be sourcing new, early-stage leads to begin working through the sales process. It’s a vital part of the sales process and depending on where you are in your entrepreneurial journey, it will likely be part of the daily or weekly workflow in your business.
Prospecting, or sourcing new leads, might involve online research using sites like LinkedIn, attending conferences or networking events, or by creating a lead generator. It’s important to know where your leads are coming from and understand their knowledge of you and your company. When someone transitions into your sales funnel as a lead, they hopefully have enough information about your company to be in a buyer’s mindset.
A few examples of good leads include:
- Referrals – Anyone who was recommended to you by existing customers.
- Networks – Anyone who you’ve connected with personally at industry events or online via social networking.
- Website Visitors – Anyone who has shown interest in your offerings by accessing your website, filling out a form or leaving contact information.
2. Qualifying Leads
Next, you will want to qualify your lead to see if they are a good fit for your product or service. The qualification step generally involves Initiating contact with those early-stage leads to gather information to decide whether or not they are likely to move forward in the buyer’s journey.
During this stage, you or a sales rep will contact the lead through email or a call. This step will allow you to exchange information to separate them from the lead pool.
Qualifying questions might include:
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- Why is this a priority for you?
- What other solutions are you evaluating?
- What is your budget?
This step acts as a filter; many leads will not convert to the next step. If you determine the person is qualified based on your criteria, they would then move forward in the process.
3. Meeting and Pitching
After gathering information about the prospect during the qualification phase, there is typically a formal meeting. The meeting allows you to develop your business relationship and explain ways your product or service will meet client needs.
Depending on your business, you can include a presentation or demonstration of your product or service. This meeting should be tailored and personalized to meet the needs of your prospect. This meeting is where you will ask probing questions, identify pain points, uncover objections, and match benefits.
Typically, this is the most time-consuming step of your process, so you want to reserve it for more serious prospects — which is why the qualification step is so critical.
4. Handling Objections
At this point of your structured sales process, you might need to consider how to properly handle objections. Make sure to fully listen to the objection from the lead without getting defensive. Focus on what they are saying and the overall business problem that you’re trying to solve. Feel free to ask questions to better understand before going into your sales pitch of why your product or service can address the objection.
Always start by addressing the main objection first and make sure that you don’t wing it. Be as concise as possible in your language. Once you’ve said your part, confirm whether or not you’ve satisfied their concerns without forcing a commitment.
The proposal will depend on your business. Some will be based on standard rates and prices, while others will require more research to develop. Some companies may even skip this step and move right into the sale.
During this step, it is essential to stay active. Once a proposal is submitted, you must follow up with the prospect. Ideally, you will establish the next steps during the first meeting to keep the momentum going.
A proposal is not equal to a sale; you must be available to work with your prospect to answer questions or make adjustments. The proposal must include a timeline, with the details based on earlier discussions.
Only when the proposal is accepted does the prospect move to the final stage of the process.
6. Closing the Deal
The final stage in the sales process is closing. The sale is not complete until it is closed. It may be necessary for you to negotiate with the customer to officially close. Closing occurs when the contract or order is signed and the sale implemented. It is important to guide customers through the closing process carefully; just because someone accepted a proposal does not mean the sale is firm. Additionally, it is important to close quickly. The more time that you give customers to consider their purchases, the more likely they are to think of reasons to avoid the purchase.
Remember, this flow is just an example. Use it as a framework in which to break down your process into measurable steps. Try to break it down or consolidate as needed to create a handful of measurable steps. Moving a lead through each step will help you slow down and learn to sell to the next step, increasing your momentum through your sales process.
7. Nurture and Continue to Sell
Of course, you want your sales process results to end with a deal, but even if this isn’t achieved, you can still focus on customer relationship management and nurturing. Make sure that you continue to communicate with your customers and reinforce the value that you are providing to them even if you already have their repeat business. Staying in touch with your target audience even after you’ve closed a deal can also result in more cross-sell opportunities and get more business from referrals that they send your way.
Chapter 2. Building Your Sales Process
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all sales process flowchart for every business in every industry. Each business needs to build a sales process that aligns with its particular industry and product. While some may focus on customer success and acquisition, others might focus on retention and expansion. Here are some ways that sales managers can put together an effective sales process.
1. Clearly State Your Goals
Before you begin to improve your sales process, you’ll want to make sure you have a clear understanding of your KPIs and goals so you can have a clear direction on how to move forward. Once you have more details about your sales process mapping and data, your sales team needs to understand how their role fits into the bigger picture of the organization. One way to achieve this is by setting micro-goals that are regularly tracked. These can be around a lead generation or how many prospects they contact within a given timeframe. Whatever the goals are, they should be time-bound to make them easier to track. You can look at data over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years.
2. Set Up a Conversion Funnel
A well-defined sales process also focuses on a conversion funnel. At the top, you will have a large number of leads but as the funnel tightens, only the most qualified leads will trickle down. In order for this funnel to make sense, each needs to be assigned a number. For example, there would be X number of leads at the top of the funnel while the middle might have qualified leads that are labeled as “X/2.” At the bottom of the funnel is where the numbers reduce even more and you can think of this data as “X/4.”
Keep in mind that each stage of the selling process also requires data. For example, maybe your sales team sends a total of 100 emails per day while the open rate is 25 and the reply rate is 1. This means that your team would need to send a total of 500 emails daily to receive a total of 5 leads in a day.
3. Align Each Stage with an Action
Your sales process map should be actionable based on the qualifying criteria. This criterion revolves around how many interactions your salespeople have with prospects and the overall outcome of it. During the selling process, for example, each potential customer is converted into an opportunity when they respond well to a discovery call or interaction. If they’re qualified, they will begin to move across the unique sales process. When they agree to the deal and make a purchase, they are officially converted into a customer.
4. Continue to Measure Your Results
Sales professionals should constantly evaluate their processes to make sure that their results are as effective as possible. Making adjustments to your standard sales process should be a continuous effort that ultimately helps your business thrive. Doing so helps prevent your process from becoming stagnant and helps you target the right audience at the right times.
The proper sales process requires knowing your business inside and out. Keep in mind that your sales team will be the ones who follow this detailed sales process on a daily basis, so it’s always a good idea to get their buy-in and feedback. If you’re just beginning to put together a process for the first time, as a sales manager, you’ll want to have individual conversations to learn more about existing sales processes and how they can improve. Try to understand their roadblocks, how they communicate with leads, their volume of outreach, etc.
5. Create a Sales Process For and With Your Sales Team
Once you have mapped out the ideal sales process using tangible results, you’ll want to make sure that this process is agreed upon and followed by everyone on your sales team. There will be slight differences in how each sales team member approaches how to close a deal, however, they should all follow the same general process to ensure consistency across your company. If needed, you can continue to refine this process to figure out weak points that need to improve and what areas of the process are strong enough to continue using in the future.
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Chapter 3. Tracking Your Sales Process
The only way to know whether or not your process is working is by tracking your activity. Tracking and assessing results will help you determine how to alter your process to convert more leads into sales. It will provide valuable insight on how to fill the funnel’s front end to get the desired outcomes at the end of the funnel.
Later in this section, we’ll provide you with a tool designed to help you take all of this information and use it to increase your sales.
Here are three things you should be tracking:
It’s important to track how you are sourcing your customers. To be scalable, you should have multiple channels to attract leads, but you need to assess how each source performs and make adjustments as needed. You will want to look at a few things; traffic, the number of leads generated, and conversion rates. How you interpret your data will depend on your current goals. i.e., do you want to attract more leads at this point, or are you looking for higher conversion rates?
Not all marketing channels are created equal. Some will have the capacity to bring you hundreds or thousands of leads, whereas others might only yield a handful of leads.
You will want to ask yourself a few questions:
- What channels are providing the highest number of leads?
- Where am I spending my time?
- Where should I spend my time?
- Where am I spending my money?
- How much does it cost for each lead?
- Which leads convert the best? Which doesn’t?
- How much time and money are we spending on each?
Understanding what those channels are and how well they convert will help you to identify where you should focus your sales effort for the most significant impact.
Regardless of if you use a CRM or if you’re working off of a spreadsheet, you should always have a place to record information about your prospects. The information recorded should be extensive, and you should continue gathering information with every interaction.
Here is a list of some information to record:
- The source of the lead (referral, networking event, etc.)
- Customer needs
- Objection to sales
- Demographic information
- Conversion from lead to sale
This is not a comprehensive list. Your business will dictate what you need to record. Keep this information even if there is no conversion as it can help you, later on, to qualify your leads better.
As with every other project that your company undertakes, you need to keep track of your Return On Investment (ROI). When it comes to assessing the ROI of your sales funnel, you want to look at the time and money spent on your sales process compared to the return on investment.
To help you measure your conversion at each step in your sales process, check out our Sales Metric and Conversion Tracker.
One of the most common changes for small businesses is the inconsistency of sales. Building a process is only the first step. Next is tracking your process and then forecasting into the future.
The Sales Metric and Conversion Tracker is designed to help you and your sales team learn how to forecast the coming months of revenue, identify which lead tactics are converting, and find the levers that will help you increase conversion and revenue.
The tool is broken into three parts: a macro view of your sales forecast, a monthly tracker, and a weekly tracker.
- Macro Plan: The macro view of your sales forecast is exactly as it sounds: A macro view. It looks at your sales over 3 years, allowing you to break down the number of sales you need to hit your revenue goals. It also helps you break down how many leads you need in each stage of your sales process (lead, qualify, initial meeting, proposal, close sale) each month to hit that goal based on your average conversions.
- Monthly Tracker: The monthly tracker allows you to compare your results with your predictions while allowing you to readjust your monthly goals to hit to stay on track with your annual revenue goals.
- Weekly Tracker: The third and final portion is a weekly tracker that will guide you to better understand the time needed to hit the established goals.
Thinking about the key role timing plays in your sales process, (i.e., how long it takes someone to move from a lead to a customer) will help you better understand how to fill up your funnel. This timing will vary depending on your business. Some sales funnels move quickly, while others can take days or weeks to complete.
Using the sales forecast, you can learn to set expectations for yourself and your team and create a baseline from which you can begin to optimize over time.
Chapter 4: Optimizing Your Sales Process
Once your process is in place, how do you get better and more efficient at moving leads through your funnel? Repetition, measurement, adjustments, and automation.
Focus on incrementally improving each step in your process. It’s likely your sales process will evolve as your team finds ways to work more efficiently and move prospects through your pipeline faster.
As you start to move leads through each stage of your funnel, it’s important to track your progress. Measuring your success is vital to ensuring you have a scalable sales process. As you become more comfortable in your new sales process, you will want to test different approaches and tweak your funnel over time using these measurements to improve your efficiency. The conversion rates at each stage of the funnel should be a primary focus.
If you’re struggling to get people INTO your Sales Process, you will want to focus on your marketing efforts and look at the channels that are working or not working.
This would be a good time to circle back to those questions from above:
- What channels are providing the highest number of leads?
- Where am I spending my time?
- Where should I spend my time?
- Where am I spending my money?
- How much does it cost for each lead?
- Which leads convert the best? Which doesn’t?
- How much time and money are we spending on each?
Would a shift in marketing help you bring in more qualified leads? If so, how can you implement that shift?
On the other hand, perhaps you see a drop from one stage of your funnel to another. As you get into selling, you want to continue to focus on your skill at each stage to improve the conversion rate.
- Am I probing for needs?
- Am I validating?
- Am I matching features & benefits?
- Am I trial closing?
Making incremental changes and improvements in your sales skills can increase your conversion rate in the individual steps of your process.
You will want to keep an eye on the conversions and make minor adjustments based on experience, results, and even feedback from prospects as they move through the funnel. Monthly focal points can be a good start. How many leads convert at each stage in a given month?
The sales metric conversion tool has a yearly, monthly, and weekly tracker to track conversion over time.
Using this tool will help you understand if you see the same results again and again, ensuring that your process is repeatable. You can also consult lead generation advisors at any time, to make sure your marketing funnel delivers the maximum results.
Chapter 5: Challenges of a Sales Process
In order to achieve more sales, there’s no doubt that you and your team will face roadblocks at nearly every point of the sales stage. It’s important that you improve your sales process and understand how to overcome these challenges within your existing sales process to find success. Whether your leads are currently in the buying process or they’re just beginning their journey, they will provide challenges for your sales reps. Here are some challenges and how to overcome them.
1. Lack of Interest and/or Customer Awareness
Sales and marketing go hand-in-hand. If you don’t have effective marketing at your company, your target audience might not even know about your product or service. If your company isn’t making the impact that you’d hoped it would, it can be a challenging roadblock that results in a slow sales cycle.
Pro Tip: There are many ways to overcome these challenges. First, you can consider increasing your marketing budget so you can afford more advertising space. This means targeting people on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc. You might also want to explore new platforms to spread the word about your company. If you aren’t using the right platforms, you won’t be able to meet your audience where they prefer to interact. Finally, you can consider rebranding your features so they better align with the values of your audience.
2. Stiff Competition and Price Wars
It’s only natural that new customers will have an abundance of options when they’re making their decision. But if you’re in a competitive price war, it can leave your team feeling down and your business will feel the effects. Here are some options that you can consider to boost your sales workflow.
Pro Tip: Create comparison charts that you can show to your potential customers. Addressing your competitors head-on allows you to acknowledge where you thrive and shows future customers that you aren’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with your largest threats. You can also build customer relationships by highlighting features that you have that your competitors do not. Maybe you have more customization options or a longer warranty. Regardless of how you win, make sure that you emphasize these facts to potential leads.
3. Minimal Resources for Prospecting and Qualifying Leads
Your sales process depends on your budget and you might not have a lot of money to work with. This means you’ll need to get creative within your current sales process.
Pro Tip: To combat this, you can consider outsourcing lead generation through referrals. This is one of the most powerful yet cost-effective sales methods that you can implement as your customers are essentially doing the work for you. You can also seek to adjust your prospecting sources; go to different networking events and find new ways to tap into leads. This helps to reach a broader audience.
4. Difficulties in Building Rapport with Customers
Potential customers might not have the attention span to listen to everything you have to say. This means that converting will be even more difficult.
Pro Tip: You can overcome these hurdles by using communication technologies that address various situations. There is powerful software that does the heavy lifting for you and can keep the attention of your leads. You can also focus on high-value clients rather than spending your energy on smaller opportunities that might not impact the bottom line.
5. Overcoming Objections to Close the Sale
As leads move down the funnel, they might feel doubtful about their purchase and have further questions that need answering. This is where a strong sales process can come into play.
Pro Tip: Always be prepared for questions. The most effective sales processes are operated by people who are incredibly knowledgeable about the product or service. They should always be ready to address concerns. You can also increase the chances of closing a deal by providing money-back guarantees or discount codes to push a sale over the line. This shows your prospects that you believe in what you’re selling and that you’re willing to go the extra mile to show them that you care about them.
6. Inconsistencies in the Process by Different Team Members
Depending on the size of your sales team, your leads might interact with more than one person throughout their journey. This can lead to confusion and varying levels of personalization and service. In some cases, this can turn the customer away altogether.
Pro Tip: Strive to standardize the sales process as much as you can. From the discovery call to addressing pain points, there should be a common understanding amongst your team on how to navigate these situations. Having consistency also means that you’ll need to regularly train your staff so they are at the top of their game.
Creating a Scalable Process
What makes a sales process scalable? Your process is scalable, once it is repeatable. The process should work the same, whether you have 10, 1,000, or 10,000 customers. The volume of leads can be managed in the same way once you reach this level of refinement.
Remember, your sales process will never be complete or perfect; it will always be a work in progress.
So, in addition to consistently measuring your success with the tracking systems listed above, you should also have regularly scheduled check-ins with your sales team. Your sales team is on the front lines; they’re working through your sales process every day and communicating with prospects. They will be the first to uncover any major issues or red flags regarding your process.
Dive into Your Sales Process to Scale Your Sales with Cultivate Advisors!
Creating and mapping a sales process will help your sales team close more deals and convert more leads. It will also ensure your team provides every prospect with the same type of consistent experience, representative of your brand.
Follow these steps to create and map a sales process tailored to your business, sales team, and customers to begin boosting conversions and building lasting relationships.
You don’t need to be a sales expert to have a successful sales funnel for your business. Having a better understanding of your process can help you increase revenue and build a strong foundation for your business.
Schedule a consultation with our sales process consultants today!
If sales aren’t your strong suit, and you don’t know where to start, you don’t have to go at it alone.Schedule a Consultation