A guide to sales processes

When it comes to business, success is built on having effective processes in place across every department. For your sales team, that comes in the form of your sales process: the series of steps your salespeople take to move prospects through the buying journey and convert them into paying customers. A sales process is only effective when it's repeatable and scalable.

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Even the playing field for
long-term growth

The often-cited Pareto principle applies to a lot of business scenarios, and your sales department is no exception. More often than not, a large chunk of your sales revenue might be coming from a handful of high-performing sales reps. At first glance, this might not seem worrisome, but consider what could happen to your sales numbers if any of these reps decides to look for greener pastures. Would the rest of your sales team be able to step up their performance and recover the revenue that you might lose?

Instead of relying solely on the abilities and connections of individual sales reps—which might bottleneck your business growth—it's vital to invest time into building a standardized process that can elevate the performance of all your salespeople. This will become the sales process your team uses to turn prospects into paying customers.

What constitutes a sales process?

The number of steps in the overall sales process might vary from business to business—ranging from identifying your ideal prospects to converting them to paying customers—but there are four key elements or stages that must be maintained across the process:


Build a standard 7-step sales process

Let's have a look at a standard framework that you can rework to fit your business needs. These seven steps take a generalized approach towards building a working and effective sales process that you can model across your business for improving conversions and growing revenue.

connected flow Step-1

Learn the ins and outs of your solution

As obvious as it sounds, the first step to selling anything is to learn all you can about it. Especially as customer expectations shift in these changing times, salespeople need to have deep working knowledge about the product or solution they're pitching.

Once you've started learning the product and engaging with your developers and product managers to explore its wide range of use cases and pitfalls, you'll start to notice certain stand-out features—other niche ones—that will greatly appeal to the businesses you'll be targeting.

A major component of this step is to compare your solution to the competition. How does your solution stack up to other players in the market? Where does it excel, and where does it fall short? Knowing what your solution can do and what it can't is necessary when it comes to handling customer objections and positioning your product above competitors.


Build the profile for your ideal customers

Before you set out to find appropriate prospects, you need to decide which factors define the ideal customer for your business. These descriptions shouldn't be some imaginary criteria you pull out of thin air, but rather should be based on actual data about your existing customers. By comparing your incoming leads with the benchmarks you establish, your team will have a clear idea of who to focus their efforts on.

  • Leverage existing customer data to outline a broad buyer persona.
  • Target businesses and industries that have pain points that your solution can definitely address.
  • Refine your ideal customer profile with the demographic and psychographic data of buyers that your competitors target.
  • Identify channels, platforms, and communities where your ideal prospects tend to engage with each other.

Start generating leads for your business

Once you have an accurate picture of your ideal customers, it's time to get them interested in what you offer. But leads won't just drop into your lap; the next step is to build your lead generation strategy, which should ideally be a combination of both inbound and outbound efforts.

Leverage the wide range of channels available to you

  • Webinars
  • Google ads
  • Social media
  • Ebooks
  • Forums

and more—to connect with your target audience.

But before you look outwards, why not start exploring internally? Reach out to existing clients who have greatly benefited from your services and ask them for referrals. It's one of the most effective means of identifying new prospects, as referrals come from a place of trust. This can lead to shorter sales cycles, easier upselling, and longer retention of customers.

To ensure you get the most out of the leads you attract, it's best to have the right CRM solution in place to help you engage and nurture them thereby improving your chances of converting them into paying customers.


Capture leads from across multiple platforms with ease using Zoho CRM

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Qualify the right prospects

Following up on leads and getting them to make a purchase demands a substantial amount of time and effort from your team. Focusing on the wrong leads takes your attention away from the ones that have a greater possibility of converting, ultimately affecting your bottom line.

You can use some commonly used frameworks like

  • BANT

to qualify your leads, but the idea is the same across all them:

  • Right fit

    Assess whether they are in the right industry to benefit from your products and services.
  • Need

    Determine if the lead has a need for the solution you're offering.
  • Purchasing power

    Consider whether the lead has the necessary decision-making authority—as well as the budget—to make the purchase.
  • Value add

    Ascertain whether you can add more value to their business compared to their current vendor or to competitors they are considering.

Understanding the needs of
your prospects

Once you've narrowed your pool of leads down to the prospects that can genuinely benefit from your solution, the next step is to figure out the hows and whys. Get on a call with the prospects and have a free-flowing conversation about their business to try and identify all their pain points.

Keep the conversation casual and centered around their business so you can seamlessly slip in questions to identify problems that your solution can address. At the end of the conversation—if there are no scenarios wherein your solution can add value—you can shift your focus to other prospects in your pipeline.


Pitch your solution

With the needs of your prospects in hand, you're ready to start preparing your pitch. There are a few things to keep in mind when you're getting ready for a pitch:

  • Customize your pitch to the prospect's business and industry.
  • Offer solutions to specific pain points rather than a feature dump in your presentation.
  • Support your pitch with concrete evidence, such as case studies and testimonials from your customers—preferably from a similar industry or business.
  • Tell a story; a powerful narrative resonates better and makes it easier for prospects to recall your talking points.
  • Close strongly with a clear call to action for all decision makers involved.

During your presentation, you should also expect and be prepared for objections to your solution. Write down some of the possible objections you might face and formulate practiced responses. When the prospect raises objections during the presentation, make sure you take time to ask additional questions and get deeper context around the objection before you give your response.


Ensure proper

Prompt follow-ups are crucial for closing deals. Get back to the prospect immediately after a call or presentation with a summary highlighting all the key points that were discussed, along with any additional information that was requested. If you were unable to answer certain objections about your solution, check with your team, identify a possible solution, and respond to those objections as well.

In your follow-ups, include a quote or a contract based on how well you feel the conversations with the prospect went. This makes it clear what your expectations are, based on the timelines you discussed during your pitch.

Nurture long-term relationships for cross-sell and upsell opportunities

If you've offered your prospects the right solution, they're now your customers. Now the goal is to check up on them routinely to see how their experience using your solution has been. Are they satisfied with the solution? Have they faced any issues or hit a technical roadblock that you can help with?

If their experience has been positive, loop them in to your lead generation strategy and ask for referrals to start the entire process over again with a new prospect. Satisfied customers also represent a great opportunity for you to pitch other solutions you have to offer. With their primary needs met, they'll be more receptive to exploring any additional solutions your company provides.

Digitize your sales process in a CRM to maximize its effectiveness

A sales process is truly effective when it's predictable, replicable by all sales reps, and quantifiable. That's hard to achieve when everyone is working with pen and paper or spreadsheets. Most modern CRM solutions help you define, scale, and measure the effectiveness of your sales process with ease.

In addition to optimizing your sales process, CRMs offer a wide range of features and tools like lead management, opportunity management, customer segmentation and more — all of which can improve customer experience across the buying journey and help your business build lasting customer relationships.

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