The Breakthrough Guide to a B2B Sales Process
January 1, 2020
A sales process is to selling as a recipe is to a cake. Without the proper steps in a particular and strategic order, you will fail at both selling and baking a cake.
At one point in your life, you’ve probably had some type of baking conundrum. For me, I spent hours formulating my favorite type of cookie only for the liquid to completely evaporate in the oven. I was left with nothing but burnt, coagulated cookie… things.
One thing was for sure: something went wrong with my recipe. I went back and scoured each step to discover that I forgot a crucial ingredient that makes the cookies rise.
Had I not followed a recipe, I would have been left scratching my head and guessing what actually went wrong with my cookies. Instead, I knew exactly what went wrong and made sure to not make the same mistake again.
This is the same reason why having a B2B sales process is so important. Imagine there are 50 bakers making cookies and something is slightly off for half of them. Wouldn’t it be nice to look back and see what steps they may have missed or done incorrectly instead of guessing what went wrong?
What is a Sales Process?
To put it simply, a sales process is a set of repeatable, best practice steps your reps should take in order to close business for your company as efficiently and effectively as possible. The process moves prospects through the funnel from the awareness stage to a signed and sealed opportunity.
Now, it’s important to note that you may need more than one process. This depends on the type of solution you sell and who you sell it to. For example, if you have more than one target buyer persona, you will need to tweak the process for each one.
The Value of a B2B Sales Process
There are many reasons why having a B2B sales process is valuable for an organization. Some reasons may be more innate, and some less obvious. Regardless, the value of a sales process depends on your team’s use of it.
Understanding and agreeing on best practice steps of a sales process ensures that everyone on your team in “speaking the same language.”
Sure, there will always be high-performing reps on even the most disorganized sales teams. However, there will be even more that are struggling.
Since it’s true that any team is really the sum of all its parts, make sure that you are supporting each rep with a sales process. This way, if people are falling behind, you will be able to identify where the problem occurred, and then coach them to success.
In addition, it creates uniformity. Maybe your leads get passed from one sales rep to another. In order to keep the opportunity moving through the pipeline, each rep will have to follow a similar strategy to not scare off the potential buyer.
Without a universal sales process, there is no way to benchmark the success of your team. In fact, we recommend using a sales process to measure success. This includes analyzing both gaps and success areas.
Let’s break this down. If each one of your reps is accurately documenting information that is directly aligned to the stages of your company’s sales process, the data can be used for accurate analysis.
On the other hand, if only some people are documenting information or your team has no sales process to align documentation to, then your company’s data will become irrelevant.
When it comes to accurately measuring success, the big picture is key.
3. Time Management
As salespeople, you want to be busy. Busy often equates with lots of sales activity which results in more closed business. However, being busy has setbacks, too.
Typically, when your team members get too busy, they get flustered. Being flustered usually leads to a downward spiral based on bad decisions like overlooking details, rushing through proposals, or ignoring agendas.
A proper sales process guides your team, even at their most flustered state. Why? Because if you truly have a sales process that works, it should feel natural.
4. Sales Management
After reading the points above, it’s evident that having a systematic sales process enables better sales management.
Because each rep is following the same process, overall success will be tied to something that you can actually control.
- Are opportunities taking too long to close?
- See what you can add or take out of the process to save time.
- Is your team forgetting to log information in the CRM?
- Clearly define what parts of the sales process must be logged and why.
- Are the majority of leads coming in not sales-qualified?
- Work with your company’s marketing function to create content that will attract the right leads.
Want to learn more? Watch our webinar on how a sales process can make or break your business.
Overall, having a sales process makes sales management less about guessing and more about strategizing. Don't forget: every sales process exists for a reason.
Building a Sales Process
Building a sales process isn’t about you, the sales leader, and what you want. Instead, it’s about what works for those that are out selling each and every day. It’s also about those that support sales before and after the sales process takes place.
Who is involved in building?
Here at Criteria for Success, we talk a lot about the importance of cross-functional collaboration. Believe it or not, the sales process strategy extends far beyond just you and your sales team.
When building out a sales process, gather a group of employees involved in different sales support functions. This could include:
- Executive Leadership
- Customer Service
- Client Delivery
- Product Development
Remember, each company is different. Depending on your culture and what you do, use your discretion as to who should be involved in this process.
When should it be built?
Building a sales process takes foresight and hindsight. You’re going to need historical data (or lack-there-of) to support informed decisions about your new sales process.
We recommend building a new sales process at the beginning or the end of a cycle. This could be the beginning or end of the calendar year, fiscal year, or quarter. It’s important to stick to a cycle so you can accurately analyze progress from a distinct starting point.
If your team is engaging in any type of training, wait until after to create a new sales process.
Sales Process Template
While there is no one way to sell anything, a sales process helps to move your prospects through the funnel. We put together a sales process template to help your sales team sell more. Whether you are starting from scratch or improving an old process, this template will help.
There are tons of different forms that a sales process can come in. To introduce the concept, we’ll start with the most basic. This general sales process template focuses on the overarching view of what goes into a more detailed one.
1. Lead Generation
This part of your sales process focuses on where you get your leads. Whether it’s a sales function or not, lead generation is a crucial part of any sales process. This section answers the question of who you are selling to and how you get in touch with them.
2. Lead Management
In this section, your activities should focus on asking qualification questions and updating lead status in the CRM.
3. Opportunity Management
This is when you move your converted lead into your sales cycle. We’ll get into more detail about this in our 7-step process below.
Now, let's get into the detailed sales process template for B2B sales teams.
7-Step Sales Process Template:
This area of your sales process focuses on who you sell to and their corresponding wants, needs, and more. Depending on your company, you’ll want to also target based on company criteria like territory or location, company size, as well as individual criteria like job title and team size.
Additionally, when creating a sales targeting process, consider establishing qualifiers as well as dis-qualifiers. This will impact your internal approval process and improve your close ratio.
To learn more about effective sales targeting techniques, download our eBook.
2. Lead Capture
Lead capture can be done in many different ways. The most important thing is that you are capturing the right information about leads in your CRM. Remember: using CRM to standardize your sales process shouldn't add a level of difficulty. Here are some ways to do capture information:
This type of lead capture utilizes your company’s marketing function. The goal is to use inbound marketing to attract, engage, and delight potential clients with relevant content and information on your website, just like what you are reading right now. Leads fill out forms to gain access to gated content like eBooks or even certain blog posts and then their information is automatically imported into the CRM system.
There’s nothing like some old-fashioned networking. Make sure your team is logging all the information from the business cards they collect into your CRM system. They should also include talking points they had with the person or any other information that may be helpful when reaching out in the future.
Some business uses lists to find leads. Make sure to import these lists into your CRM system to accurately track lead progress in the sales process. Because lists tend to be hefty, it’s also a good idea to document lead owners or even assigned territories.
3. Lead Assignment
Speaking of lead owners and territories, a proper sales process allocates leads to a specific team or individual. Depending on your solution, allocation can be based on territory, company size, industry, or persona.
Be strategic about who gets assigned which leads.
4. Qualify Lead
In this part of the sales process, your team will begin asking leads qualifying questions. These questions help your reps decide whether or not a lead is worth pursuing. Some examples include:
- What role do they play in the decision-making process?
- How long have they been in business?
- What is the size of their organization? (Revenue, employees, number of customers)
- What are some challenges their team or company is facing right now?
These questions should get your sales team started on the qualification process.
5. Lead Status
This is when your team is actively selling to the lead and adjusting the lead status in the CRM. You can create your own unique lead statuses, or base it off of these:
- Contacted – called/emailed
This section of your sales process is simple: is the lead qualified or not? If they are, they move on to the next stage.
If they fail to meet your qualifying criteria, the lead gets disqualified in your CRM system and your salesperson ends their sales efforts.
7. Opportunity Management
Now that your lead is qualified, it’s time to move it into the sales cycle. This means that it will enter into any one of the four stages before becoming an active client and a closed deal.
We use something called the ‘UCAN’ acronym to describe these stages. It stands for:
Unqualified: The opportunity has potential, but we can’t be sure how it will turn out. You’ve discussed your solution with those involved in the opportunity and see some type of synergy.
Confirmed: The opportunity moves to the confirmed stage if your sales rep has discussed a solution and sent over pricing or a proposal. Depending on your sales process, there may be a different type of document sent during this stage.
Advantage: This stage indicates that your rep will likely close this opportunity successfully. It is the only stage in opportunity management that is subjective and not based on some type of action.
Notify: At this point, your team member has received a verbal notification that you won the business.
After this, make sure you log the opportunity in your CRM as closed won or closed lost.
For repeatable sales process steps, keep it simple:
When building your sales process, resist the temptation to make it overly complex. Instead, keep the steps to create a sales process simple. If there are too many minute details included in your sales process, a few things could happen.
- Your team won’t follow the steps.
- This means they will create their own, or simply skip the ones in place. This leads to data discrepancy and loss of flow.
- Salespeople won’t be themselves.
- If your sales process “over instructs,” your team won’t have the opportunity to take risks, play up their personalities, or just be themselves. This leads to robotic salespeople and poor buyer relationships.
- Reps will waste time meticulously following unnatural steps.
- Sales processes shouldn’t inhibit your team from doing what feels natural to each individual. Instead, it should guide them through a structured process, like a road map.
9 steps for building a sales process:
1. Analyze Closed Opportunities
Look at past closed (won or lost) opportunities for each solution you sell.
2. Identify Distinct Stages
Look at the closed (won) deals and identify any common stages they passed through or activities that occurred. Some stages and activities include identifying leads, qualifying opportunities, presenting your solution, negotiating and closing.
You can even go as far as what happens before a lead is passed to sales or when sales pass an opportunity to delivery for implementation.
3. Integrate Paperwork
Brainstorm all necessary paperwork to help sales move through the sales process. Developing and executing specific documents can be individual steps in the process or can function as the line between one stage and the next.
4. Consider Approvals
If you require management approval to move forward with certain types of opportunities, it should be reflected in your sales process.
5. Incorporate Reports and Key Performance Indicators
Make sure to identify what information must be captured at different stages of the sales process. This is another common checkpoint between one opportunity stage and the next.
6. Integrate Selling Methodologies
If your team uses any specific type of selling methodology, like discovery-based selling, make sure to incorporate it into your sales process. For discovery-based selling, a qualifying “discovery call” would be included at the beginning of the process.
7. Map Your Sales Process
Focus on simplicity when you begin mapping. The sales process map has to be understandable to anyone that reads it – not just you or tenured sales reps.
8. Plan for Before and After
Having a sales process is fantastic, but what happens before you need to use it? Where do leads come from – are they given by management or generated by marketing? And after your reps close, what is the protocol for moving the opportunity to the implementation stage?
Regardless, make sure the handoff is seamless on both ends.
9. Solicit Best Practices
To make sure you’re building the best sales process possible, use your team as a resource. Survey them to understand the most common and efficient best practices.
Remember, follow these steps with your group of sales support functions to get an overarching view of each segment.
Be sure to keep this information in mind as you prepare to create a new sales process or evolve an existing one.
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