Insanity is often described as doing the same thing over and over again, hoping that the result will change. Sadly, this is a very common situation for most businesses when it comes to their sales process. They follow the same strategy, rely on the same tools, use the same templates year after year and still want the revenue to grow.
Sales is a dynamic and creative process. Letting it get stale is the worst thing you can do to your sales process. A good salesperson should be able to stay ahead of the trend looking for ways to improve their tactics, tools, and the process in general.
In this article, we will share some of the ideas on how to do that. Yet, to understand how to improve your sales process, we need to understand how it works first of all. So let’s start with that.
What is a sales process?
The definition of a sales process is very simple: it’s a repeatable set of steps and the corresponding actions that a sales team should go through to turn a prospect into a customer.
This process can be roughly divided into 5 steps:
- Lead generation (inbound) or prospecting (outbound outreach) – the first stage when you get the lead into your sales funnel.
- Qualification (inbound) or discovery (outbound) – when you try to figure out if there’s a fit (whether by analyzing the prospect’s profile against your ICP or by asking specific questions over a call).
- Sales engagement – when you build rapport with the prospects and eventually pitch your offer.
- Negotiations – when you address the prospect’s objections and convince them to make a purchase.
- Conversion or closing – when you finalize and seal the deal.
Some sources also include repeat business – post-sale customer engagement to upsell or cross-sell your other products – as the 6th stage of the process.
It’s also worth mentioning that sales processes might vary greatly depending on the industry. For example, the listed stages are typical for B2B sales. SaaS selling is different due to the fact that many products offer freemium or free trial options.
In addition to that, the steps do not always go in this specific order. For example, there are situations where you could skip discovery or negotiations. Sometimes, you might also need to circle back to sales engagement even when it seems that deal is about to close.
Regardless of how good you think your sales process is, there’s always room for improvement. In fact, there are many reasons you should do a regular system check, even if you think your sales engine is running smoothly:
- evaluate its overall effectiveness,
- identify and eliminate bottlenecks,
- improve prospect engagement,
- increase your sales performance,
- grow revenue.
How to boost your sales process: the checklist
The buyer’s expectations are ever-changing, even more so since the global pandemics have forced us to rethink how we do business. New technologies and tactics emerge, offering more power to enable sales teams.
That is why it’s more important than ever to stay ahead of the curve and keep your sales in line with the current needs. Here’s a step-by-step action plan to do that.
1. Reconsider your targeting and positioning
Before you send your first outreach email or talk to your prospects, what you need to do is define your target audience. To know how to sell your product, you must understand who you’re selling it to.
Of course, you should have done that long ago. Yet, your ideal customer profile (ICP) may change over time as your product grows and evolves. So, before you dive deeper into your sales processes, make sure to learn more about your target audience. There are two ways to do that:
- Aggregate data about your current customers and prospects to identify what they have in common.
- Source insights from your customer-facing teams — sales, customer success, or support teams.
Here’s a basic template you can use to collect and structure this information:
Once you make sure your ICP is up to date, tailor your value proposition accordingly for maximum impact.
2. Refine your lead generation strategy
Lead generation and prospecting make the foundation of any sales process. These are also the most challenging parts for most sales teams and thus the first thing you should pay attention to when looking to improve your sales performance.
First off, turn to your lead management tool/sales CRM to understand which lead generation and prospecting techniques have been driving the best results and prioritize those in your new sales process. But also don’t be afraid to try new ones from time to time. Make such experiments a standard practice and pick 1-2 tactics to test out each quarter.
Based on the ICP you’ve previously updated, try to map out the common route your buyers take, from becoming aware of your product to getting in contact with your sales reps. If they prefer to do their own research, don’t try to force demos or calls on them but provide the necessary information and offer any help they might need.
3. Double down on sales engagement
The next step in your sales process, after you make the contact with the prospect, is to establish a meaningful relationship, build trust, and eventually nurture them into buying from you. This stage is often referred to as sales engagement.
Depending on your lead generation strategies of choice, the sales engagement methods you can apply might vary. However, there are several principles to consider when redesigning your process:
- Omnichannel engagement. Review and enrich your engagement sequences with more touchpoints across different channels. For example, if your primary communication with the prospect happens over email and video calls, it also makes sense to connect and engage with them on social media. Here’s a flow template for an automated demo request sequence in Reply.io:
There are also situations where sending an SMS or using a messenger might come in handy, e.g., demo no-shows.
- Personalization. Include in-depth prospect research into your sales playbooks (as a part of the prospecting or discovery stage) and enrich your records as you move forward with engagement. Use this information to make your communication — from the first email in your engagement sequence to your demo and sales pitch — relevant and appealing to each prospect.
- Automation. Put as much of your engagement activities on autopilot as possible. Be it a reminder before the call, a follow-up afterward, a nurturing email with relevant content, or simply a LinkedIn touchpoint with the prospect who hasn’t responded to your recent message — all these tasks can be automated. Aside from scaling your activities, this will also allow you to track your sales activities and source actionable insights on how to improve down the road.
4. Streamline closing and post-sales activities
Even if the previous stages of the sales process run smoothly, taking an ad-hoc approach to closing can seriously harm your performance. Create a detailed checklist for your sales reps to go through with each prospect to make sure you cover all the ground and have everything you need to move forward.
From submitting your proposal and finalizing the terms, to collecting the necessary financial information and signing all the papers (especially for high-ticket, enterprise sales), document every step.
And don’t turn your back on the prospects once they become your customers. Organize a smooth and orderly transition to customer success and make sure to plan a few check-ins in a month or two. Even if it’s a simple automated email, it can be a great way to foster loyalty and encourage future upsells or cross-sells.
5. Invest in your sales stack and team training
Be it lead generation, engagement, or closing, having the right tools can make it a lot easier. So, don’t overlook your sales stack when working on your process.
To start with, you might want to talk to your team about the tools they actually use and enjoy using. This will help you avoid paying for software that your sales reps hate or that simply doesn’t offer any value. Plus, the sales tech market is very dynamic and there are tons of products — more capable, more flexible, or simply more cost-efficient ones — that emerge every year. Here are some of the emerging sales tech trends you should consider adopting:
- AI-powered sales assistants
- Action plan software
- Revenue and conversation intelligence tools
- Personalization at scale
- No-code and low-code automation software
Aside from the sales stack, you should also regularly review the sales collateral your team is using. Make sure the content is up to date and that it actually meets the needs and requirements of your reps.
Lastly, it’s not just your process, toolset, or content that can get stale. Invest in regular sales training and encourage self-development within your team to make sure your efforts don’t go to waste.
Having the “if it works – don’t touch it” mindset in sales is a losing strategy that can pose a real threat to a business. If your sales process is not developing, it will eventually become stale and lose its effectiveness.
So, follow the listed steps to level up your sales process and never stop improving.
This is a guest blog post written by Sales Development Team Lead, William Oleksiienko, at Reply.io.
Reply is a sales engagement platform that enables businesses to automate & scale their multichannel outreach.