Every business has a sales process. Some have it documented and some don’t. In any case, determining how effective your sales process should be a constant undertaking to ensure you are building a strong brand.
A sales process is simply a series of steps that your brand follows to guide prospects from coming into contact with your brand right through a sale. This process begins with the prospect identifying a need for your product or service (or sometimes your brand proactively educating the prospect on such a need) and following the buyer’s journey – making sure your brand and positioning strategy funnels the prospect towards becoming your customer.
In this article we discuss how to document a sales process that explains each step your prospect should take, the knowledge the buyer needs at each step to move forward in the funnel, the education your brand should provide at each step and how to convert the prospect into a customer.
Why document your sales process?
A business runs successfully when there are business systems in place and those systems are carefully documented. Small businesses, especially, tend not to have documented system. This may be because business systems are considered “behind the scenes” activities and unlike brand and marketing strategies or sales campaigns, good business systems are considered boring.
Here are some reasons why you should document your sales process:
S ell more effectively – A document sales process will help you or your sales team to sell more effectively. Instead of ad hoc decisions, you will be armed with a tried and tested series of steps that would result in success.
G enerate more accurate sales and revenue reports – Reports are basis of any successful sales campaign. Understanding what is happening with your sales gives you an insight into how to tweak your sales process and your campaigns.
I dentify which stages have bottlenecks – By documenting your sales process and analysing sales campaigns and sales reports, you can identify where your prospects are taking the longest to move forward and perhaps even dropping off the funnel completely.
M inimize the amount of time it takes for estimates and forecasts – Estimates and forecasts are very crucial in any sales campaign and having a document sales process makes it easier, faster and more accurate to create these forecasts.
Match your sales process steps to your buyer’s journey steps
By starting with understanding your buyers journey, you can then work towards matching the various steps of your sales funnel to the steps that your buyer naturally takes towards a purchase.
A misalignment of your sales process steps to those of the buyer’s journey is the single most critical cause of failure of sales campaigns. Businesses tend to aggressively invest in their sales campaigns with out really paying attention to this crucial concept and end up wasting time, resources and money.
As yourself these questions to help you determine if your sales process is aligned to the buyer’s journey:
- Do you really understand your buyers goals?
- Do you have metrics that show you how many prospects are at each step and how many are really moving forward?
- Do you understand how conversion is happening and which steps are contributing the most?
- Are you educating your prospects during the awareness stage – not on your product or service but rather topics related to the solving the problem they have?
- Are you educating your prospects during the consideration stage by offering a structured solution to the problem which includes your product or service?
- Is your sales funnel equipped to properly guide the prospect in the decision stage by creating trust?
Step 1 : Define your prospect’s buying process
List the steps that your prospect takes in each of the main stages of the buyer’s journey – awareness, consideration and decision stages.
Let us first list the potential steps your prospect may go through:
- Feeling a pain point – the prospect feels a pain which may be resolved through your product or service
- Researching solutions – the prospect starts looking around for a solution to their pain
- Identifying potential solutions – the prospect has identified a few potential solutions to their problems – i.e a few vendors or businesses that supply the solution
- Considering possible vendors – the prospect has shortlisted a few vendors and is moving into deciding which ones they would like to give their business to
- Final decision and purchase – the prospect has selected the business they want to give their money to
For each of these steps, next list the following:
- What information does the prospect need in each step
- Content and material that your prospect needs to exposed to in each step
- Time the prospect needs to spend in each step
Step 2 : Identify sales tools for each step
Once you have defined the sales stepson what your prospect needs to know in that step, you will have create sales tools that give that knowledge to your prospect to help them move forward in their journey.
Each sales tool at each step should only give sufficient information to your prospect to move them to the next step. Avoid the temptation to overwhelm them with information and perhaps even making a pitch and try and convert the prospect into a customer. 9 times out of 10, this will fail.
Here is a list of sales tools and the steps they hustled be delivered at:
- Blogs, articles, educational content, analyst reports, research papers, eguides and ebooks, expert content and white papers – Awareness stage
- Comparison white papers, expert guides, live interactions, web cases, podcasts and videos – Consideration stage
- Vendor comparisons, product comparisons, case studies, trial downloads, product literature and even opt for live demos – Decision stage
Step 3 : Measure the sales process
Once you have identified the sales process steps, what information your prospects need in each step and the sales tools that you have to create at each step, you will have to come up with a robust system of measuring the progress of your prospects through the sales funnel.
The measurement should be tangible and not based on vanity metrics. Have triggers in place to identify when a prospect has moved to the next step. Here are a few examples of triggers and what they mean:
- Prospect arrives at your website by searching for a specific keyword – means the prospect has identified the pain point
- Prospects sends time on your blog reading articles related to a particular topic – means the prospect has a good idea of what the solution to their pain may be
- Prospect request information about a product or service – means the prospect has identified a few vendors and is reaching out
- Prospect spends a lot of time on your product or service page and perhaps even adds the product to the shopping cart – the prospect is quite advanced in the sales process and is ready to buy
By following these 3 steps and documenting your process, you can improve your sales tremendously. Creating the various sales tools at each stage of the sales process is crucial. You can not expect success if you are using one or two sales tools at all stages of the buyer’s journey. I have written other articles on this blog where I discuss the buyer’s journey, creating powerful sales tools and more.