Sales research is the process that sales representatives go through before they do their client outreach. The goal is to remove unqualified leads from the sales process before more time is spent on them. Tools typically involve Google searches, LinkedIn, and company pages. Sales Research Process and Tools Here’s a quick process you can…
What is a sales process?
A “sales process” is the list of repeatable steps your sales team goes through taking someone from a prospect to a customer. A well implemented one lets your sales team close more deals by giving them a framework to follow.
Why should you invest in implementing a sales process?ACCORDING TO THE HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW, FIRMS THAT DEFINED A FORMAL SALES PROCESS SAW 18% GREATER REVENUE GROWTH THAN THOSE THAT DIDN’T HAVE A FORMAL PROCESS.
Think of your it as the organizing glue of your sales force. Your sales reps should be able to easily sort contacts into the various steps. From there, each step should have a methodology that helps sales reps move contacts further down the funnel. A good process will help answer the “what do I do today” question for all your reps before they even ask it. They should be able to easily visualize where the pipeline is lacking and then reprioritize their work day to fix it.A STRONG FOUNDATIONAL SALES PROCESS CAN INSPIRE A TEAM AND HELP CARRY THEM THROUGH SLUMPS.
So what are the key things sales reps gain from having a sales process?
Improved efficiency. A good sales routine will improve your reps efficiency. Once they have the process understood moving contacts toward close will naturally become their top priority. Once they become comfortable working within the system, they’ll be able to spot areas of inefficiency and course correct along the way. This improved efficiency should compound as time and team size grow.
Instant guidance. Having this defined for your reps makes it their first stop for guidance on what to do next with a contact. It helps reduce the load placed on sales managers for commonly asked questions.
Close more clients. When your process is running like a well-oiled machine, your reps will be delivering more consistent results and will close more deals as a whole. This is why we’re all here after all!
Sales process vs sales methodology
Your sales methodology defines how you accomplish each of the steps of the sales process. Sometimes sales methodologies span multiple steps and it is key that you select the ones that best fit your specific product and brand.
How to create a custom sales process
The easiest way to create a formal sales process is by looking at what you’re already doing. What are the steps your sales reps already take? Which ones appear to have better conversion rates between steps? The number of defined steps in your process should always be as few as possible. The simpler a process is, the quicker a sales rep can get up to speed and implement it. We’re going for sales elegance here!
These steps are a pretty standard way of organizing a sales process. Each company is different and you may have more or fewer steps than we’ve described below. Feel free to use this as a starting point though.
The most common steps are:
Market research is an absolutely critical part of the sales process. Defining who you’re selling to is the very first step that needs to be tackled. Having a good understanding of your industry’s dynamics, along with your key target’s industry dynamics will give you an enormous advantage in planning out your process and strategy.
You can go about this in multiple ways, but some key research areas are:
Industry research (your industry)
Industry research (your customer’s industries)
Competitor research (pricing, product, distribution, etc.)
Geographic economic research
While lead generation is typically the realm of marketers, many times sales reps play a key role here. This is the top of your funnel. This should be as full as possible of people who meet your buyer personas. Some common tactics here are:
Search engine optimization
Social media marketing
Webinars or virtual events
This is where you reach out to leads to start a conversation about how you may be able to help them. Today, the majority of leads your team reaches out to will have had some prior interaction with your firm or your product. Either they’ve read about you though your content marketing campaigns, or they’ve seen your advertisements, or they’ve interacted with one of your firm’s representatives at a networking event or via social media. Very few contacts are cold leads anymore.
Although we’ve all read how dead cold calling is, 92% of all customer interactions happen over the phone. Unfortunately, we don’t always have phone numbers for our leads. In this case, email will have to do and lucky for us it is still the second most effective way to reach someone. The key here is being persistent.
We want to make sure that our contacts can become customers as early in the sales process as possible. Qualification is a process, not an event.
The earliest level of qualification is making sure that the prospect’s company is one that we would want to do business with. It sounds simple, but many times the question of “is this a group we could have a long-term, profitable relationship with?” isn’t asked until much later in the process.
The second level is making sure that the prospect is willing and likely to purchase. Are they experiencing the problems solved by your solution? Do they already spend money on inferior solutions? Do they believe your firm is capable of solving their problem?
The third level is making sure the contacts you’re interacting with are able to purchase your solution. By now you’ve confirmed that you want to do business with them, and they want to do business with you. You now need to confirm that they’re able to do business with you. This is where we answer questions surrounding their timeframe for implementation, their needs and your capabilities, their available budget, etc.
Some of these questions aren’t able to be answered prior to the presentation and objections steps. That’s ok. The goal is to get a good sense of them being a qualified buyer, not making sure we check off each and every qualification box.
So much research has been done on this stage that it would be impossible to include it all here. Therefore, we are providing a high-level overview here and we will dig deeper into the various research and tactics in future posts.
The presentation’s goal should be to achieve the following:
Build rapport. Before you begin discussing your product/service or its features or how great your company is, start by getting to know them. Do your research ahead of time for this to find some areas of common ground. Do you have a colleague in common? Has their firm done anything newsworthy lately? What are their hobbies? By creating a connection with the prospect you’re able to better understand their side of the transaction. This will help immensely when identifying needs and key features.
Identify needs. Now ask all the questions you can. You’ll never know if you can help them unless you really get to know their situation. Prospects will be able to tell instantly when you haven’t spent enough time on this part. Really understanding their needs takes some time but once you determine a pain point that you can solve, it will make the rest of the process much easier.
Identify key features. After you’ve built rapport and identified some pain points, it’s time to match the pain points up with your product’s features that are able to alleviate those pain points. These are the key things to expand upon and dive deep into their functionality and how they’ll make your prospect’s life better.
Instill confidence. This is where you get to talk a bit about how great your company is. Talk about how you’ve helped others in similar situations (if you have). Many people like to do this at the beginning of the call, but it comes across disingenuous because you haven’t even learned enough about their situation yet. Doing it at the end lets you spend much less time on it because it’s so much more impactful.
Follow up meeting. If we complete this, then we can call this presentation a success. You’ve determined that you’re able to solve some pain points and make their lives better and you’ve convinced them that you’re able to pull it off. Now have reps set a specific day/time for a follow up call. Be sure to give this call a reason for the client. Some companies use this call to present the quote, or to go over the quote, while others use it for additional demo time to other stakeholders. Whatever you chose, make sure it gives the prospect a reason to dial in.
Handling objections is where reps can really shine. These will mostly come up during and after the presentation. The big part here is to make sure your reps are documenting the objections they encounter, along with how they handled them, and how well their handling was received. Having a centralized “common objections” database that your reps can access will make new reps successful much more quickly. The onboarding time for a new rep ranges anywhere from 6-9 months and things like these, along with a documented sales process, will help cut that time down significantly.
Follow Up80% OF SALES REQUIRE 5 OR MORE FOLLOW UP CALLS AFTER THE FIRST MEETING. 40% OF SALES REPS GIVE UP AFTER THE FIRST.
Making sure your reps follow up after presentations is critical to their success. Persistence here will pay dividends. Set up a kind of content calendar for when and how it’s appropriate to follow up. This will make it easier for reps to simply check how long it’s been since the last follow up and then reach out with some starter-responses. Try to instill how important it is that they don’t just simply copy and paste the responses here. Canned messages are easy to spot and won’t be as helpful.
If your team has followed this process up until now, then closing becomes almost trivial. They’ve already identified the decision maker, they understand the client’s needs and have demonstrated how your solution solves them, they’ve overcome key objections, and they’ve confirmed that the prospect is willing and able to buy. The last part is to ask for the sale. Provide reps with a few closing lines that fit with your brand and it’ll help remove any anxiety around this step.
Referrals91% OF CLIENTS SAY THEY’D GIVE REFERRALS WHILE ONLY 11% OF SALESPEOPLE ASK.
After the close is where your team can set themselves up for tremendous success. A referral from someone who your team made their life easier is one of the best gifts a salesperson can get. Just like with the close, if your team followed your process, asking for a referral should be simple. We have found that sometimes reps are anxious about asking here. By providing your reps with a few example referral asks, you will significantly improve the chance they ask.
Measuring your sales processYOU CAN’T MANAGE WHAT YOU DON’T MEASURE
That old line is still incredibly true today. There is almost no point in setting up a sales process if you aren’t going to track its performance. The insights gained into where prospects are dropping off, or what the next quarter’s sales will be, or which reps are doing well in which areas, are invaluable. A good CRM (customer relationship manager) like SalesForce, BaseCRM, HubSpot, etc. will have process tracking and reporting capabilities that will let you measure your sales process’ efficiency at various stages.
Tips for success
Document. Take the time to actually document your process outside of your CRM. This will force you to think about the individual steps and communicate them to your sales reps.
Access. Make sure that every rep in your organization has access to your process.
Training. After training new reps on the process, make sure you also hold regular training sessions on the process where you incorporate new information into the process.
Ever evolving. Your process shouldn’t be a static document. Seek out rep’s input on the various stages and incorporate the findings regularly.