You've heard the term. It's probably on one of the most used buzz words in sales but also the least understood. There are countless articles on how to build the ultimate sales process, and the 7 step sales process and everything you need to know to crush the sales process. The problem with most of these articles is that they have it all wrong.
Yes, you heard me, it's all wrong.
Understanding your sales process and what it should look like is important but it's not going to win you the game on it's own. You also need to understand everything else that comes with your sales process in order to go-to-market with a complete system that works.
Let's take a look at everything you need to turn a great process into a revenue driving engine for your business.
What is a sales process?
A sales process, or purchasing funnel (not to be confused with the sales cycle, we'll get to this later), is a consumer-focused marketing model that illustrates the theoretical customer journey toward the purchase of a good or service. To put it simply, the sales process is the buyer's journey a potential customer/prospect takes from when they first gain awareness of your product to when they make a purchase. Identifying the sales process is how you can quickly understand your customers buyers journey and gain repeat business in your organization.
Sales Process v.s Sales Cycle/Sales Pipeline
Understanding the difference between the sales process and the sales cycle or the sales pipeline is probably the most important differentiation to grasp. While the sales process maps the consumer focused journey of a prospect, the sales cycle/sales pipeline maps the sales reps focused journey of that prospect. To put it simply the sales pipeline are the concrete steps your sales team follows to close a new customer.
Sales Process v.s Sales Methodology
First things first, what is a sales methodology? A sales methodology is the framework for how your sales process is to be carried out and how it will help your business grow.
So, why is this important? It's important because depending on the sales methodology that your sales team decides to use your sales pipeline and sales process may be impacted.
Examples of Sales Methodologies
Solution Selling is a sakes methodology that places the customer in the drivers seat and forces the sales team to persuade the customer to purchase the product or service through the use of consultative questioning. This means that reps spend their time trying to convince a customer that their solution is the best. Ultimately leading to a much longer sales process and one of the most difficult steps in the solution selling model which is handling objections.
SPIN Selling is an evolution of solution selling and stands for the four kinds of questions salespeople ask their customers: Situation, Problem, Implication, and Need-payoff. It works from the theory that solution selling is customer-centric. Unlike Solution Selling It requires you to adapt your steps to your customer. While more effective than solution selling SPIN Selling still sets sales reps up for the same trap: handling objections and a prolonged sales process,
The latest and most relevant advancement in sales methodology for a modern day selling environment is the Challenger Method. This Challenger Method, sets sales teams up to teach, tailor and take of the sale control rather than placing the customer in the drivers seat. It requires the sales rep to teach the customer something new about their business and rather than persuade them to make a purchase, shows a customer why they can't move forward without it. you will likely have a sales cycle that does not include a step for handling objections and a sales process that flows much quicker and smoothly.
How to Create Your Sales Process
Now that we know the difference between the sales process, the sales cycle and sales methodology, we can start creating a sales process that makes sense. The great thing about the sales process is that it's pretty simple and not very variable depending on the company. You may have read articles citing the 8 step sales process or the 10 step sales process, but once again they're wrong.
Remember, the sales process is the buyer's journey a potential customer/prospect takes from when they first gain awareness of your product to when they make a purchase. This journey is based on actions that they customer takes, NOT the steps that a sales team takes to close a sale.
With that being said, here is what the sale process looks like at most if not all companies.
Stage 1: Awareness
A potential customer can enter the awareness stage by either a marketing effort or a sales efforts. A marketing effort could be a digital advertisement, social media post, commercial, print ad or a referral from a friend. A sales effort could be a warm or cold email from a sales rep, a cold call from a sales rep or outreach on a social media network like Linkedin or Twitter.
Stage 2: Discovery
In this stage potential customers start to be guided through the buyer journey by a sales rep. This is the stage in which the sales rep usually initiates some sort of discovery meeting in which they deliver a sales pitch, identify the customer need, budget, who's making the purchasing decision and understanding their timeline. If this stage is successful and the sales rep is able to entice the prospect to continue in the sales process the next step is the evaluation stage.
Stage 3: Evaluation
Depending on the product or service, potential customers can evaluate whether or not they'd like to continue in the sales process by reviewing either a product demo/trial or proposal of services. During this stage, it's expected that sales reps field product or service related questions, handle objections, and make sure that the prospect firmly understands the need before moving onto the next stage.
Stage 4: Intent
The intent stage is where the prospect and sales rep start negotiating terms and pricing or making adjustments to the proposal once the prospect has reviewed. At this stage the prospect is pretty much set on making a purchase and needs to settle on the nuances of what they are purchasing before they can move forward.
Stage 5: Purchase
Once all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed it's time for the prospect to sign on the dotted line and become a customer. At this stage your sales rep has successfully sold your product or service and the direct sales portion of the sales process is complete. The customer is now ready to be handed off to the loyalty team for account management.
Stage 6: Loyalty
Loyalty is the final and last stage in the buyers journey. In this stage the customer is now actively using your product or service and it's up to your customer service or loyalty team to make sure that they are happy, supported and come back for repeat business. If this stage is executed well, your existing customers will also become a lead generation source, filling the top of your sales funnel, at the Awareness stage with prospects that are keen to do business with your sales team.