DEFINE YOUR SALES PROCESS

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1 DEFINE YOUR SALES PROCESS TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS Internet Marketing 101: How Small Businesses Can Compete with the Big Guys

2 DEFINE YOUR SALES PROCESS TO GROW YOUR BUSINESS A strong and effective sales team is an incredible asset for your company. These are the people who act as the face of your company, interacting directly with customers and client, but it s not the size of the team that translates into more sales. Your success and growth depend on a lot more than a shotgun approach to sales. It s not enough to drop people into a new company and hope that they can find a way to communicate the benefits of a given product or service. Even if you hire someone with years of experience in sales, there is still a learning curve and any number of speed bumps that could get in the way. This is where an established and well-defined sales process makes a huge difference. WHY SALES PEOPLE NEED A PROCESS Most experienced sales people are actually looking for a company that has an effective and proven sales process. The reason for this expectation is a simple one. Too many companies have a sales funnel that involves the horrible assumption that everyone just knows what constitutes a sale and what is considered a win or a success. This isn t always true, though, because all companies base their success on different metrics, and a poor sales process will hinder a sales person s ability to succeed. It s true that there are some natural sales people out there, but the vast majority of people who choose sales as a career will only hit their stride when there s a tried-and-true method that takes them through the steps and provide the tools they need to close a deal. When we say sales process we re referring to a systematic and tested approach that will help the sales team close more deals and reduce the level friction between introducing a customer to a product or services and moving them through to a closed deal. So, simply put, the benefit of defining your sales process is twofold. You can increase your overall sales and develop more productive sales people. 2

3 PUT IN THE TIME SEE THE RESULTS The most successful sales processes will require a lot of time and effort to put together. On top of that, it s important to realize that this is not a one and done type situation. You ll never be able to predict every possible problem and opportunity ahead of time. You will, however, be able to build a solid structure from which any sales person can work and start closing deals. But there are more reasons to put in the time to develop your sales process that go beyond the bottom line. In fact, this kind of defined process can have far-reaching benefits throughout the company. Identify opportunities and potential problems Set proper expectations with clients Predict revenue Make success repeatable Get everyone on the same page Set evaluation standards Better team meetings More measurable results Higher profit margins Increase onboarding and training efficiency 3

4 IDENTIFY OPPORTUNITIES AND POTENTIAL PROBLEMS When you have an established sales process, it becomes much easier to determine the reasons for falling short of goals and then use that same information as an opportunity for improvement. Set proper expectations with clients The salesperson can more easily manage the client s expectation, creating a more enjoyable customer experience. PREDICT REVENUE When you know exactly what is in the sales funnel, you ll have a better notion of what is likely to make it through and what isn t. This means you can more accurately predict the number of sales your people will be able to close within a certain time frame. MAKE SUCCESS REPEATABLE Think about the scientific method. A theory is just a theory until an experiment is repeatable. If something works once, it may have just been a fluke with some random variables. A good sales process eliminates those variables because you have a structure that you work within each time. INCREASE ONBOARDING AND TRAINING EFFICIENCY When there is a set framework which has proven that it can turn leads into sales, it is much easier to insert new sales people into the process and bring them up to speed. Without an established process, your new sales associates are going to have to find their own way which may not be the right way. GET EVERYONE ON THE SAME PAGE When everyone on the team is speaking the same language (reporting the same things, in the same way, and working toward the same goals), it is much easier to maintain a level of visibility into your current successes and failures. SET EVALUATION STANDARDS How efficient is your sales team, really? Are you comparing them to the teams you had five years ago? Are you comparing them to other companies? Both of those would be a mistake, because every company should have its own measures of success. A good sales process makes it easier to set your own, internal standards and evaluate the team based on them. BETTER TEAM MEETINGS You will find that most of your team meetings become far more structured because you are always reinforcing the established best practices. You will also have more concrete examples of hits and misses so you can show everyone why it s so important to follow through with it. MORE MEASURABLE RESULTS You don t have to guess at the sales team s perfor- 4

5 mance anymore. You will know exactly where sales need to be and where you are currently at. Measurable results are critical in order to continue growing your team and your company. HIGHER PROFIT MARGINS Not every product or service has the same margins. If your sales time is selling a lot of items with very small profit, there isn t much long term benefit for the company. Identify and shift your focus towards leads or deals with more profitable margins. THINGS THAT MIGHT INFLUENCE YOUR SALES PROCESS It s important that, as you design your sales process, you take into account several factors that are unique to your business or industry. It may not seem like much, but you need to include these influencers every time you make a change to the process to ensure you re considering as many of the possibilities as you can. Some of the things you need to look at include: The current sales team Industry trends The company s current assets The product/service offerings Any changes to the product lineup Financial limitations 5

6 Can your sales process adapt quickly enough to keep up with the changes in all of these areas? The structure of your process is important, for sure, but you also need to make sure it s fluid enough to evolve with the times. BUILDING A STRONG FOUNDATION While every company will have its own needs and requirements, there are usually some basics that you ll find in every reliable and effective sales process. The individual elements those that address a particular concern for your unique customers can be layered on top or woven throughout the structure as needed. These foundational elements follow a simple path from a new prospect all the way to a closed deal, though a sales person may easily move back and forth along the path before completing the sale. This is just fine, because as long as you ve included these steps in your sales process, you will have a strong foundation for all their activities. The Four-Part Foundation 1. Prospecting 2. Qualifying 3. Presenting 4. Closing How do you incorporate these elements? 6

7 1. PROSPECTING This first step involves making contact with the leads, discovering their needs, and then matching those needs to the things the company is offering. This is also where you will need to define the contact types. Are they a prospect? A lead? A customer? This will inform the way you approach them and make sure they are receiving the care and attention appropriate to their current situation. 2. QUALIFYING Now that you have someone to talk to, and you ve decided how, exactly, you ll approach them, it s time to find out a little more information. Specifically, this is where you determine if they have the budget to work with you or match your company s necessary criteria. 3. PRESENTING During this stage, the sales person must take everything they ve learned about their leads and create a proposal that meets their needs while supporting the company s growth. There may be a certain amount of negotiation that occurs here, and that s fine as long as the final deal is beneficial to both sides. 4. CLOSING The closing isn t actually the end of the process, though it may seem like it. This is where the sales person will finalize the deal, see that payments are made, and services tendered. However, this is also a critical phase for developing repeat or long-term customers, so that even if this deal is done, there is still potential for these customers to keep coming back. 7

8 DEFINE EVERY STEP Once you are sure that the basics are a fully integrated part of your sales process, you need to encourage your sales team to work their way up the steps as consistently as possible. To do this, you need to define the steps that will take a sales person from prospecting to qualifying or presenting to closing. It s one thing to just say that you have these steps in your process, but its something else entirely to define what needs to happen in that step before you can move to the next one. Think of those basic four steps as milestones. Now you have to figure out the process that takes you from one to the other. For example: Prospecting means engaging with a potential customer. Qualifying means assessing their needs and determining what is driving them to you. It may also mean that the sales person must also be able to define how the company will satisfy their needs better than the competition. Presenting means developing a proposal that is both appropriate and timely. Closing means making sure that the check is in the mail. When it s all said and done, just remember to keep all these steps and milestones as simply as possible. If it s too complex, the sales team may just decide to find its own process that works for them. CLOSING THE DEAL We ve already mentioned this in the last section, but it s such a critical part of the sales process that we re going to look at it a little closer. This is an important moment in the process, because if the sales person hasn t done the job correctly, they could end up pushing the wrong thing at the wrong time and wind up losing the sale for good. There are some important questions that need to be answered to make sure this stage is completed to everyone s satisfaction. WHEN DO YOU KNOW A DEAL IS READY TO CLOSE? Many sales people have an innate sense for when a lead is ready to become a paying customer. They have the experience or the insight that allows them to just know this is when I can close another one. Most people, though, need a little more information and something a little more substantial to make this call. This is where buying signals come into play. Your sales team needs to know and understand these signals to close more deals and keep those leads moving through the funnel. Buying signals communicate how a prospect is feeling at the moment and whether they are ready to talk about making a purchase. A trained sales person can learn to spot specific types of questions or statements that will help determine their state of readiness. The team could, for example, categorize them like this: 8

9 When they re ready to buy or learn more, look for questions like: What other options can I add on? How fast can this project start? How long until completion? What will be the initial investment on my part? What does the warranty cover When they need more support or reassurance, look for questions like: Is it true that it has had these specific problems? What would happen if my needs change in the future? What if I have to start dealing with a new agent? How long with this really last me? When they re not ready at all, they will come at you from a different angle: I hear you re not really as good as [blank], though. My friend says I d be better off with [blank]. Can I get my money back if I don t like it? HOW CAN YOU MAKE IT EASIER FOR SOMEONE TO PAY FOR YOUR PRODUCT OR SERVICE? Moving a potential customer through the entire sales funnel requires the sales person to remove as much friction as possible. Friction could include concerns over the price or warranty, but it might just as easily be an annoyance at a contract that is overly complex. Once the sales person understands what category their lead falls into (ready to buy/still in need of support), it will be much easier to spot the things that create friction and eliminate them before they pull a lead out of the funnel. 9

10 WHAT STEPS MUST BE COMPLETED BEFORE ANY POTENTIAL CLIENT WILL MOVE INTO THE CLOSED CATEGORY? This is the question that can only be answered by your sales process. Over years of trials and revisions, the sales process should be founded on a simple method that will help the sales people know which steps must always be completed before any prospect will be ready to move into the closed category. In the end, closing a deal is all about finding and highlighting the emotional and functional reasons why someone would want what your company is offering. CUSTOMER RETENTION Closing a deal and leaving it at that is ultimately counterproductive. Keeping your customers coming back to repeatedly do business with you is far more effective. The way the sales team closes deals can have a huge impact on whether or not a customer will feel compelled to keep working with you down the road. And just remember, the value of a return customer is always higher (and the process is less costly) than always trying to pull new leads into the funnel. 10

11 TOOL UP YOUR SALES PROCESS Reliable Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is a critical component of most modern sales processes. With the right program, you can: Map out every step of the sales process with every customer Stop relying on your own memory, which is inevitably fallible Capture and organize every communication that has occurred between the sales person and the potential customer Create visibility in each lead entry so client needs are apparent at a glance Be prepared to go beyond your CRM, too. Many sales teams feel that as long as they ve got access to their favorite CRM. Maybe that is enough for some sales processes, but there s a lot more potential out there. Everything from offline marketing materials to simple lead tracking software are all assets that can improve and streamline your process. Anything that can build out your model and help you move each customer through every milestone could be used by the sales team. At the same time, you shouldn t be afraid to remove anything that isn t working. SALES ANALYTICS AND PIPELINE TESTING Never assume that you ve got the plan and the process nailed from the very start. Keep collecting hard data and use it to determine what is working and what isn t. You may have to make some tough decisions about what tools and processes to keep and which to eliminate, and that will be a lot easier when you have the facts to back up your decisions. EXPANDING YOUR ASSETS Small businesses are constantly faced with the challenge of making limited funds go further. For some companies, this may make it seem like the newest, most relevant CRM programs are beyond their reach. On the other hand, it might make it feel like building up a sales team as a startup is almost impossible, because attracting talent is next to impossible because you don t have the capital to expand your staff. As you develop your sales process, be aware of your financial options. There are several traditional and non-traditional financing products that can help a small business grow and expand. SEEK AND USE FEEDBACK The sales process is not something you should try to develop without serious consultations with the sales team. These people will be expected to use these tools and methods every day, so if they re not feeling comfortable with them, or they keep running into speed bumps, you need to know about it. Your team will be more likely to adopt the sales process when they feel like they had a hand in its creation, so keep them in the loop and handle all feedback up- 11

12 Define Your Sales Process to Grow Your Business front and you can minimize resistance to its adoption. More than that, though, you will start to gather actionable data that will constantly improve your process. For example, you can: Work with the top performers to see what they re doing right and how that can be used to further develop the process. Work with the low performers to see how they As your company and process evolves, though, it s okay to expect them to do the same. Make sure that everyone is on board with the program and let them know that their performance will be judged according to the established process. When everyone is working toward the same goals, with access to the same resources, it will be much easier to build a unified team that is focused on growing your business. can use the sales process and CRM tools to improve their efficiency. Solicit feedback on a regular basis because a stagnant sales process will just continue to lose both leads and sales people. Any good process will continue to evolve, and so will the CRM that is used to facilitate it. Don t PLAN FOR GROWTH When you define your sales process, you create a framework from which your sales team can help you build your business. be afraid of feedback or flexibility. Use the information Building out an entire sales team is going to seem more you gather to create a better process and a great team. than a little overwhelming for a new, small business, but it is easier when you have a solid structure in place EXPECT ADHERENCE The best sales process in the world still won t mean a thing if everyone on the team is still doing their own thing because it always worked for me before. Some and the tools they need to close those deals. Define your process, support your growth with alternative financing solutions, and discover new ways to help your company grow. people just hang on to the things they ve always known because it feels comfortable. Connect with us on social media where we share tons of small business resources every day! 12

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