A sales process gives structure to your sales team’s day. This set of repeatable steps acts like an instruction manual for converting leads into customers.
But a sales process can easily become outdated or inefficient. If the framework doesn’t fit their sales style or align with your customer needs right now, it might actually hold them back from closing sales and being successful.
It’s always a good idea to revisit your sales process every once in a while to see if it’s working for your team. Consistently making improvements to your sales blueprint can ensure you’re properly connecting with leads and meeting customer expectations.
If you feel like your sales process isn’t as effective as it could be, here are five steps you can take to improve your approach in as little as 30 days:
- Consult your sales team.
- Identify weaknesses in your current sales process.
- Revisit your customer personas.
- Create a sales process––from the buyer’s perspective.
- Update your sales management tools.
Step 1: Consult your sales team.
The new process you create will dramatically impact the way your sales team works, so it only makes sense that you develop a plan that meets their needs and expectations.
Your first step in improving your sales process should be to spend some time talking with your reps. Start by gauging their opinion on your current process. What parts of the process are working for them? What do they think could be done better?
Ask for their specific feedback and ideas. Get to know the sales style of each of your reps, as well as what will make them become a better salesperson. Go beyond the basics of just “what do/don’t you like?”
Here are a few questions to really help you dig deep:
- How would you rate the effectiveness and efficiency of the current sales process?
- What elements of the sales process do you think hold you back from being as efficient as possible? What would you do instead?
- If you could create your ideal sales process, what would it look like?
- Are there any specific parts of the sales process you struggle with? Why? What would you do instead?
- Rate the impact of each step of the sales process individually? Why do you see certain phases as less impactful?
- What area do you see could use the biggest improvement? How would you improve these areas?
Ask questions that will get your team fully involved in the process. The more input they can give at the beginning of the process, the more likely you are to create a system that truly meets their needs and expectations.
Create a two-way communication system that encourages every member of your sales team to contribute.
Don’t simply collect information in a survey and then never respond. Hold a meeting where your sales team can engage and bounce ideas off one another or follow up to written feedback with additional questions and statements based on their original comments.
As you start to make adjustments in the sales process, check back in with your sales team. See how your reps feel about the direction you’re moving in and refer back to the problems or room for improvement that your team discussed during the initial feedback.
For example, starting recommendations with statements like, “We heard you were struggling with prospecting, so we suggest…what do you think?” can show your team you’re taking their feedback seriously.
Speed up the process.
Learn how to speed up the sales process in this webinar with DocuSign.
Step 2: Identify weaknesses in your current sales process.
Your team can probably give you a big picture idea of whether or not your current sales process is meeting their expectations. However, in order to truly improve your system, you need to identify the specific weak points in your current process.
Start by mapping out the process your sales reps currently follow. You should already have this documented in your CRM. (Your current pipeline stages are a good place to start looking.) If you don’t, write out each step a sales rep takes to convert a lead into a customer.
Get specific about each step and include the amount of time that should pass between each point. Compare this process to your team’s last few closed deals. Is this really the process they followed, or are steps missing or out of place? Were any steps skipped?
Once you have a clear picture of the steps your reps follow to qualify leads and close deals, you need to look for weaknesses where potential customers may be falling out of your process. Here are common ones to look out for and how you can identify them.
- You never talk about money. Talking about money can feel taboo, but it’s absolutely necessary for the sales process. If you never have a point to discuss the budget in your sales process or you’re waiting until they’re ready to sign a deal to ask what they can afford, you’re wasting both your and your prospect’s time.
However, asking your prospects how much they’re willing to spend too early could turn some leads off. Make sure to place your money talk after you’ve gotten to know the problems or challenges your prospect is facing so you can easily explain the ROI of your product or service.
- You’re not tracking KPIs. It can be hard to apply metrics and analytics to a relationship-based process like sales, but excluding KPIs completely can make it harder to identify problems or strong points in your sales process.
The KPIs you track should go beyond just close rate. Include metrics like lifetime value of a customer or churn rate to identify the quality of the leads you’re connecting with, or conversion rate to see how leads are moving between process phases.
Learn strategies to reduce churn and keep customers longer with this handbook.
- Your sales process doesn’t align with your company’s overall objectives. The goal of your sales process shouldn’t be just to sell whatever you can to whoever you can. Instead, it should directly reflect the overall goals and objectives your company has established.
Link your sales process back to what your company as a whole is trying to achieve. Focus the process to drive sales of a particular product or service or to a particular group of people to give your reps a common sales goal to work towards.
There may also be weaknesses in the way your sales reps are connecting. Beyond just auditing your sales process, look out for these common behaviors or characteristics that might be holding your reps back:
- Sales reps care more about being liked than closing a deal.
- Sales reps lack the confidence they need to push a sale through.
- Sales reps have poor time management skills and can’t stay on track with the sales process.
- Sales reps don’t fully understand your suite of products or services.
Finally, you want to consider how your prospect feels during each phase of the sales process. What questions might they have at each stage and are you answering them appropriately? What content might they be looking for and is it available to them?
Be speculative when looking for weaknesses in both your sales process and your reps. Look for patterns where leads frequently fall out of the system or hurdles that specific sales reps may struggle to get over. Identify if certain necessary conversations aren’t happening or when they’re happening and relate this back to your prospect’s emotions.
Remember, if your current process isn’t working the way you want, don’t be afraid to completely scrap it and start from scratch.
Step 3: Revisit your customer personas.
Now that you’ve identified internal issues with your sales process, it’s time to look for external problems. Ideally, your sales funnel would be full of individuals who fit your ideal customer almost perfectly.
While every lead or prospect might not match exactly, they should share many of the same qualities and characteristics. If they’re not lining up at all, there may be a disconnect between who your sales process is connecting with and who you want to connect with, which makes life harder for your reps.
Pull out your customer personas. If you don’t already have them (and you should), you need to make them:
Your customer persona should be a comprehensive overview of who your ideal buyer is.
Customer personas can change over time. The people you’re selling to will mature, their needs can change, and new competitors entering the market can shift the way your target audience buys. If you haven’t updated your customer personas to reflect these changes, your sales process can easily become disconnected from your target audience.
Are your customer’s needs and challenges still the same? Is this person still the decision-maker? What new information is available to them that might change the way they make a purchase?
Now, take a look at your sales process. Does the information and content you’re providing answer the questions your ideal customer is asking? Do your sales reps play off the customer’s fears and motivations? Are reps appropriately connecting your products and services to the goals your customers are trying to achieve?
Make any adjustments you see necessary. Again, don’t be afraid to completely toss your current customer persona and start new if you feel like it isn’t appropriately aligning with your target audience.
Step 4: Create a sales process––from the buyer’s perspective.
Creating a sales process around your sales reps’ goals is easy––and ineffective. Your customer, not your sales team, is the star of the show. Your sales process needs to focus on helping customers solve problems, not close deals.
To create a truly effective sales process, remove your needs from the system completely and look at how your customer buys.
Map out the entire buyer’s journey for your customer. Identify what the customer is doing at each stage, as well as what kind of content they’re looking for. Outline what questions or concerns they might have during that time, and most importantly, how you can help.
A customer journey map should show the various steps the buyer takes, as well as what touchpoints your team should make.
A customer journey map should show the various steps the buyer takes, as well as what touchpoints your team should make.
For example, the first stage of your sales process is likely prospecting. Rather than slapping an email newsletter sign-up form on your website and praying high-quality leads give you their email, pay close attention to how leads research the problem they’re trying to solve.
If they jump to social media, be there ready to answer questions––even if they’re not directed right to you. Make your sales process work with your customer, not the other way around.
Shape each and every interaction with your leads around their needs and goals. Each connection you make––whether it’s an email or a phone call––should help your potential customer come closer and closer to making a well-informed decision for solving their problem.
Step 5: Update your sales management tools.
Poor management and organization could also be the root of your sales process struggles. Outdated tools or apps that don’t meet your team’s needs might be adding extra work that only slows them down.
Look for sales management tools that will enhance your sales process, like a CRM, automation tools, or analytics and reporting tools.
- CRM: A CRM should help streamline your sales process for your reps by storing data and information about your leads and helping manage and optimize your team’s workflow. Using a universal system for hosting details about your leads also makes it easy to transition leads from phase to phase in the sales process.
Copper hosts all your information about a lead right within Gmail, including activities, meetings, and lead details.
However, if your CRM is actually making things more complicated for your team (such as adding more work to their plate and making them less productive), it’s probably time to search for a new tool.
- Automation: Automation tools allow you to cut back on the amount of time your team spends on communication, data entry, and lead scoring––just to name a few. Using automation for things like email campaigns or pulling data can help your team stay productive and make the most of their days.
The automation tools you use should supplement your overall sales process and help pick up some slack––not take over the process completely. Look for inefficiencies and extra steps that your team is spending too much time on. There’s probably an automation tool that can fix that!
- Analytics/Reporting: Tracking analytics and reporting helps you measure your KPIs and see how close you are to reaching your goals. Using an analytics and reporting tool gives you up-to-date insights into how efficiently your sales process is working, allowing you to make adjustments or shifts in real time.
Your analytics and reporting tool should automatically pull data and insights from your CRM or sales process manager. If you need to manually input information, you’re adding another step and risking the loss of important data, which could influence your reports.
Because each feeds into one another, it’s important that your CRM, automation tools, and analytics and reporting tools work together efficiently. If you’re using tools that don’t connect or create more complications for your team, you’re holding them back from being as successful as possible.
Choose a sales management tool that is capable of tackling everything. A CRM that includes both automation and analytics and reporting can save you the headache of needing to move data around or remember to check in on different systems.
When you have an up-to-date tool that holds all the information your team needs, they can focus on what they do best: converting prospects.
Never stop improving your sales process.
A sales process becomes inefficient when it loses touch with your sales team or target audience. To prevent this from happening, you want to make consistent updates to your sales workflow.
Every couple of months (or even every few weeks), look back at your sales process and ask yourself questions like:
- Is this sales process working for sales reps? Does this sales process align with their unique needs and preferences?
- Does this sales process accurately represent the steps needed to convert a lead into a customer? Are any current steps unnecessary or are there any steps missing?
- Has the target audience changed? Do the customer personas correctly outline the current challenges, needs, and desires of the target audience?
- Does each step of the sales process provide clear value to the lead or customer? Are sales reps offering helpful and reliable advice?
- Are the right sales management tools in place? Is the CRM allowing sales reps to work as productively as possible?
Identifying problems early on and making small changes to adjust for those issues can help your sales team close more deals more efficiently. You can build better relationships with your leads and customers and correct your sales process as you go.
A great sales process is dynamic. Don’t get caught up in creating the “perfect” plan right out of the gate, and don’t be afraid to switch things up or try something new. You never know what small change will drastically improve your process.