Updated on October 7, 2021 by Jana
To quote our Founder, Carsten Broich: “The Sales Process consists of clearly defined, repeatable steps to predictable revenue.”
A sales process includes all sales activities and interactions between a company and its potential customers, from the moment a lead shows interest in your brand up to the point where they renew their contract.
It is the series of steps taken by the sales teams from understanding the needs of their current customers, incorporating these findings in prospecting for new potential clients, and finally building relationships with them as they travel through the B2B buyer journey.
You have to define one, ultimate sales process so that you can establish which Sales Metrics you’re going to track, repeat the same process so even new sales hires can easily get accustomed and hit their sales quota.
This article explores the best practices your sales force needs to follow to achieve this, explaining what goes into creating a sales process, and how every stage of it affects your prospect.
The Sales Process as part of the B2B Sales Strategy
A key foundation of sales strategy is that it is primarily about understanding your prospects, their behaviors, and how you might influence new behavior that involves your product, or services.
Sales strategy is regularly mistaken for sales tactics. Short-term specific goals fit under the sales tactics plan.
Strategy, on the other hand, relates to your long-term sales objectives and organizes the sales team around a clearly defined goal.
A sales strategy involves a mix of setting goals, planning sales activities, executing sales tactics, and attempting to achieve high-level business results.
It is also a blueprint for your sales process. What we have to be aware of from the very start is that you have to be committed to a clear purpose and clearly identified success outcomes.
The B2B sales strategy governs the sales process, the set of principles, proven methods, and sales tools that a salesperson uses to ensure maximum ROI for both – the company and its customers. Because if you don’t know why you’re doing it and what the end goal needs to be, then what are you chasing as a result of using a sales process?
The sales strategy will be based on your specific target audience, your product or service offering, and the market you want to reach.
With a strong sales strategy, your company can grow and reach its full potential. The key to success is knowing what you want to achieve from the start, and following a clear path to achieving a different goal for each stage of the sales process.
The importance of defining your sales process. Why do you need one?
Some of the most successful B2B businesses have defined clear actionable steps from the beginning and have been able to improve the entire sales process as they grow.
However, you should take care that this process is not too rigid and does not fall into an outdated template. It is flexible and constantly updated based on the previous experience of what works for your own specific business, and what doesn’t.
When we don’t take care of our sales process it can lead to poor conversion rates, delayed responses, and failure to close deals.
There is a moment where more than 5 people do sales. Then structured sales process becomes a necessity. Having a standardized sales process that is following the B2B sales strategy results in higher productivity among the sales development representatives, greater insight into the results of each sales activity for the sales managers, and a better and clearer decision-making process for the Chief Revenue Officer.
Be careful of the Sales Process paradox. If the sales process is too complex & rigid it will kill your sales reps, but if it is too simple – it will kill your business.
Find the sweet spot. 🍯
Create enough structure to make sure your company is sustainably moving up in the long run, while also allowing your sales reps enough freedom to use their creative forces in the way they approach the sales process. After all, everyone is unique, and there lies our strength. But make sure everyone understands the structure as well.
A Sales Process holds accountable each salesperson on the sales team that is following it. Sales managers can easily delegate tasks and expect feedback from sales reps. This, in turn, allows for measuring the outcomes from each activity and getting a better picture of what works and what doesn’t.
As a Sales Leader, the single most important thing you can do is make sure your sales team is following the same Sales Process that has proved to close deals. It should be the hymn of your sales team. It will affect everything your SDRs do, how they sell, how they communicate and represent your company, and ultimately how fast your B2B business will grow.
Once you have created a successful sales process, those specific sales actions that led to closing the deal and achieving customer success & satisfaction can be repeated.
The most obvious advantage of a well-defined sales process is repeated execution. Sales reps understand what resources to use, when & what to communicate with the potential customers as they progress from one stage to the next.
Once you discover what types of sales scenarios guide your team to close the sale, repeat it. See if it will work again. If it works, repeat it again.
Don’t let your brain trick you into thinking “but oh, this one is different.. I have to go out of the box of our established sales process”. No. Keep to the things that proved they work. Keep to the sales process that closes deals.
This way sales professionals won’t waste time and energy on time-consuming procedures that lead to a dead end.
Instead, they will concentrate on efficiently executing specific sales activities at each stage of the sales cycle.
When you follow a well-trodden sales path, you can predict revenue based on historical conversions and prospect’s behavior. Effective sales process allows salespeople to keep a close eye on their customers’ journeys, spot risks and patterns along the route, and learn which sales methodologies are most likely to move prospects down the sales funnel in real-time.
The Sales methodology is the energy field that surrounds the sales process. What is the goal of each stage? Which sales methodology are you going to use to achieve it?
Whether it is to uncover their pain points, to figure out if their budget fits your price or to schedule a decision criteria review meeting, the sales team has to adhere to the sales process by incorporating repeatable sales methodology (which is therefore predictable).
Once the sales leader hacks which methodology works best and shares it with the team, SDRs will know what to do when they are at a specific stage of the process. They will know how to respond to the buyer no matter where he/she is in their journey.
As you repeat the things that bring in more loyal customers and predict the revenue to be expected, you can now scale your business further.
This benefits your company, your sales team, and your clients as they will all work together to achieve long-term business and financial success. Once they optimize prospecting efforts, manage resources more efficiently, and maintain higher closing rates, sales reps are more efficient and productive overall.
The Anatomy of B2B Sales Process: step by step.
Identifying Ideal Customer Profile
The first milestone towards success in the B2B world is achieved when businesses finally define a clear picture of what their Ideal Customer Profile looks like.
It’s the law.
Before you can define your sales process you got to know who you’re selling to. What are their challenges? What’s their role?
And since we are discussing B2B, SaaS companies, the only way to really understand who your ideal B2B customers are, is to use Firmographic & Technographic Segmentation. These two segments are crucial for dividing your prospects (companies and business professionals) into meaningful, business segments.
Having a strong understanding of your potential buyers allows you to:
- Align Sales and Marketing teams;
- Increase your ROI (Return on Investment) by saving on CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost);
- Enable Sales Automation;
- Leverage account-based marketing;
- Send hyper-personalized messages (outreach that ensures reply rates of up to 45%);
- Increase the productivity and efficiency of the Smarketing team.
Then, you can build a buyer’s journey that takes the buyer by their hand and assist them every step of the way as they travel down the road. That’s the customer-centric sales process that works today.
Stage 0: Sales Prospecting
Once you make sure you know who your ideal customers are:
– What technology do they use and is it suitable with your SaaS?
– What might be their pressing business pains currently that your service can solve?
– Which feature of your SaaS is most suited to their current needs?
– Can they afford the price of your services depending on their turnover?
Then you can start looking for them. Prospecting for your ideal B2B customers.
(p.s. To discover if they are the right fit, you can find all those business information about your prospects using Contact Search.)
Sales Prospecting is the base of the Sales Process.
It is also the most difficult stage… so they say.
Well, it doesn’t have to be. But to discuss real, doable solutions, first we need to understand how it works.
That’s why we wrote an extensive guide to Sales Prospecting: How do you start and where can you find Prospects?
Feel free to dive in.
Stage 1: Outbound Outreach /Approach
This is your cold outreach. Prospect has been identified as relevant for the ICP and this stage involves making the first contact to score a DISCO call.
During the Approach Stage of the sales process there are a few actions that you can perform to get on a discovery call with your potential buyer:
- Visit LinkedIn Profile
- Connection Request
- Send an Email / LinkedIn Message using PAIN QUESTIONS
- Confirm PAIN using situation questions
- Score Disco Call
The goal of this stage is to schedule a discovery call of 10-15 minutes with a prospect who fits the profile and has a pain that you can solve.
Clearly, the most important thing here is to establish a connection and to have a burning curiosity for their business pains.
Don’t pitch. Just ask and hear them out.
What are they looking for in the product/service they want to purchase? Are they looking for the cheapest one? Or the one with the best Return on Investment? What are the current challenges? What do they want to achieve by the next quarter? How can you help them? Hear them out.
They just might be looking for the one that can hear them, use those insights, and respond to their needs.
Give extra attention and energy in the early stages of the sales process, direct the course properly and everything will follow suit.
More on the subject:
Improve your overall B2B outbound email strategy: How to Write B2B Emails that Sell in 2021
Stage 2: Diagnose
The Diagnose stage is all about preparing the DISCO call, re-confirming your customer’s pain points, and going ahead for the review meeting.
We call this solution-based selling. As you learn about their problems, what is important to them and why is it important now, you can guide them through the process of problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making.
As you diagnose their most aching business pains now you are better equipped to serve them and narrow down a solution to their specific needs.
They already know their KPIs and the objectives they have to meet and they are usually aware of what they want and what they need. What they don’t know is whether you and your product or service can help them achieve those objectives and how exactly?
This is the most crucial point in the sales process. Do you “click” with them? Do you understand what they need?
Are you going to force your product on them and push them to buy from you (as if your life depends on it) even though maybe your solution is not really the perfect fit for their current challenge?
Of course you won’t. You’re not that desperate. Let them feel that. That’s how you build trust and remove buyer’s remorse from ever being associated with your brand.
The goal of this stage is to book a DEMO call /presentation.
Here are the sales actions we take during this stage:
- Prepare (Research, Use Cases, Reference Projects?)
- Have the Disco Call
- Re-Confirm Pain Points
- Establish possible Impact
- Check whether critical event exists (timeframe)
- Book Decision Criteria Review Meeting (Demo/Meeting)
After successfully passing the Diagnose stage, now the sales reps have identified the particular challenges for each prospective company. They have gained an understanding of:
- How many members will use our product?
- Who are the decision-makers?
- What is their budget approximately? Does it falls into the price range of your products and services?
- What are their most pressing challenges that will be removed thanks to our service and how?
- Which feature of our SaaS will benefit them the most and remove their current obstacles of the way?
- How our product can directly influence the improvement of their current objectives, KPIs and goals for their next quarter?
- Finally, how we can contribute to making their business environment, culture and work life become more pleasant and easier?
If you don’t have the answers to these questions (and similar) then this is the last train to catch. Keep researching and navigating the conversation to identify all relevant people and insights required to deliver a concise, tailor-made presentation and offer.
The goal of this stage is to deliver and ace the most personalized DEMO presentation that addresses their specific needs.
Additionally, before the DEMO call, do some additional research and figure out what needs to be implemented as part of the sales methodology – or a mixture of different methodologies.
These are some of the sales activities we perform during this stage:
- Identify relevant decision makers / influencers;
- Provide additional material upfront (Landing Pages, Case Studies, Whitepapers… to various people in the organization);
- Prepare framework presentation;
- Educate by showing top 3 Pain Points, possible impact / reference case studies and provide Ballpark pricing;
- Get buy-in and go for Proposal review meeting.
This is the part where you create/review the proposal and send it out to get the final signature.
After the demo call, if they find value in your product and recognize the potential it has to solve their business needs send them a short PDF presentation. They will share it and discuss it with their team which will make it much easier to come to a conclusion.
It includes the following sales actions:
- Check for decision criteria and impact of various solutions (workshop, scouting, field);
- Check for decision process;
- Prepare Proposal and review internally;
- Send out Proposal (tracking enabled);
- Have Proposal Review Meeting and check all is in order;
- Send out for signature.
Another important thing here is to come to a mutual agreement on what will be the next steps. Such as rewriting the proposal, setting the time and date of the next meeting where the final decision will be made.
Set expectations and let them know that you expect to receive an answer until X date.
This is of huge importance. If left unchecked, the only thing you will reach at the end of the sales process is a stalemate.
5. Closed Deal Won – Continue nurturing the relationship
When a deal is closed, the new customer is transferred to the customer success team.
At this stage, it is important that your customer success manager asks the newly onboarded client questions regarding the sales process and see what they thought of it.
Take the opportunity to ask both, the customers you won and the prospects you lost in the deal – why or why not they chose to proceed? The insights gathered will prove to be the most valuable in discovering friction points along the sales route and finding out what are the main factors that encouraged them to say yes to your offer.
These findings will help you optimize the whole structure of your sales process and keep improving it going forward.
Besides, the careful and attentive nurturing from this point onward opens the door for upselling, cross-selling, and building healthy relationships with your customers as they keep renewing their contract with your business.
Closed Lost? Here is what you can do.
Closed lost is also an option. It happens and it’s not a bad thing. It’s part of the sales process just like any other.
Don’t let this discourage you or make you doubt your abilities to perform sales. After all, there are just too many factors at play and you cannot control everything. Neither should you try.
It could be your product’s price that they cannot afford at the current moment – just keep in touch with them, every now-and-them, until they are ready. Could be the team decision and they might need extra time to build their trust in your brand – keep in touch with them as well. Or simply, they might need a slightly different features from those that you can supply them with. And that is ok.
If the prospecting company you thought was “the ideal match” refuses your offer, don’t fall in despair. This is the part where through “nurturing” you let your prospects know that their thoughts, needs, and challenges matter, and that your sales development representatives are still actively open to spend time and check with them how are they progressing in resolving those needs. Maybe an additional meeting could be beneficial to both sides if you agree to walk through the previous stages together and look at what can be improved.
Good luck. 🍀
Take a really good look at the buyer’s journey. Acting as a framework, it will align sales and marketing into the Smarketing team and again – the team with the actual customer.
Everybody should have a shared vision of what the buyer’s journey looks like for your potential customers. How do they buy? What’s the priority of their needs? Figure that one out, and then try to see the sales process from their perspective. Ideally, a strong sales process will teach your team to execute their job in the way they create not only loyal customers, but evangelists for your brand that will promote you spread the word, and raise awareness of your brand.
Your SDRs will know how to engage with the prospect every step of the way as they go through their journey, only by staying consistent to the well-trodden path.
This is where the sales playbook plays a huge role. Document the sales process going through every stage of it and create a playbook that shows the best sales practices and methodologies to execute it.
The sales playbook is an accumulation of knowledge of the specific steps that proved to work best for your B2B company and guide them through the sales process.
- What is the USP (unique selling proposition) that differentiates your service from the competitors?
- Who is your Ideal Customer Profile (target audience)?
- What are the sales methodologies that they need to incorporate?
- What are the goals, strategies and tactics your SDRs are taking to effectively engage a potential customer?
- How they communicate? What is the core message? The vision and mission of your brand?
- Which enablement and sales tool are they going to use?
- What content will they share with prospects?
- What is the goal in each stage?
Remember, the sales playbook is not set in stone. It is flexible. Like a “living organism” that is constantly updated with new insights, and old info is removed. The world is constantly moving, and just like in any profession, sales keeps evolving and adjusting itself to the new needs of present-day customers.
Just when you feel like you’ve excelled at something – the market changes. That’s why you need to constantly monitor how well your sales process is performing.