Setting up a formal, structured and efficient sales process remains a challenging exercise for companies today. The good news is that in recent years, executives and sales leaders have understood the role a process plays in achieving sales goals. Today, between 20 and 25% of B2B companies have some form of a structured sales process, up from less than 10% a few years ago.
I encounter three types of sales organizations :
- Companies with no sales process. These are the companies that are aware of it and open about the fact they have no formal process. They usually know they need to do something about it.
- Companies that think they have a sales process, but don’t. In some cases, their “sales process” is a series of tasks. In other cases, it’s more time-based - a number of calls and meetings for example.
- Companies that have a sales process, but it isn’t optimized. In this case, the sequence isn’t in the right order, or there are missing steps.
Given that the quality of a sales process provides a certain degree of competitive advantage, it is easy to understand why more and more executives are making it a priority.
Elements of a B2B Sales Process
A sales process needs to be structured, formalized, and common across the sales organization and based on stages, criteria and milestones.
Sales process criteria are elements that, when met, will increase the probability of winning the sale. Conversely, when they are not met, it decreases the chances of closing the deal.
To define the right criteria, isolate the activities that ensure the consistent progression of the opportunity. Then, assign a percentage must for each element to arrive at a total of 100% which materializes the sale.
You need to validate the criteria within the sales process to guarantee the quality of sales opportunities at each stage. By ensuring the quality, you prevent a recurring sales problem: having an inverted funnel-shaped pipeline (i.e. all opportunities arrive very quickly at the conclusion phase and get stuck there).
Benefits of an Optimized Sales Process
First, a sales process should give a common vocabulary within the company whenever you need to talk about sales. When we work with companies and need to formalize the sales process, we always use the same big stages and use a baseball diamond to represent those stages visually.
The stages are:
- Getting to first base. The criteria here would include:
- Having a conversation with the decision-maker
- Identifying a problem that your products, services or solutions are capable of solving
- Getting a meeting
- First to Second. The criteria of this stage would include:
- Identifying the need for the products, services or solutions sold
- Identifying the compelling reasons to buy
- Quantification of the problem’s cost
- Second to Third. Some of the criteria of this stage are:
- Validating that funds available to purchase
- Understanding of the decision-making process
By using a baseball metaphor, everyone within the organization knows and understands what we’re talking about and shorten the sales process.
How to Move Opportunities Forward
The other benefit of having a sales process is that it allows your sales representatives to know precisely where their deals are in the process at any time: they know what they’ve accomplished, and they know what to do to get their opportunity to move to the next stage and ultimately close.
The third benefit of a sales process is that it allows your salespeople to prepare for any eventual roadblocks and objections.
Fourth, a proper sales process will help your sales manager to coach his or her team.
Finally, sales process will help your sales reps manage their time efficiently. They’ll be better able to qualify opportunities so they can spend their time on deals that have the highest probability of closing and not on customers that won't buy.
How efficient is your B2B sales process?