What Does an Effective Sales Process Look Like?

Today, sales is heavily dependent on getting the right information in front of audiences at key stages during the sales process — when prospects are recognizing a problem, when they are investigating solutions, and when they are ready to make a buying decision. 

These sales process stages are called the Awareness stage, Consideration stage, and Decision stage, respectively. 

A majority of the sales process occurs before reps ever speak directly with a prospect. Marketing automation software and techniques naturally push potential buyers through their individual journeys. 

Modern sales involves less cold-calling and more nurturing buyers to make a confident decision on their own. The entire process is content-driven, and founded on widespread access to information — which is a two-way street for both prospects and the sales reps they’re in contact with. 

Assistive sales practices have reshaped the overall sales process; the power to make a sale is truly in the buyer’s hands. With that in mind, it’s also become much more difficult for businesses to manage and direct the sales process internally. 

What does an effective sales process look like, and what does it require from both buyers and sellers? 

 

Inbound Sales Milestones

The contemporary sales process can be broken down into a series of broad themes, each with their own milestones and courses of action.

  • Identify 
  • Connect
  • Explore
  • Advise

And here are what each milestone (process) means and actions to be taken:

 

1. Identify Qualified Leads and Prospects

Early in the process, before reps even begin conversations with leads, reps should be focused on one thing: identifying opportunities and good-fit prospects. 

This, of course, demands that reps have access to information for scoring and working leads. A common methodology called Sales Enablement helps businesses achieve just that. By working with marketing and service teams, sales can create ideal buyer profiles, and gain a great understanding of who constitutes a good-fit client.

What problems are current clients facing, specifically? What industries do a majority of them serve? How many employees do they have, and what is their typical budget for your kind of product or service?

With this information, sales teams can begin to identify the common traits of ideal customers, and consequently review and rate their leads (also known as lead scoring). Various sales enablement tools, such as CRM software and many sales-oriented browser extensions, can help sales reps set up lead scoring models and create a prospect fit matrix.

 

2. Building Connection with Leads and Prospects

Once sales teams have identified high quality prospects, it’s time to properly connect with those individuals. A well-equipped sales team is an effective sales team, so it’s important to put tools and practices in place to facilitate engagement early in the sales process.

To set the stage for meaningful conversations with leads, consider lead segmentation. That is segmenting audiences through means of lead capturing tools, such as downloadable guides, demos, and newsletters. Ask participants to submit information such as their industry, company role, and other qualifying parameters to inform sales reps of compatibility.

Additionally, create opportunities for interested prospects to reach out, especially if you offer a range of services for different problems. You want to make it easy for audiences to seek help, as well as capture valuable information for your sales team.

Work closely with reps to facilitate meaningful conversations, and guide them through the buyer’s journey. The entire sales process should be organic and fluid, and there’s no shortage of plugins and apps that simplify that process.

 

3. Explore and Getting to Know Your Prospects 

At this stage in the sales process, reps should take the time to explore their prospects, research their competitors and their own standing in the industry, and understand how best to help prospects achieve their goals or resolve a pain point.

Sales teams should have all of the information they need to effectively communicate with leads. They should understand their specific needs, and offer guided solutions to meet those needs. 

This provides an ideal opportunity for reps to work with the prospect to help them understand their needs. Reps can walk prospects through solutions, hypothetical SMART goals and benchmarks, and set a realistic timeline for action. 

This is also a good time for reps to openly and honestly discuss budget. Budget should not be avoided until the end of the sales process, as it is a major (if not the most significant) qualifying factor in most buying decisions. Prospects should reach a decision with confidence and trust, and communicating budget and benefits early in a conversation is a powerful way to gain that trust.

 

4. Solution Advisory

When prospects have gained a firm understanding of both their needs and effective solutions, the best thing sales reps can do is advise prospects and guide them to their decision. Reps should offer continuous support, information, and attentiveness to a prospect’s needs. 

At this point, it is important to directly address comments and questions that prospects have about their needs, as well as your solutions. Focus on timelines and goals established during exploratory exercises to keep the conversation on track, and show prospects that you understand their unique situation.

Reaffirm and review this information with the prospect, and offer clear next steps to drive action.

(For more help on this stage, check out our previous blog on nurturing leads)

 

5. Seal and Close the Deal

When prospects are ready to move forward with a solution, assist your sales team in creating custom proposal documents, terms, and timelines. Ensure that all necessary parties agree to the terms and goals established in proposals, as well as deliverables and chain-of-command.

Use this step of the sales process to make lasting impressions with key stakeholders in the prospect’s company. Consider introducing them to your services team via sales video, or creating customized onboarding deliverables to engage their team; anything you can add to enhance the conversation or create authentic trust and understanding from both parties.

 

6. The Kick-Off Meeting

The final step in the sales process, particularly for B2B sales, is the hand-off between the sales and the services team. It is incredibly beneficial to include new customers in conversations between sales and services, but the smoothest transition occurs during the initial kick-off meeting. The kickoff meeting can set the tone for your entire client relationship.

An effective kickoff meeting will focus on: 

  • Familiarizing customers with the team
  • Ensuring all parties have a clear understanding of SMART goals and responsibilities
  • Putting an accurate project timeline/scope in place

What these items include will depend on your unique agreement or services. Advise your sales team to work closely with services/support to establish next steps to achieve the customer’s goals.

All of these steps should build upon one another in order to create a truly transparent and efficient sales process. Our team knows how daunting a task empowering sales can be, and we’d enjoy hearing from you and helping you improve your organization. If you need a hand getting started, we’re here to help!

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