Sales Process: Your Complete Guide

11 min readMay 13, 2020

The Sales Process: What it is and why you need one

The sales process is one of the most determining factors of success within every organization. Furthermore, every sales organization has one, whether they know it or not. At its core, the sales process is the roadmap for the route that sellers bring buyers through as they move towards a purchase.

The sales process is most simply defined as the theoretical version of the path through which a lead becomes a customer. It encompasses the awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase stages that make up the overall buyer’s journey.

It is the sales process that informs what happens within each stage of the sales pipeline as a lead progresses through it. A common misconception is that the sales process and the sales pipeline are the same however, in reality, the sales pipeline is the practical application of the sales process. A sales representative will refer to the sales process for information on how to address and/or interact with a lead within a particular stage of their pipeline, which is why so much attention is given to properly defining and optimizing the sales process.

The benefits of a thorough sales process are immense. One that complements your sales organization, your sellers, your sales content, and your products and/or services results in an increased conversion rate, more won deals, and ultimately more revenue. A sales process also grants a consistent buying experience, so any lead interacting with any rep will have a similar experience. This provides a level of standardization that allows sales managers to properly measure and analyze their team’s performance to further increase sales.

To help successfully establish, manage, and fine-tune your sales process, we’ve created this complete guide. First, we cover why you need a sales process and the benefits that it provides. Then, we cover buyer journey mapping and establishing your sales process. Next, how to standardize the process and implement it with your team. Finally, learn to measure, analyze, and improve your process.

The Benefits of a Sales Process

Standardization

An established sales process first provides standardization. It defines how a lead enters each stage, exists each stage, what actions are performed against them, the content they receive, as well as who interacts with them, and how. This allows for accurate reporting and consistency across reps.

Perspective

The sales process also provides perspective into the buyer experience. When you directly compare a buyer’s actions and reactions to the actions within the stage of the process, you get a finer picture of what problems they are trying to solve, the solutions they seek, and most importantly, how they want to be sold to. Sales is all about providing value, and being helpful, the sales process shows you what to provide, how to help, and when.

Remove Roadblocks

No longer will leads simply drop out of your sales pipeline, never to be seen again. With a sales process, you will know exactly where they fell out and will likely be able to associate it within a certain range of actions. This will help you maximize the effectiveness of your sales process, and retain as many leads as possible.

Improve Forecasting

Forecasts and predictions are among the most important parts of a sales manager’s duties, and a sales process will help you do them even better. The consistency, standardization, and clear steps set forth by the sales process will help you make more accurate forecasts.

Improve Your Customer Experience

With a defined approach and associated steps, you can ensure that each and every one of your prospects has a positive experience. Sales reps will no longer get lost within their own individual process, and rather will be able to provide your new cohesive sales experience that has been perfected with your analysis. A positive customer experience leads to more revenue.

Faster Onboarding

A sales process establishes a prescribed approach to selling within your organization that can be referred to by any rep at any time. This is especially useful when onboarding new reps. Not only can they visually review and study the process, but they can easily refer back to it. New reps can see exactly what they should be doing with their prospects at any given stage in the sales process.

How to Establish Your Sales Process

One does not exactly create a sales process since technically every organization intrinsically has one. Rather, you establish one by uncovering what you have, defining it, and turning it into a structured process.

Begin with the Buyer’s Journey

To establish your sales process, you must first understand your buyer’s journey, and how they arrive at a purchase decision. The typical buyer’s journey consists of the same stages as the sales process, except they are viewed from a prospect’s perspective. At the most elemental level, this consists of the awareness, consideration, and decision stages. Take a look at your company’s content and existing sales data. Look back at Salesforce records and notes.

Look for the content that is consumed, the roadblocks that appear, questions that are asked, where prospects have dropped out, and how they have been successfully moved to the next step.

Align the Sales Process and Buyer’s Journey

Once you understand what is discussed and consumed within each of the buying stages, align the buyer’s journey and the sales process. You can easily begin by properly arranging each stage of o the buyer’s journey, the content that is consumed within it, and the sales process.

The sales process typically consists of six key stages: awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase stages. These directly align with the buyer’s journey stages.

The Awareness Stage

During the awareness stage of the buyer’s journey, they either are actively searching for a solution or are interested in topics associated with it. This is where you find new leads who have not worked with your company before. Therefore, the awareness phase of your sales process should consist of content and information that captures attention and provides information about your company.

Many teams rely heavily on marketing during the awareness stage but do augment campaigns with cold outreach and prospecting. Contact with a salesperson may be limited at this point, but if involved their role is to educate and provide value in the form of useful information.

The Interest Stage

The interest portion of the sales process is where consistent contact between you and your prospects begins. They are interested in your product or service, and the value that it can provide. This is where you showcase not only the value that your company can provide but also that your sales reps themselves can give.
Prospects are thinking more and more about the solutions that they need, and are getting curious. They also want to know why your product should be the one that they consider when it comes time to make a purchase.

The interesting road is a two-way street, however. During this period, sales reps should be qualifying prospects to ensure they will be a good fit, that they are worth their time as a salesperson, and that they will effectively be able to deliver value to them as customers.

The Consideration Stage

You will likely kick off the consideration phase with a demo. Now is when the true purchase decisions begin. Your prospects want to know exactly how your product or service works, and why they should buy it. They are curious how it will work with the products and/or services that they currently use, how much it will cost, how large of a commitment it is, and who needs to be involved in the decision. They will research competitors and ask how you compare.

The Intent Stage

This is the final stretch where the buyers make the decision to move forward. They will want to negotiate pricing and work on final deal terms. Negotiation can be difficult, but it means that they do want to work with you. This is the phase where you reiterate value and re-demonstrate how you can effectively solve the pains and problems gathered during discussions from previous stages.

The Purchase Stage

Finally! The buyers decide to sign and you have yourself a deal. It’s time to evaluate the win and gather lessons learned that you can apply to future deals.

When building your sales process, you need to align each stage to what the buyer’s needs are. Then, and only then will you and your prospects speak the same language. You never want to negotiate on pricing during the interest stage, just like your value should be fully demonstrated and understood by the time you get through with consideration.

Your sales process should outline specifically what to do in each stage, including every type of email, phone call, and activity, as well as what content to use, scripts to say, or offers to give to ensure consistency across all sales reps.

The entire point of a sales process is within its name… it is a process. It defines what should happen as you sell. It is those actions and their associated metrics that help you standardize and improve your team’s sales performance.

How to Optimize Your Sales Process.

Every sales process should include step by step instructions on how to properly perform the most essential sales activities, such as:

  • A written sales process for sales lead follow-up
  • A flowchart that shows how many sets of hands a sales lead passes through before it is placed in the hands of a salesperson who will follow-up with a phone call
  • A written sales policy manual that includes definitions and descriptions of all of your core sales processes

Sales expert Andy Paul also has a list of essential questions about the sales process that every sales leader must be able to answer. Answers will vary from company to company, but they will provide you with an understanding of what your own sales process looks like.

  • How long does it take, on average, to follow-up on a sales lead from the time it is received until a knowledgeable salesperson talks to the prospect?
  • Is the person who follows up on your sales leads A) an entry-level person (like the now ubiquitous Business Development Rep (BDR)) or B) a salesperson who really understands your products, services, and customers?
  • Do you have established responsiveness metrics for your company’s core sales processes?
  • How often are your critical sales processes and their associated responsiveness metrics analyzed, evaluated, and improved?

To properly maximize the effectiveness of your sales process, you should build in procedures that allow you to do the following:

Sell with maximum impact, in the least amount of time

See to ensure that every interaction with a prospect or customer provides the most amount of value in the least amount of time. This means integrating a high level of responsiveness, information content, and speed into every step of your selling process and eliminating the useless customer interactions that waste your prospect’s time and provide no value to them, or to you.

Follow-up with all leads immediately.

There is no easier way to grow sales than to immediately follow-up on 100% of your sales leads. The math is simple. Assume that your conversion rate of leads into sales is 2%. And let’s also assume that you only follow up 50% of your sales leads. If you keep your conversion rate at 2% but follow-up 75% of your sales leads, what happens to your sales? What if you followed up 100%? In addition, studies show that you are 100 times more likely to contact a lead if you follow-up within 5 minutes vs. 30 minutes of receiving the inquiry.

Expose the most knowledgeable people

Put your people with the deepest product knowledge and industry experience closest to the buyer. Make it fast and easy for your prospects to get the information they need to make a decision.

Be deliberate

The timeframe for every sales action is immediate. In today’s world, potential buyers have gone online and gathered more than 50% of the information they need to make a buying decision before they engage with you for the first time. When they do, their need for information is urgent. And the first seller with the answers wins.

Get on the phone

In modern times, an aversion to the sales call has developed. However, that now means it is a point of differentiation and can be used to provide superior service and an improvised sales experience. Provide the Human Touch to your customers and watch your orders grow.

Don’t be afraid to disqualify

Proactively disqualify all the prospects who are not a good fit for your services or who are not going to make a buying decision. They are wasting your selling time and that time is the most limited sales resource you have.

How to Implement Your Sales Process

Once you have aligned your content and actions within your sales process, it is time to implement it with your sales team. Create stages within your Salesforce or CRM that connect your sales process and sales pipeline. Have your reps track their deals using these stages so can properly understand your sales pipeline.

Next, add tasks to each stage, so know exactly what to do next. For instance, when someone enters the consideration stage, a demo should be added as a task. These tasks can include a completion date that is automatically set to be due within a few days to ensure that the activities always occur within a specified timeframe and that no one falls behind.

If you use a sales sequence or cadence tool, coordinate your email and phone outreach with the actions that you defined within your process, to ensure that the right touches are being made at the correct time.

How to Measure Your Sales Process

As great as a sales process is, it can always be better. Therefore you should constantly monitor, measure, analyze, and improve your process. There are two main areas of improvement that surround a sales process, internal and external.

Internally you should monitor and improve your team’s adherence to the process. Track if and when those activities are completed. Ensure your reps are completing the required sales activities, and that they happen on time. If not, hold a one on one with the rep and try to understand why they aren’t able to do it. Is the sales process not well aligned with their sales process? Do activities not properly map to deal stages? You can either adjust your sales process so reps can better follow it, or help individual reps who are struggling to adhere.

Ensure that your pipeline is also properly aligned with the sales process, and that deals within certain stages have the right actions performed against them.

Externally, track the effect that your new sales process has on deals. You should see not only an uptick in overall deals and/or revenue but also an increase in flow throughout the pipeline. Initial conversion rates, as well as conversion rates from stage to stage should increase. If not, you need to address what is happening within each stage to make it more effective. Try new actions, new content, and new strategies.

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About the Author

Zack Cronin

Zack is a Sales Content Specialist at RingDNA. He is passionate about solving everyday problems and increasing performance through innovative technology. Zack has worked directly with sales teams and understands the challenges they face on a daily basis. When he's not developing and sharing knowledge at RingDNA, he loves being outdoors, hiking, and coffee.