In the indelible words of Alec Baldwin’s character in Glengarry Glen Ross, “ABC. Always. Be. Closing.”

But before you can even begin to consider closing, you have to start with a sales process. And to create a sales process, you need several elements.

Why does your company need a sales process? Not only does it help keep everyone on track with the same goals, but it also ensures that everyone is following the same steps to closing sales, including those who are new to sales and new to your company.

Each step along the way helps your team know what is required of them, how to track their progress, and how to measure their success. To ensure the best results, build the process with your ideal customers in mind.,That’s why no two sales processes are ever likely the same.

The bottom line — a custom sales process helps you achieve your sales goals faster, which is good for your bottom line.

What is a Sales Process?

Like any process, a sales process works to help individuals and teams achieve a specific (sales) goal. It’s an action that can be repeated to achieve the same goals, over and over, specifically to close a sale with a customer.

To achieve the same winning results, create a framework or template for your sales process  so that any new or seasoned sales rep can easily follow it. The process takes the rep from the research stage through to the nurturing stages and helps them track their success along the way.

The 7 Features of a Successful Sales Process

No matter how you cut it, a successful sales process always encompasses these seven features.

7 features of a successful sales process

1. Customers First

Putting customers first is at the cornerstone of every great sales process. Meeting your customers where they are in their journey, helps you give them exactly what they need to make the best decisions for them and their business. Don’t forget, today’s buyer is savvy and has more options available to them.

2. Flexible

Processes are great to keep everyone on track, but they also need to be flexible. Not every customer is built the same, and so not every sale will be the same. Businesses have to be adaptable to whatever changes occur, whether planned or unforeseen.

3. Iterative

If your process isn’t repeatable, it isn’t a process. The sales team should be able to come in, and follow the system no matter the product, service, customer, or business.  

4. Measurable

It’s a numbers game, so if you can’t measure your success along each step of the process, you won’t know what areas or team members need improving or how successful the system truly is.

5. Objectives

The goal of your process is to meet the objectives set out by your supervisors. These can be anything from growing revenue, reducing customer churn, or increasing leads.

6. Reliable

With a successful process in place, your results should be consistent and reliable. This is, again, so that any issues that come up can be addressed before they affect any further steps in the process.

7. Specific

Every step in the process needs to be specific and well described so that everyone understands what is required of them.

The 9 Steps of Any Sales Cycle

In general, there are eight important steps in any sales cycle. Important because without these defined stages, a sales rep can wander aimlessly in the sales void.

9 steps of sales funnel

1. Prospect

The first step is always to find companies and contacts that are a good match to your ideal customers and buyer personas. Either the sales team can identify companies they’d like to go after, or the marketing team can set up lead-generating campaigns and funnels to collect leads. 

2. Research

Research entails finding out if a prospect (or company as a whole) is the right fit for your product or services. Though many typically save this step for later (usually between the connect and pitch phase), we believe the best results come from spending a bit of time before you even connect with prospects to know if they truly are a good fit. This step could save you time by identifying bad leads or prospects.

3. Connect

This is where the rubber meets the road — when a sales rep makes contact with prospects. Connect with your prospects by phone, email or any other method that isn’t intrusive. 

4. Qualify  

No matter how much research one does, sometimes there are things reps can only find out when interacting directly with someone at a company. This is the stage where you qualify the prospect — finding out what their business goals are, what other products they’re considering (if any), what business problem do they need to solve?

5. Pitch

Once you’ve determined that a prospect is indeed a lead, it’s time to send your pitch. Using what you learned in Step 2 and Step 4, it’s time to put it together to offer a can’t-turn-down-proposal…

6. Objections

Of course, no pitch is ever perfect. That’s why a pro at sales will plan for objections. There are reasons your lead may not think your product or service is the right fit for them. Turn those “buts” into “yeses.”

7. Close

Closing a sale involves sending a proposal or contract, negotiating terms, discussing delivery dates and options, and more. The goal of this stage is to have everyone sign on the digital line.

8. Onboarding

Once you’ve made the sale, it’s time to welcome your new customer and make sure their onboarding process is as smooth as possible. This is the time when you transition the customer over to the account management team so they can get set up with their new product or service. It’s important any information you’ve gathered from the customer up to this point is shared with their new account team to make sure they’re well taken care of from this point forward.

9. Nurture

The close is never the end of the sales cycle. Never. In fact, some might argue it’s just the beginning. Because all contracts come to an end, you want to make sure that you nurture this new relationship for the lifetime of its contract. Many customers often churn if they don’t feel nurtured. And because it costs five times as much to attract new customers than it does to attract new ones, it’s in your best interest to nurture those existing customers. 

The 7 Stages of Building a Sales Process

You have the features you need and the steps you need to follow, now it’s time to put it all together and build a sales process for your team.

7 stages of building a sales process

1. Start at the End

Think of building your sales process like getting driving directions in Google Maps — you can’t get directions without knowing your final destination first. Your end-goal is knowing what measurable results you want your sales to achieve.

2. Bring Everyone In

No sales rep is an island, and neither is their sales process. This is the part where everyone involved in the sales process (marketing, IT, account teams, customer service, etc) needs to get together to ensure everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goal.

3. Plan It Out

Using the nine steps above, and everyone’s experience with sales, outline your own process based on everyone’s experience. What works, what hasn’t worked? How long did each step take? Were there any bottlenecks or areas that need improvement?

4. Map Out the Customer Journey

Remove your sales fedora, and put on your customer beret. If you don’t already have one, now would be a good time to create a customer journey map. This will help you see things from their perspective — what information they need, when they need it, and any objections they may have along the way.

5. Find and Implement the Right Tools

Once you understand what your process is, it’s important to find the best tools to help you perform at your best. These tools will vary depending on your specific needs, but may include customer relationship management (CRM) software, video conferencing software, digital document signature software, and more.

6. Determine How to Measure Success

This step is important for each step in your sales process and should be based on both your end goal as well as your sales objectives. These should apply to each individual rep as well as the team as a whole, and can be as granular as needed depending on the step.

7. Test Your Plan

Now’s the part where you put everything together and test it out to see if it makes sense for your sales team, for your business, and for your customer. Make sure everyone who is taking this sales process on a beta run knows to keep track of anything they think needs to be changed, improved, or removed.

Time to Start

Now that you have all the elements in place, you can put them all together and start building your first sales process.

In the wise words of Walt Disney, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”