Google “challenges in b2b sales process” and you will be served with 1,240,000 results. That’s 1.24 million!
With advent of 21st century, B2B sales process kept on becoming more difficult. The sales techniques were hit by several factors. With the information available at fingertips, more research tools at hand, and rise of user reviews, it wouldn’t be wrong to say half of the rein of sales has moved into users’ hand.
In the era of innovation and creativity in business, business models are changing fast. Each business has its unique challenges and opportunities. Even though it sounds normal to new entrepreneurs and wannapreneurs, this has changed the B2B sales landscape forever.
The sales process is no longer a linear development. Businesses are adapting inbound methodologies. The sales strategies which seemed certain and unchangeable are being transformed into a mixture of art and science.
In a plain line, sales process needs constant innovation.The Design of a Sales Process is the first step to create real #Growth in your sales pipeline. Click To Tweet
For any business, it is extremely important in these circumstances to find a robust and sustainable sales process design.
I have tried to solve this problem for you with this blog post. I have drawn conclusions from my years of experience and insights based on my research and reviews from sales experts.
We will see how you can grow & develop your sales pipe by making sense of what you’re doing. Then we will see how you can craft a B2B sales process that increase conversion rate, get bigger deals, and help you close deals in lesser time.
By the end of the article, I will also share a useful template, some amazing sales tools, and tips and tricks to make your sales process efficient.
What is a sales process?
A sales process is the typical series of predictable events, or phases, required to sell a product or a service.
A general sales process goes through some general steps: Prospecting, initiating contact, identifying needs, presenting offer, managing objections, and closing deal. This process is repeated in a cycle.
Having said it, sales processes are no more static. As I said earlier, they vary by degrees among organizations, products and services.
But wait! Why should I define a sales process at all?
Why define a sales process?
Your conversion rate depends upon how you have designed your sales process. By understanding the process in detail, you can make it more efficient and add tools that to help your sales team close more deals from your prospects and leads.
Tips: Make sure that your sales people make an effort to get to know prospects’ businesses better than any competitors do.
Right understanding of your company’s sales process is important for your sales team to identify which leads to nurture and which to ignore. It will help them work on leads that can generate more value and revenue for the company.
Tips: One important step is that the sales person find out why, when and how bigger companies buy, and execute a proactive plan. Make sure it is a step in your sales process.
A lot of sales peoples time are wasted on deals that will never happen. A great sales process will help sales people & management to recognize a lost deal early.
Tips: Make sure that your sales people learn the decision process of the company that buys from you to make sure you don’t waste time
Before you start
The creation of a sales process is not a straight line. It’s a lovely mess that gets more clear and straight, the more you learn and develop it. Suddenly the world or your business change and you have to start over. If you did a good job the first time. This time you will do it faster.
Steps involved in designing a great sales process
Many entrepreneurs and new businesses make the mistake of thinking from the company’s perspective. Modern marketing principles lay down different ideas.
It says it all starts with customers. And this is not only applicable to the marketing and sales department of your company, but also to product development department as well.
Creating a great sales process starts from the right perspective: the perspective of the customer. And while you do it, you need to answer following questions:
- Who is my customer?
- What are their pain points?
- What are their gains for which they would be ready to pay?
- Does my value proposition solve their pain points?
- Does my product also offer features that will add value to their lives?
- What stories my customers love to hear?
Answering some of these questions will give you a good benchmark to kick-off the sales design process.
Now we will dive into the actual steps that would lead to creating an effective B2B sales process.
Step 1: Define customer buying process
Here’s general overview from Gartner on how a general customer buying process look like.
If you look at all the points, they are being driven from a customer-centric approach. You can use this Gartner idea as a template and think through your customers’ buying attitudes and define the main decision points.
It is important to do ideation at this stage. So involving your sales team is a plus. This will help you get valuable inputs and perspectives. You may also call some of your best customers to verify your ideas.
Once you have identified the buying steps, create in detail what a customer does at each stage.
- What functional jobs are you helping your customer get done? (e.g. perform or complete a specific task, solve a specific problem, …)
- What social jobs are you helping your customer get done? (e.g. trying to look good, gain power or status, …)
- What emotional jobs are you helping your customer get done? (e.g. esthetics, feel good, security, …)
- What basic needs are you helping your customer satisfy? (e.g. communication, sex, …)
Step 2: Define sales stages
Having mapped the customer buying stages, define corresponding sales stages. In this process as well, it is important to include people who are active part of the sales process. Their inputs are often valuable at this step.
Here’s an example of sales process for a technology company:
A critique to above process is that it is product focused and there is a risk that the customer is missed in the process. Another example on how it would look like for a company that offers solutions for other companies.
Third and final example we have taken into consideration the prospect research phase and added steps for how marketing can attract leads into the sales funnel:
Once you have created your sales process. Go back to step 1 & make sure it is truly aligned to your customer buying process.
Step 3: Define objectives for each stage
At this point, you have two important parts of your B2B sales process: customer buying process and corresponding sales stages. Now define the objective of each sales stage.
You need to answer following questions:
- What is the targeted outcome of each stage?
- What is the goal and objective with each stage?
- What is a sales person supposed to achieve during this stage?
Step 4: Define actions
Once you have defined what objectives a salesman is supposed to achieve at each stages, it is now time to define the actions fitting for each step. Clearly define the series of steps you need to take at each step to promote the customer to the next step in the buying process.
Step 5: Define sales tools
Modern sales processes are not self-sufficient. Apart from sales person, they also need tools, tips, and tricks to hit the target.
For each of the stages, you need to identify the tools your sales people would need to achieve goals. They must be equipped with amazing value propositions, referrals, discovery questions, success stories, demos, and presentations. Plus, it is also advisable to use automated sales tools as much as possible.
Here are some examples of sales tools:
- Pre-written emails or email templates
- Automated emails for new leads
- Amazing sales presentations
- Product demo
- Persona guide
- Competitor information
- Customer references
- Conversation guides
- Analysts statements
- ROI calculations
Step 6: Define marketing tools
If you are into marketing and sales, you surely have heard about Smarketing. It is a modern process of aligning and integrating sales and marketing process of a business. According to a 2010 study, this can lead to growth of up to 20% in annual sales.
That is why, while you’re creating a thorough sales process, you cannot choose to ignore the marketing part.
You also need to equip your sales team with some, if not all, of the marketing tools relevant for their day-to-day operations.
Here are examples of some marketing tools that are crucial for your sales team success:
- Blog articles
- SlideShare presentations
- Business cards
This tips can earn you millions – It’s all about speed
The key with great sales & marketing tools is that they should speed up your sales cycle.
They remove uncertainty, answer questions, makes sales people more professional, etc. Make sure your tools do this.
Step 7: Continue to improve
Like any other organizational process, the sales process is another area which needs to be improved consistently to enhance results and efficiency.
As your sales team interact with prospects, leads, and customers, they would gain more insight about the target audience. It is also important to keep getting feedback from the customers about all the factors important for success of your business.
Using these data points and insights, you can optimize your sales process for efficiency and increase conversion rate.
Here is a great example of a complete sales process developed by SalesTechnik.
It shows how you can define your sales process and all the pre-work milestones, customer buying process, targeted outcome, selling tools, and marketing tools around each step.
You can also download the PDF for a better view and reference.
Download FREE template
As I mentioned earlier, here’s your FREE Template. I have created the template based on my research and experience in this area.
You can use this to create your own sales process and organize all the information and data that I had mentioned across the 7 steps.
Tips and tricks
Sales is never easy. Often, especially in Silicon Valley, many techies from product development team assume constant meetings with clients and prospects as a way for the sales person to have fun.
Peter Thiel writes in Zero to One that sales looks easy because the sales guys have worked hard to make it look easy.
For 5 emails sent to a prospect only one replies. And on an average, it takes 21 meetings to close a deal. This means you need to attend a lot of meetings and send out a lot emails. It is a numbers game and persistent hard work.
But with proper planning and organization, you can make the process efficient. Here are some success factors on which your sales’ team success depends.“Behave like you’re not selling, but simply facilitating the buying process. Have trust in the level of value.” Click To Tweet
Factor 1: Assign a person responsible
To many times I’ve seen management created sales processes that no one use or actually understand. Assign a person that loves processes to constantly educate the sales team and improve the process. Make sure to constantly follow up and help sales understand and use the process.
Factor 2: Implement IT tools to support the process
There are a lot of really bad CRM systems out there. Make sure you carefully select a really good CRM system and marketing system. Then add some great tools that helps the sales team be efficient.
Factor 3: Find a sales manager who is passionate about sales
A great sales person is most likely not a great sales manager. Why do some CEOs believe that a great sales person can be a great sales manager? The skills required to be a great sales manager is not the same.
Make sure to find a sales manager who loves:
- Coaching & Motivation
- Building Amazing Sales Tool
- Efficient Meetings
- CRM Systems
- Inter-Team Communication
- Reporting & Analysis
Factor 4: Learn everyone in sales to create amazing value propositions
Chokingly often sales people don’t know how to create great value propositions. They’re too product focused or carry an egocentric pitch. Customers don’t care about egocentric pitches. They want to understand the outcome for them and not the year the company was founded.
You can also learn how to create great value propositions using my value proposition course on Udemy. Use valueproposition coupon to get 20% discount.
Factor 5: Turbo boost your process
Take a hard look at your sales cycle and list all the ways you could save time, you’re sure to spot opportunities. The shorter the sales cycle is the higher success rate you will have.
Factor 6: Qualify ruthlessly
Being a startup you are most likely wasting time on prospects that can never be. Create a rigorous internal qualification framework (be inspired by the BANT System) & dramatically improve the productivity of the sales team.
4 amazing sales tools I use everyday
Tool 1: Sidekick
Use Sidekick: http://www.getsidekick.com/
Sidekick empowers you to take control of your emails. Have you ever sent a message to a prospect and never know what happened to your email? Sidekick tells you if the email you sent was opened or not.
It sends you the instant notification so that you can follow up the moment your client looks interested in email.
Some cool benefits of using Sidekick:
- See who opened and click your emails
- Instant notification
- Profiles in your inbox
- Schedule emails
Tool 2: Calendly
Use Calendly: https://calendly.com/
While scheduling a meeting, the problems are numerous. For instance, you create 3 time slots. Send it to the client. The client doesn’t respond for two weeks. When they do reply, that time slot is already booked with someone else!
Calendly solves this issue for both you smartly. Almost candidly. To see it live, you can check my Calendly calendar. I have added the meeting link to all my emails to allow clients to easily book a meeting with me. Also, when I suggest meetings I ask people to go to this link and see what time slots that are available.
Here are some of its cool features:
- Your client can see the available and the booked slots
- Sync automatically with your Google Calendar or Microsoft Office 365
- Automatic booking with a single click
Tool 3: Wunderlist
Use Wunderlist: https://www.wunderlist.com/signup
Wunderlist manages your day-to-day tasks and notify you in case you are forgetting something. I really love this really easy to use to-do list app. I have it on all my devices, it is synced and it is so easy for me to add new tasks.
Some benefits of using Wunderlist:
- Add all your tasks
- Sort into groups
- Assign tasks to colleagues
- Sync it across multiple devices
Tool 4: Zoom
Use Zoom: http://zoom.us/
Apart from all these tools, you can also use Zoom for conducting web meetings. I love using this web meeting tool as it is really easy to use and connect with the customers.
Why you should use Zoom too:
- You don’t need an app and can connect using your browser
- Work on mobile too with mobile screen sharing feature
- A prospect can call using international numbers as well
The challenges in B2B sales are numerous but using the techniques I discussed in this article, you can create a robust sales process.
Of all the 7 steps, it is really important to keep in mind the last one: continue to improve. While your product or services might not change, the rest of the world—markets, consumer behaviour, their demands, etc. — varies and may affect your sales process. So, it is really important to keep updating the sales process.
I am sure you would have received a lot of valuable information in this article. If you have anything to add or suggest something, please feel free to add your comments below.
You can also connect with me and ask your questions by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Presentation How to Design a Sales Process for B2B Sales
This article is based on my extremely popular SlideShare presentation for how to design a sales process for B2B Sales. Check it out below.
Also published on Medium.