What is a sales process? Why is it important?

This is Part 1 of a sales process blog series based on discussions with Mark Ripley, Vice President of Sales at Insightly.

When you sell something, you already have a sales process – even if you never wrote it down.

Of course, some companies spend a lot of time and effort creating detailed flowcharts, diagrams, and work instructions for each stage of the sales process. Others don’t formally define their sales processes, except that their salespeople can “do what they do”. Both approaches are examples of sales processes, but a formalized approach can be much more effective.

What is the ideal sales process for your company?

To help you with that, here are some tips to help you define and improve your sales process.

What is a sales process?

A selling process is a series of steps your business takes to guide potential buyers into a purchase.

If you’re a cooking lover, comparing your sales process to making your favorite recipe can be constructive. If you follow the recipe, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you deviate from the recipe or ignore it altogether, a bad taste is usually left in your mouth and you feel like you’ve wasted your time.

“Like any good recipe, a well-engineered sales process will always produce consistent results,” said Mark Ripley, vice president of sales at Insightly. “When you start growing your business, your sales process becomes even more important.”

Stop and think about your sales process today:

  • What “steps” do you and your team take to close a deal?
  • Do these steps match the pipeline stages in your CRM?
  • Do everyone in your sales organization follow the same steps to close a deal?
  • Or do they just go through the motions and ignore your “recipe”?

Take the time to examine your current sales process, along with its strengths and weaknesses. Remember, you already have a sales process – good or bad! Now is the time to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Benefits of developing a better sales process

If you’ve been in business for a very long time, your existing sales process has at least produced some measurable results. Make yourself comfortable and be grateful for the success you enjoyed.

Even so, there is always room for improvement. And as Mark points out, continually improving your sales process will place your company in a better position to take advantage of the following.

Further data for continuous measurement and continuous improvement

Whether you notice it or not, you likely have a considerable amount of data on hand. It may be messy and require some cleanup, but it’s a start. By analyzing historical business data, you can understand your future data needs, creating a positive cycle for improving the sales process.

“Measuring conversion rates and all other aspects of your sales process offers a surgical approach to understanding what needs improvement,” says Mark.

Take away key: Use data to take a snapshot of your existing sales process. Then look for new measurement opportunities to generate more data for continuous improvement.

Improved coaching for your sales team

With reliable data about your sales process, you will be much better able to anticipate challenges, provide actionable coaching to your team, and be the best leader you can be.

“Data makes it easier to draw a vision for success and inspire your sales force,” says Mark.

For example, if you closely monitor your team’s average completion rate on skilled opportunities, you can more easily identify employees who need specific training or assistance with late-stage deals. Likewise, tracking the success of cold outreach efforts can help you predict acquisition costs and make talent allocation decisions.

Take away key: Telling your team to try harder is not a successful strategy. You need a transparent, data-driven sales process that delivers the right insights to improve sales force performance.

Scalability

When you add additional salespeople, management levels, geographic locations, product lines, and general complexity, an accidental sales process becomes a serious liability for your business.

“If you want to scale, a sales process becomes business-critical there,” says Mark.

Take away key: If you have ambitions to grow your sales team beyond a handful of people, you need a reliable, repeatable sales process.

Sales optimization

No article on sales processes would be complete without ignoring a key topic: revenue optimization. Maximizing sales is the whole point of any sales process.

When properly planned and implemented, a sales process makes it easier for your company to generate revenue – and without additional staff.

“Your sales process can help you increase your sales per employee in a number of ways,” says Mark. “When you get the right measurements, keep tweaking things, and training effectively, you should start getting more sales per employee.”

Take away key: Think of your sales process as a tool that will help you generate more sales in a more efficient way.

Next, model your sales process after the buying process

Stay tuned for our next article on Sales Processes, which has specific steps in modeling your sales process for the customer’s buying journey.

Check out the Insightly blog for more sales tips.

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