An efficient, customer-centric sales process is a critical component to any business strategy. I think we can all agree on this concept.
However, applying this concept in the real world — with real sales teams serving real customers — is another ball game entirely.
Some companies have no formal sales process at all, some businesses have a process but it’s not documented or consistently applied, and others have documented sales protocols but don’t really know how well they’re working.
Regardless of where you sit in the sales process spectrum, there are practical ways you can assess and optimize your sales process to close deals more efficiently and at a higher rate.
Let’s take a look at the ways to improve your sales process.
Map Your Current Sales Process
In order to assess and improve your sales process, it has to be mapped and documented. If you have an informal sales process — one that is implicitly understood by the sales team but not formally documented — map it and write it down.
You cannot assess and improve what you don’t fully understand. You’ll need to invest time in talking with the sales team and sales managers to gain complete awareness of the various stages of your sales process. For example, you’ll need to document:
- Lead generation
- Marketing hand off to sales (alignment protocols/service level agreements)
- Lead qualification/lead scoring
- Value demonstration
- Managing objections/lead nurturing
- Closing and delivery process
- Post-sale process
If you’re employing an inbound sales methodology, most of the above falls into a few categories: identify, connect, explore, and advise.
No matter which approach you deploy, mapping and analyzing your sales process will identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps that you can exploit and repair.
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Your sales team will not be successful if your sales process is too complex. Once you’ve mapped out your existing process, boil it down to its most essential parts. Streamline your sales process so that it's easily understood and executed.
Investing in a strong CRM system can make your sales process more efficient. However, if you apply an overly complex, inefficient system into your CRM or software program, it’s highly likely you’re not going to see maximum benefits. As they say, “Garbage in, garbage out.”
Technology won’t solve your sales process challenges on its own. You need to map, assess, and distill your sales process into its most essential parts. Then, technology can amplify results.
Define Critical Metrics
Datanyze puts organizations into two sales process buckets: “There are typically two types of sales organizations: those that have no sales data and those that are drowning in data. Neither of these two situations is ideal. A lack of data leads to poor visibility, while too much data leads to confusion.”
This is where developing key performance indicators (KPIs) comes in. Once you’ve mapped out your sales process and remedied its weaknesses, you need a way to know if its working. To determine its effectiveness, you need to track and constantly monitor the metrics that provide the clearest view into the health of your sales efforts.
KPIs vary by industry and need to be customized. What’s critical to one company’s sales efforts might not be to another business that’s smaller or larger or operating in a different industry.
A few KPIs to start with could be churn rate (how many customers you lose), lifetime customer value (how much revenue you get from repeat business and referrals) as well as your lead-to-opportunity percentage and your opportunity-to-closing rate.
These KPIs are a good starting point, but it’s important to note that KPIs need to evolve, so this is not a set-it-and-forget it exercise.
Find the right KPIs for your business. Track them. Adjust them over time. And share them with your sales team in a way that’s motivational and easy to understand.
Always Remember the Customer
The sales process exists to make a customer’s life easier by solving a problem or filling a need. Your sales system must always be aligned with customer needs and desires.
What does this mean for your sales process? Once it’s codified, it will need to be segmented and adjusted for different audiences, as well as altered as customer behaviors and needs evolve over time.
And this point is crucial: You must come to terms with the reality that optimizing your sales process is a never-ending job. Once you accept this fact, the sky’s the limit; failure to do so will lead to short-term wins but long-term losses and frustration for you and your sales team.
CSO Insights puts it this way: “Transformation is a big and overused word. Many organizations roll out selected, disjointed projects and claim them as transformation. A sales effectiveness program is not necessarily a driver of transformation. You have to start with the big picture and get people motivated around the idea of significant, continuous change. Influenced by their experiences as consumers, corporate customers are changing at a rate infinitely faster than sales organizations. To catch up, sales organizations must be willing to take on something big, knowing getting there may be a never-ending journey of implementation and refinement.”
That might be a tough pill to swallow for some c-suite leaders and sales managers.
However, the executives and sales managers who can implement the above changes while accepting that sales process refinement is ongoing are likely to succeed.
Those who can’t swallow that pill won’t.
At Illumine8 Marketing & PR, we work with companies to improve their sales processes. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you streamline your sales process and inspire your sales team to close more deals efficiently.