When a business is serious about achieving scale, a standard sales process must be established and rigorously followed by all. You start by interviewing sales resources internally, including both business development reps and sales support.
Gather your team and walk through the current informal sales activities together. Document what your team does, starting with finding a lead and ending with closing the deal. Then consider adding or removing steps that you feel would help improve the process. No matter what, the process cannot be solely internally focused. It must accurately reflect the buyer’s journey in order to maximize effectiveness.
Some of the more common mistakes include making the process too complex and not getting buy-in from all stakeholders in the process, both internal and external. Complexity deters team members from using it and lack of buy-in eliminates the benefit of a 360 degree view of what works and what does not work.
Second, determine the different stages of a sales process and how each stage will be defined. The relative complexity and length of various sales process stages can vary, but overall, most are pretty similar, no matter the industry. They typically include four to eight steps, closely resembling the following basic goals: Identify, qualify, propose, negotiate and close. Each of these stages needs to have a uniform definition throughout the organization, and as prospects transition from stage to stage, the probability of successfully closing the sale increases.
A lot of how you assign a probability to each stage is determined by trial and error and historical precedent of prior prospects. Importantly, these stages create the foundation for a sales pipeline where you can create a weighted average of anticipated results for the month, quarter or year. This informs budgeting and what resources will be required for the organization to deliver the product or service. The ultimate goal is to develop accurate predictive metrics so that the company’s leadership team can anticipate rather than react.
Finally, establish an ideal customer profile. Investigate why your organization has success in certain situations and not others. Determine what can be learned from the similarities within each successful close, and even the similarities that were identified in the losses.
Smaller businesses don’t have the energy or resources to “cater to the curious.” These prospects waste important time and resources that could be used on prospects that have a much higher likelihood of close. It is important to engage with each prospect to determine how closely it matches your ideal customer profile.
This is an incredibly broad topic, and I only have room to scratch the surface. A developed sales process will be reflective of how your company does business, and a compliant operation will increase the number of profitable sales and satisfied customers. There are many more tools and trends to be aware of, including tracking data, scoring leads and cultural adjustments an organization needs to make to create a truly scalable and repeatable sales process.
Jeffrey Kadlic is co-founder and managing partner at Evolution Capital Partners.