A sales process is a structured methodology and process to help move a prospective customer through to a sale. Generally a sales process will be customized for your specific business and industry, under the assumption that most of your customers will be going through the same process for buying. There are a number of sample sales processes available for different “selling models”, but the most successful process for your business should be based on your own selling experience. You should be able to identify which elements have helped close the most deals for you in the past, and use that to guide your process. You should also be able to track, from your historical information, which stages of the sales process make the most sense, as well as the probability a deal will close at any given point. Again, the idea is consistency, both of your process, and of your target customers – because your customers are all going to have similar elements to their business (hence their interest in your offerings) you should be able to maximize your effectiveness in selling to them.
If your business sells across a variety of customer types, it may be necessary to have different processes for each customer type. However, it is recommended to maintain the same sales stages across all of your processes to ensure your pipeline reporting is consistent and meaningful.
Having a defined sales process can benefit an organization in a number of ways. First of all, it will provide a consistent company image and customer experience in the marketplace. When every salesperson is following the same process, all of your customers (and prospects) will receive the same treatment. Additionally, should one salesperson need to step into a deal already underway, they will understand where the prospect is at based on the sales process stage, and handling the sale that someone else started will be much easier. A structured process will also help the delivery portions of the company, because they will know exactly when in the sale they can expect to either be involved or be needed to deliver something to complete the sale. For example, in a service organization like OTT, a structured process can help define when a project manager will need to be alerted to a pending project, or when a consultant might need to be scheduled for a demo. Without a sales process defining when these steps take place, only minimal advanced planning can take place.
Another key benefit of a sales process is the ability to consolidate sales reporting in a useful and meaningful manner. As mentioned above, sometimes multiple processes may be needed to handle different types of customers, or different product lines. However, as long as the processes share the same stages and probabilities (even if the activities required for each are dramatically different), a sales pipeline report across the entire organization will still be able to give a good picture of forecasted revenue and expected resources.
Finally, a sales process will dramatically help in training new sales staff when they enter the company. Each organization does things differently, and when coming into a new company, a salesperson will need to be educated on the way the new company does things and expects sales to be made. When this is structured within the sales tool, such as a process built right into CRM, training is much easier because the tool the salesperson uses to manage the sale will help guide them through the steps they need to take.
These guided steps usually take the form of a workflow, which automatically creates new tasks to advance the sale, and updates the opportunity automatically with the current sales stage information. In Microsoft Dynamics CRM, the versatile workflow engine allows us to generate the task or tasks that need to be completed in the current stage and wait for those activities to be complete. Once completed, the workflow will advance to the next stage – updating the opportunity to the new stage, increasing the probability of a sale for weighted revenue forecasting, and creating the next task or tasks that need to be completed. Through this process, the salesperson is guided through making the sale and the information that is automatically updated keeps management apprised of the current status of all pending deals.
Once you have your sales process designed and ready to use in CRM, you will encounter the largest hurdle – getting people to use it. This is frequently more difficult than actually designing or implementing the sales process, and is also the most critical component. The best-designed process won’t do you any good if nobody is using it after 3 months. Here are some keys to consider to gain buy-in for your sales process:
1. First and foremost, make sure it is easy to use, and that it will actually assist the sales staff in managing their opportunities. If it takes too much time to keep CRM up-to-date (or even if it is perceived as taking too much time), staff will resist doing it and fall back on whatever methods they were using in the past. The process should help them out and make their lives easier by providing ways to keep track of their pipeline, the current status on opportunities they are working, and things they need to do. Once they realize that following the sales process is helping them stay organized (and once their sales numbers improve through repeated use of the process), they will be your biggest supporters.
2. Second, drive all reporting out of CRM, and the sales stages within the process. When a salesperson is meeting with the sales manager to discuss their current deals, the reports they are looking at should be CRM reports, and those reports should be utilizing information from the sales process. This helps the salesperson, because they don’t need to compile any extra reports for their meeting, and it helps their manager because he or she can check out what’s going on anytime they want by just looking in CRM. The better the reporting in CRM, the less time is needed to individually review each deal, saving time for both sales staff and management – time that can then be used to close deals. Additionally, if the credit a salesperson gets for a sale is determined by the data available in CRM, they will strive to keep that data up-to-date. Consider basing commissions information on the sales that are tracked in CRM and the accuracy of that data. The best way to get a salesperson to do something is to tie it to their commission check. If they can get credit for a completed sale that was not entered in CRM and did not follow the process, they will quickly learn that they don’t need to use CRM, and you will lose the value of the process and the reporting.
3. Third, you need to have the support of upper management to enforce usage of the system and the process. Again, if the salespeople are not required to use the sales process in CRM by their managers, they will avoid it. If the managers are not viewing the data and reports in CRM, and are checking their own spreadsheets instead, the sales staff will be more concerned with the spreadsheets than CRM. Their job is to sell, and to prove they are selling they need to keep their managers aware of their actions. So they will only put their pipeline data in one spot – the spot where their manager looks for it. If the manager isn’t looking in CRM for that data, they have no reason to put it there.
Having a sales process in place can help drive additional sales and revenue for your company, and managing your sales cycle within a tool like
By OTT, Inc.,