How to Structure Your Sales Process

A sales process is a set of identifiable steps used to achieve defined sales objectives. Often a sales process is used to standardize sales rep activities as well as replicate the desired level of performance among your sales team. 

The goal of your sales process is to take a prospective buyer from the earliest stage of your sales funnel (the awareness stage), and nurture them until they become a customer. 

You can use each step of your sales process to plan and coordinate selling activities to address the buyer’s journey. 

Think of your sales process as a map or a cheat sheet for your sales team to convert as many leads as possible. 

But is it actually worth the time to make one? 

The short answer is YES. Studies have shown an 18% difference in revenue growth between businesses that had a formal sales process and those that don’t. 

Essentially, a defined sales process will make you more money.  

Providing your sales team with a standardized process will make for a more efficient way to close deals. Your process can identify best practices for selling as well as ensure your reps complete all crucial steps when nurturing a client. 

Your sales process can also make the training and onboarding of new reps much smoother. Newer reps will be quicker to catch on with a clear roadmap in place and are more likely to engage customers. 

A defined process also makes it easier to identify where your team is hitting bumps. Where are sales stalling? At what stage do leads go cold? 

While creating a sales process may feel tedious, in the long run you’ll appreciate doing so. It helps you maximize your team resources, allows for better-controlled experiments to improve conversion, and can help you scale best practices quickly across your entire team.

Documenting Your Sales Process

By default, your sales process will be intimately linked to the stages of your sales pipeline. While the steps you and your team take within each stage of the funnel will be unique to your company, there are certain standard practices that typically increase the effectiveness of your efforts.

Here we’ll show a template of a standard sales process and go over each step in detail.

Graphic documenting the 8 most common steps in a sales process 

Lead Generation

Though lead generation is associated more with marketing than sales, it is still an important part of your sales process. 

5 simple questions to help document your lead generation efforts:

  • What sources do your ideal customers use to research and find solutions like yours?
  • What channels will you/do you use to reach them?
  • What budgets have you historically spent (or do you plan to spend) on each channel?
  • What internal resources (might) help you generate leads?
  • What lead generation tasks do you (need to) outsource?

Prospecting

Prospecting is the process of finding people that are qualified to be potential customers — in other words, early-stage leads.

5 simple questions to help you document your prospecting efforts:

  • What does your ideal customer profile look like?
  • Do you have multiple, distinct ideal customer profiles?
  • What software tools do you use to help you prospect? (hopefully Klarity is one of them!)
  • What does your prospect communication sequence look like?
  • What messages resonate best with your prospects?

Lead Qualification

Qualifying your leads allows you to sort leads that are a good fit for your business and are likely to buy from those less ideal and less ready. 

5 questions to help you document your lead qualification process:

  • What framework do you use to qualify your leads?
  • What characteristics or behaviors define an MQL?
  • What characteristics or behaviors define an SQL?
  • What is the primary trigger that takes a lead from an MQL to an SQL?
  • What qualifying questions are most predictive of a successful close?

Research

Research is one of the most important steps of your sales process. When contacting a potential customer it is important to be familiar with information such as:

  • Who are they as a company?
  • What are their goals?
  • Who do they sell to?
  • How do they position themselves? 

The answers to these questions will allow you to give companies a more personalized experience. If a company feels that you have put in the effort to understand who they are and what their challenges are, they are much more likely to entertain your pitch. 

5 questions to help you document your research process:

  • What are the key personal characteristics every sales rep should know before they make contact with a prospect?
  • What are the key company characteristics every sales rep should know before they make contact with a prospect?
  • What sources help you discover each piece of information quickly?
  • Where and how do you document the results of this research? (Ideally a CRM or company intranet)
  • Are there particularly salient characteristics that should always be addressed in your pitch?

Pitch / Offer

When designing your pitch always keep your customer in mind. While you may offer an array of benefits your customer may not necessarily care about all of them. Use the customer’s pain points to emphasize exactly how and what benefits alleviate this need. 

5 questions to help you document your pitch process

  • Are there certain questions about a prospect that your team should have answered before they move to the pitch stage?
  • Is there a standard presentation template that every rep should use?
  • What consistent value proposition should every pitch emphasize?
  • What pieces of the pitch should be customized based on the prospect? 
  • Is there a menu of choices for those customizations, or is the sales rep free to “freestyle” in those situations?

Objection Handling

In a perfect world a prospect would hear your pitch and decide to buy your product. But this is not very common! 

What’s more likely is that your prospect will hear your pitch and object to one or several points made during your proposal. 

Don’t take this stage as a sign of failure. Think of these objections as opportunities. Your prospect may actually be highlighting where your pitch is falling flat. A lot of objections come from confusion or a lack of information. 

You can use an objection to share more information and data as to why your product or service is valuable and counter any reluctance to buy. 

What’s important here is that you’re on top of it. Take care of objections as soon as they come up. 

The best sales reps handle objections in advance. Make sure you are well read on your offering and its benefits, but also use what you know about your prospect to select the most valuable information to them.  

Odds are you’ll never be able to come up with a complete list of possible objections — each prospect is unique. But it’s definitely a best practice to document objections as they arise. Come up with a consistent response for the most common objections and maintain a shared library of these responses that your team can refer to during future pitches.

Better still, share the list with your marketing team as well, as they may be able to build campaigns and content that address these objections in your prospect’s “Consideration” phase as opposed to relying on your reps to overcome these objections at the last minute.

Close the Deal 

You made it! This step doesn’t necessarily mean the deal has officially been closed, but refers to late-stage sales activities. 

Here you would finalize your sale and usually send your prospect an official quote or proposal for the product or service offered. This final stage may require some final contract negotiations as well as gaining the signatures of the key company stakeholders. 

Check out our chapter on Closing the Deal for our take on the most popular closing techniques. We encourage you to try multiple techniques until you get a sense for which one or ones are most effective.

If there are particular techniques that work better than others for specific buyer personas, this would be another item to document in your team’s shared library.

Nurturing (Following-Up)

While closing the deal is the overall goal of sales, it is not the end of the sales cycle. You should confirm with customers that they are satisfied with their purchase and smooth their transition to working with an account manager.

Setting up introductions between both parties is a great way to do this. 

Document that hand-off between sales and account management — highlight the key tasks and which party is responsible for what.

Closing a deal is also far from the end of your communication with your customer. You should continue to bolster their satisfaction with your product with access to new value adds or exclusive benefits and or content, but also continue to reinforce the value of your product. 

Happy customers are your best source of referrals, and referrals are one of your best sources of new leads — for whom you can restart your sales process from the top!