Sales Process: A 5 Step Process You Won’t Hate

What is a sales process? How to map out its steps? And how to implement it the right way?

I don’t know about you, but I have a love-hate relationship with sales processes – actually with processes in general.

I hate processes when they act like unnecessary constraints and turn me into a robot, and I love them when they free up my time and when they superpower my productivity.

If you feel the same way, then read on carefully. In the next 5-10 minutes, I’ll run you through all the things you need to start loving your sales process more than you’re hating it.

Here’s the points we’ll cover step by step:

  1. We’ll create clarity on what a sales process is, and what it isn’t
  2. We’ll examine the reasons to love your sales process
  3. I’ll share our 5 step sales process template
  4. We’ll map out and create your custom sales process
  5. And finally, we’ll make sure your process is put in place in the right way

We’re just 5 steps away from more consistent sales success.

Let’s do this!


1. What's a sales process?

A sales process is… a process for sales. We all knew that much. 😏

Still, before moving forward, it’s interesting to go a little further for a minute and give a proper definition of what a sales process is, so we can build on this below.

Without using any long descriptions or grandiose words, here’s what it is:

A sales process is a series of repeatable steps you can take to convert leads into deals.

Breaking this down:

  • It consists of a series of steps, which are repeatable.
  • The goal is to convert leads into deals.
  • And last but not least: you CAN take the defined steps to reach the goal.

The last point is an important one, and it ties back to the love-hate relationship I have with sales processes: a good sales process helps you to guide prospects through a proven process, but it does not enforce it.

Let’s say you typically give prospects a demo of your product, but a prospect has seen your product already or has heard about it enough to be convinced, then you don’t need to take that step. Taking them through it anyway might feel forced and alienate your prospect.

A good process brings structure, but it does not turn us into robots.

Sales process vs sales methodology: what’s the difference?

Before we fully move on, let’s clear up a common point of confusion and answer: how is a sales methodology different from a sales process?

While a sales process is about identifying repeatable steps, sales methodologies are generally more about the strategic approach you’re taking towards prospects.

Sales methodologies can, for instance, provide you:

  • A way in which you should question your customers
  • How you should deal with the different stakeholders in a big company
  • How you should connect with prospects
  • Or how you should introduce your solutions

If you’re into B2B and want to learn more about the 4 most common sales methodologies, have a look at this article on B2B sales strategies. 👈


2. Why is a sales process essential to success? Let’s examine the data.

In short: a sales process brings structure, which will make your sales success both repeatable and scalable.

Is there any hard data to prove this? Thanks to the Sales Management Association, there is.

Their research has pointed out that:

  • Of top performing sales organizations, 92% have a sales process.
  • Revenue growth is 18% higher in companies that have a sales process in place than in those who don’t.
  • Companies with a sales process also have higher win rates, lower turnover in the sales team, and significantly more individual top performers.

What’s not to like? 😃


3. The typical 5-7 steps of a sales process: our template

Are you ready to define your very own sales process?

Instead of starting entirely from scratch, it’s good to investigate first how others build up their process. Now, what are the typical steps a prospect goes through?

The sales process template I’ll explain below is the one that’s offered by default when you sign up for our CRM software, Salesflare. You can always customize those, but more on that later.

A visual view on the 5-7 step sales process we offer by default in Salesflare.

Here’s the 5-7 steps you’ll typically have to take to sell something. 👇

Lead

You’ve found a good prospect, who seems to fit all your criteria, but you haven’t contacted them yet.

Contacted

You’re in contact with a prospect. Either they’ve contacted you about a sales opportunity, or you’ve contacted them to see whether there’s an opportunity to sell your product or services.

Qualified

This step is crucial. If sales opportunities reach the “qualified” step, it means that you have qualified them as an opportunity you can win.

The most known qualification criteria and a good place to start is BANT:

  • Budget: Do they have a budget to spend on your solution?
  • Authority: Are you talking to the right person at the company?
  • Need: Are they in need of your solution?
  • Timeline: Do they have a definite timeline in mind to buy? Or is it just “some day”?

If a sales opportunity is qualified, it moves on to the “qualified” step. If it’s disqualified, you shouldn’t spend any further time on it.

Your time is precious, and it’s better spent with prospects who will probably buy. The quicker you disqualify leads that probably won't buy, the more time you can focus on ones that probably will.

Pro tip: It might be that you’re in a business where it often happens that you’re not talking to your prospect at the right time. And even though you shouldn’t spend your time on them now, you don’t want to lose sight of them either. In that case, make an extra step “Fridge” behind the “Lost” step for these prospects. That way you can easily come back to them later. ❄️

Proposal made

If a prospect is qualified, you can start making up a proposal for them.

As soon as you’ve made this proposal, you are essentially waiting for them to decide; or to request changes to your proposal of course. 😅

Won / Lost

This is where you close the deal.

Did they buy? Congrats, you won the deal. 🎉

Did they drop out of the sales process at any stage? Mark the opportunity as lost and move on.


4. Mapping and creating your sales process

Chances are the above template does not fully fit the way you sell.

Let’s explore how you can go about mapping your sales process in the best possible way.

Align your sales process with the customer’s preferred journey

The single most important thing when mapping your sales process: build it with the customer in mind. How your internal organization works is really secondary. (Sometimes the truth hurts.)

It speaks for itself that when the process works out smoothly for the customers and is centered around them, the amount of deals you close will be much higher.

Still, this is the single most common mistake, as the easiest road you can take is accepting your organization’s status quo and creating the sales process based on how your organization works, not how your customer wants it to work.

Don’t make the process too specific, nor too vague

Building further on the previous point: not every customer wants to go about things the same way.

Most of our prospects at Salesflare like to try our CRM themselves and subscribe without involving our team, while some of them are adamant about getting a demo to talk about their requirements and the questions they have.

Overfitting the process specifically to either of these types of prospects (by for instance enforcing a specific step “Demo given”) will make us lose out on many opportunities with the other type.

It’s good to leave some wiggle room for the specific context of each prospect, while everyone still moves through the repeatable process you’re setting forward.

Even more dangerous than making the steps of the sales process too specific, is defining specific tasks each salesperson needs to complete before moving prospects to the next step. This completely removes the ability to adapt to each prospect and turns your sales team into a group of mindless robots.

If you’re going this way because your team otherwise skips crucial steps, consider retraining them or making some team changes, because the problem is probably not the process, it’s the people.

Think beyond the sale

Are repeat sales, happy customers and/or word of mouth important to you?

Then you might want to think about extending your sales process beyond the sale. You’ll want to make sure they reap (and keep reaping) all the benefits your product or service offers. How that works depends very much on what you offer.

At our company, for instance, we get in contact with customers right after they subscribe and after that we check in every 3 months, to make sure they have everything they need to be successful.

We’ve set up automated messages to do that on a consistent basis, and as soon as our customers respond, we’re there to help them out.

If you’re using Salesflare, this kind of follow up can be set up in a fully automated way, as shown below.

Follow up with your customers automatically at predefined moments. 💌

An extra thing to keep in mind is that most CRMs won’t allow you to define steps (a.k.a. stages in the opportunities pipeline) after you win or lose the deal. As this is something we believe to be essential, you are able to set this up in Salesflare.


5. How to successfully implement your sales process

Got your sales process mapped out? Then you’re just two steps away from successfully implementing it.

The two missing ingredients are:

  • A team that fully understands this sales process and is on board with following it.
  • A shared way to keep track of where each prospect is in the sales process.

And, as a bonus ingredient, you can automate the parts of it that feel like robot work.

Get your team on board and train them

First, it speaks for itself that having a sales process is not useful if nobody knows about it, nobody believes in it, and nobody follows it.

There are benefits to involving your team early on and mapping out the process together with them, as this will increase the probability that they are on board with the end result. But this is of course up to you.

What’s for sure is that you’ll have to sell your team on why a sales process is crucial (there’s some data you can use from point 2 above), align with them on what the steps of the sales process are, and make sure everyone also buys into following the process.

And with regard to the last point, the probability that this will happen dramatically increases if you implement a shared system to track it. 👇

Set up a shared system to keep track

The best way to make sure the sales process is followed is by creating transparency and accountability, which implies setting up a shared system to keep track.

There’s many advantages to doing this in a CRM instead of a shared spreadsheet (like integrating it with your emails, having a more visual interface, allowing/disallowing certain things, being able to set reminders, …), but what you use is ultimately up to you.

If you’re not ready for a CRM, we’ve created a handy sales funnel/pipeline template that works both in Excel and Google Sheets.

If you are ready for a CRM, we evidently have our own thoughts (based on years of experience) on what’s important when you pick the right CRM for you:

  • Above all, make sure it’s easy to use, otherwise your sales team won’t use it, which makes your CRM useless from the very start: more on that in this article.
  • Pick a CRM that offers all functionality on the mobile phone. That way your team can always take immediate action, instead of having to wait until they’re behind their computer.
  • A tight email integration is non-negotiable. You can’t afford having your emails in one place and your customer data and sales process in another.

As we find these requirements extremely important, you won’t be surprised if I tell you that Salesflare fits these requirements perfectly. There’s more on that on here and on our website.

Bonus: automate the robotic parts of the sales process

Like I said at the very beginning: a sales process is crucial, but it should not turn you into a robot.

We’ve discussed a few ways above to make sure this doesn’t happen – like not making your sales process too strict and not specifying tasks per step – but one other thing can have a big impact on this as well: it’s automating the parts of the sales process that make you feel like a robot.

Are you sending the same follow-up emails over and over again? You can automate that, like I showed above for follow-up emails after winning a deal.

Do you constantly find yourself setting the same reminders? You can use an automated reminder system that alerts you when your interaction with a prospect goes inactive.

Get an automated reminder system that reminds you what emails from customers still need an answer, and what conversations with prospects are becoming inactive.

Does filling out your CRM make you feel like a robot? 🤖 There’s automation for that too.

Get a CRM that fills out itself, instead of spending your time inputting data.

The technology is here, you just need to adopt it.

If you have questions about the possibilities of automation, or on how to go about implementing your sales process in general, leave me a comment below or reach out to us on the chat. We’re here to help! 😃


Want to implement your sales process in a CRM?

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Jeroen Corthout

Co-Founder at Salesflare
I'm Co-Founder of Salesflare, the simply powerful CRM for small businesses. I love growth, automating sales, and building beautiful products.

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