If you are reading this, chances are that you are leading the sales efforts for your company. Maybe you are a startup founder who is seeing the early signs of product market fit. Or, maybe you are a growth stage company sales executive with a repeatable sales process who is seeking more clarity.
When you google the phrase “sales process,” there are plenty of drawings of funnels and write-ups on various generic phases that companies go through from lead to customer. But, you know there are twists, turns, hoops and moats out there. If you try to walk through stages that don’t resonate with you, and that you don’t understand in all their colorful detail, you will see outcomes that you don’t want and can’t explain.
My goal in this post is to help you discover your own journey from lead to customer and identify various stages of this process as it relates to you, your product and your company. So, you can effectively take the people you interact with through this journey from lead to customer.
Sales process as a journey
Think about the last road trip you took for a moment. Did you get in the car, drive and magically end up where you wanted to go? The sales process you go through with a person is a lot like a road trip. If you plan ahead and maintain discipline, you will get to your target on time and without drama. But, on the other hand, if you are just emailing and calling to tell people about you, your product and company, it is like getting in a car and driving without a plan. You might get somewhere, but it may not be where you wanted to end up and when you wanted to get there. And you know it is not repeatable, so when your quota resets, you will find yourself driving in vain again looking to get somewhere that you are not exactly sure how to get to.
If sales is a journey, a sales process is the map that gives you directions and helps you understand where you are. The map could be very detailed and prescriptive like something you would get if you asked Google Maps for directions, or something more high-level that tells you about the major landmarks or waypoints along the way, like a nautical map. Just like maps, your sales process needs refinement and updating from time to time based on what you are discovering along the way. Sometimes you will find more efficient paths and other times you will find new obstructions.
Let’s get to mapping out your sales process. Pick a good sample set of cases where you remember or you can look-up every detail of your journey with a person from beginning to the end. The beginning is the moment you started pursuing that person to sign them up as a customer, and the end is the moment the person signed up as a customer or when you stopped trying.
Collect the Information
Let’s start the mapping. We are going to journal key things about the start, the end, and each interaction.
How did you get the person’s information?
Why do you think this person was a good fit?
1. Date and Time?
2. How did you contact?
3. What did you say?
4. What was the response?
5. Was there a specific ask from the person?
6. Was the ask taken as a sign that the person was more likely or less likely to become a customer?
Why did you stop pursuing this person?
Let’s draw the map
If the answer to question (6) “Was the ask taken as a sign that the person was more likely or less likely to become a customer?” is a yes, that indicates a shift, or a break in the ongoing pattern for better or worse, which makes whatever that ask from question 5 a pretty important one.
Start listing answers to question 5 in interactions where the answer to question 6 is a yes. Write down the number of times you had to entertain this ask during the interactions covered in the sample set.
Request to be removed from further contacts
Request an NDA
Request a demo video
Request a brochure
Request a trial
Request a call
Request a pilot contract
Request pricing sheet
When you look at some of these items, it becomes clear that some of them share similar characteristics. So, we can group them together to make things easier.
Now you can come up with a name for each of these groups. Ideally, the name should indicate the core intent of the ask.
These are the various phases of your sales process based on your sample set of interactions. Now we can put these to the test by looking up other interactions that were not part of our sample set and trying to identify whether they fit this flow. If the majority of your interactions fit the phases that were identified, then you have a winner: a sales process that correctly identifies the phases you go through and a clear idea between what pushes an interaction to the next phase in your process. We took a bottom-up approach to get here. Doing so helps you understand fundamentally how your sales journey should proceed and you have much more clarity to understand when you’re advancing, continuing or discontinuing.
Putting your sales process to work
Congratulations! You have a sales process. Now what? The immediate benefit of having a sales process is being able to know where you are in the journey with each new interaction. But, wait – it can do more.
A good sales process should help you streamline your journey by helping you get through various phases faster and more efficiently. It also makes it easier to share knowledge and best practices with your sales team. You can do this by collecting effective message templates, call scripts, talking points, etc. that have been proven to help at each stage, keeping them handy for quick reference and use. You can compile a list of frequently asked questions for each phase and have well-crafted answers ready to be delivered. The goal here is to develop the process to know exactly what to do at each twist, turn, hoop or moat. So, when your quota resets or when you have that big revenue milestone staring down at you, you know exactly how to get there.