A successful B2B salesperson is an expert in handling uncertainty and one needs to have a stable sales process to succeed. In this blog, we'll introduce you to an outbound sales process taught at Vainu Sales Academy.
What Is a Sales Process?
A sales process is a routine created to optimize sales efficiency. It includes every necessary action from finding a customer to closing a deal and handing out the new customer to the customer team. Following a sales process eases the daily work of a salesperson and reveals the parts of the process requiring improvement.
What Are the 7 Steps of Sales Process?
Life of a salesperson is a turmoil. Budgets are cut, decision-makers replaced, and the product might suffer from a demo effect during a critical board meeting. Unfortunate events occur and there's little an individual can do about it. Nevertheless, these things tend to hurt a person’s confidence.
When the excrement hits the ventilator, it's hard to remain positive about the future. Routines, such as sales process, come in handy when there's no inspiration available. Morning routines exist so it's as easy as possible to get up from the bed when you really wouldn't want to. A workout routine exists so you won't spend energy on figuring out which exercises to perform when entering the gym.
For a salesperson, there has to be a routine so it's as easy as possible to get up again when the world has tripped you down and smacked you senseless with a baseball bat. A routine especially built for the sales professionals is called a sales process.
The Seven Steps of a Sales Process
Who is interested in the things you’re offering?
Let’s say you’ve had a few letdowns and you're not on your most confident mood. It's hard to start contacting random companies just for the sake of it. To make sure your sales prospecting is in mint condition and you're reaching prospect organizations that are interested in your saying, begin by defining the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) for your organization.
When carefully crafted ICP defines the profile of customer organization that benefits the most of your offering, cost the least to acquire and are happy to advocate your business. It also includes when you should contact the company and whom you should contact.
A few tips on building your very own ICP:
THE PROFILE: This includes aspects such as industry, headcount, revenue growth, technologies used on website and office location. You can build a list of companies fitting your ICP by manually searching for relevant information through Google. With Vainu, it's convenient to write in the parameters of your ICP and get an updating list of fit companies.
WHEN: Organizations are living organisms with rapidly changing situations. Simply put, there are moments your service is needed more than at another time. Searching for lucrative organizational events, buying signals, can be done by reading newspapers or googling manually. With Vainu, you can choose the type of events you're interested in and get an email notification instantly when a buying signal hits the web.
WHO: You'll need the person from the prospect organization to start the conversation. The rule of thumb is to call as high ranking executive as you have (lady)balls to converse with. Realize that you'll put your time to waste if you don't have the right decision maker on the other end of the line. It's easier to convince a junior, but it's little use when making a decision. For finding the right decision maker, we prefer to use LinkedIn. You can often find valuable information from profile page about the person area of responsibility.
You've defined the ICP target group, observed a big fat buying signal within it and found a decision maker from LinkedIn to give a call. It seems that you're through the first stage of the sales process and ready to attempt booking a meeting.
Whether you like to call a prospect every time you find one, depends on you. Some prefer to use an hour or two to build a list of 10-20 decision makers to contact and then go through the list in one fell swoop.
IMPORTANT: From this point on, everything necessary should be written down to a CRM. This way all the essential insights will either be passed to the next salesperson working on the case or the customer team when the prospect becomes a client. In case there's no CRM available, Google Docs will do the trick.
The most important things at this stage:
- Define your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP), so you're not wasting time talking with people who don't need you.
- ICP includes the type of organization best fit for your offering, the right moment to call and the fitting decision maker.
- Decide whether you'll contact a prospect every time you'll find one or prepare a list for calling session.
- Write everything remotely important to a CRM.
2. Booking a Meeting
If you've executed stage 1 correctly, you now have a prospect that fits your ICP and is currently interested in your offering. You've typed a decision maker's (in this example a sales director's) phone number on your smartphone and a few seconds after touching the dial you're feeling somewhere between excited and nervous.
- Mrs. Sales Director is speaking.
- Hi, this is a salesperson from a company.
- Hi company salesperson, how can I help you?
Fortunately, you remember your sales training and you've done your homework about the prospect organization. There's a hunch that they might need your service, and thus there's a good reason for a call: They released a recruitment ad a few days ago, which indicates that they might be in need of your offering.
The sales director is not convinced at first as your nervousness made the pitch confusing. You also used a few words and expressions you use when conversing with your colleagues, which have a different (or no) meaning outside your organization. Trying again, the director now realizes the value in your proposition and agrees on a meeting! After setting a time for a face to face meeting, you wish the director a good day.
Send a calendar invite using a template you’ve prepared earlier and include a short note to remind what is the meeting about, but don't overdo it. Few sentences will do. Also, add an agenda, so the other participant has a clear understanding of what's coming. In a hurry, it's easier for a prospect to decline an invitation with unclear description.
Working on sales requires you to believe in your offering. If you're feeling nervous, it might feel difficult to confidently state the benefits of what you're offering. If you're a beginner, taking the time of a decision maker might feel something that you've no merit for. However, you'll quickly realize that the decision maker values confidence in salesperson. Attempt taking charge of the situation and if you fail miserably, try again. You'll get there. :)
Do you feel like you're a robot making calls? Take a five. At this point increasing the effort won't help. During more extended booking sessions, have a colleague with you to share thoughts about the calls. Rarely, people at the other end of the line are mean, but when they are, it's easier to ignore the negative energy when you have a friend to laugh about the situation.
You might be tempted to overpromise what your offering can do, when desperate. If you do this, there's 100% probability you'll get in trouble. Don't do.
The most important things at this stage:
- Have a reason for the call.
- Remain calm, casual and respectful.
- Take charge of the situation.
- Speak with another human rather than a decision maker.
- Use words everyone understands rather than internal lingo.
- Propose a specific time for a meeting.
- Prepare a calendar invite template.
- Don't over-promise, if you don’t wish to get into trouble.
You have a meeting on your calendar, and it's in just a few days. Time to prepare for the meeting.
3. Sales Meeting
There is a mountain of literature concentrating on how to act at a sales meeting. I suggest you to get rid of them. The only way to build trust is to be yourself, attempt to understand the people you're meeting and genuinely search for ways how your service can help them. There's no way around this.
It's important to do your homework, but remember that doing your homework doesn't mean that you should build your offer prematurely. The need is likely different than you presumed.
One of the important lessons for a salesperson is never to presume anything. It can't be stressed enough.
At the beginning of the meeting, take a few moments to get to know the person behind the title. Having a short conversation about things not related to business might ease the tone of the meeting. It's easier to talk about business when the other one is not a complete stranger. If the decision maker is not that interested in your offering, the person might enjoy a casual conversation more than your actual offering. In this case, you're responsible for cutting the chit-chat and initiating the business discussion.
During a meet, place questions as long as required to understand the situation at the prospect organization. (At Vainu, we're using the SPIN-model) The only way to form a sensible offer is to understand the circumstances on the other side of the table. Asking a load of questions may sometimes lead to frustration, but a pleasant conversation often is not the most fruitful one. Excessive courteousness might be the thing that prevents you from becoming a successful salesperson.
When you've inquired enough to realize how your offering genuinely helps the organization, boldly state your idea during the meeting. Don't wait until the next day.
Before ending the meet, be sure that the decision maker understands how the process will move forward. The decision maker requires additional material? Agree on the deadline for sending it. There's a need for a follow-up meeting or a call? Put a calendar invite on it!
After the meeting, getting a hold of a busy decision maker is potentially tricky. Don't leave a thing undone that's possible to do on the spot.
Things to remember:
- Find confidence in being yourself.
- Do your homework.
- Don't compose the offer prematurely.
- Be interested on the person on the other side of the table.
- Ask enough questions to understand prospect organization and their needs.
- Don't be mean, but avoid being overly courteous.
- Boldly state your idea during the meeting.
- Take care of follow-up procedures.
- Use the time with the decision maker wisely.
The decision maker had some though questions you couldn't answer on the spot?
Execute some internal Sherlocking and send the necessary information before the deadline you agreed on. You're the one trying to convince someone, so you're solely responsible for carrying out everything you've promised.
Forgetting is humane, but it's crucial to have your head in the game. As a prospect organization, it's hard to purchase if it feels like the other party is not concentrating. For the absent-minded, there're services like Trello to list everything you need to do.
You likely convince the people you meet in person, and the challenge is to convince the rest of the stakeholders. It makes complete sense to contact the people involved as the people you've met probably aren't as able to describe the offering as you are. For some, it's important to have their say about a purchase. Just hearing them out might make a difference when counting who are in favor of buying from you.
At this point, it helps to write down the current situation, so you understand how your offering helps the prospect and what are the reasons for the prospect not to buy or, instead buy from a competitor. You need to know why they should buy from you.
During the follow-up stage, it's easier to comprehend the situation with the decision-making ladder. It includes:
- Pain and value
Understand the problem your offering will solve and the additional value it will bring.
- Price and budget
Is there any price or budget-related challenges?
- Decision makers
Have you contacted and convinced all the necessary people? Do they understand what you're offering?
Should you wait a few months or attempt to close the deal now?
Any other obstacles, such as prospect company bureaucracy, that's potentially preventing the deal.
Things to remember:
- Have your head in the game and do the things you promised.
- Consider the stakeholders you haven't met personally.
- Go through the decision-making ladder.
- Make sure you have the brightest idea of what's happening and stay on top of the situation.
- Keep on writing everything down to a CRM.
Before the closing call or meeting, you may take a fresh look at the notes you wrote earlier. If there are arguments that'll likely come up, prepare with counter-arguments. At this point, you've laid your cards on the table, and everything done by the book, you've got nothing to worry. If they are going to buy, they will. You've done everything you can.
Some of us enjoy a good ol' bargaining. Remember that at this point, the price rarely is the reason for buying or not buying.
Hopefully, the closing call will result in a new customer for your organization, and you'll have the privilege to hand it out to the customer team. If you haven't cut corners, you've gathered a proper amount of information on the CRM about the client, and the customer team has useful insights about the now-customer organization to begin the collaboration.
Things to remember:
- At this point, you've done the most there's to be done.
- Take a final look at the notes, so you're able to counter-argue in case of misunderstanding.
- Dodge attempts of bargaining.
- Prepare for a customer handover.
Often separate teams are working on acquiring customers and taking care of the current customers. (Obviously, it's not always the case.) When a new customer signs a contract, the responsibility shifts to the customer care team. This is rarely the most fascinating stage of the process for the salesperson but has dramatic effects on the long-term success of the customer relationship. One could say it has a dramatic impact on the relationship between a salesperson and a customer care department as well.
The easiest way to ensure a successful handover is to write everything down on a CRM starting from the first booking, so one doesn't have to rely on the always so fragile memory of a human being. Forgot to do it? You'll do better next time! Creating a list of essential questions to answer at every stage of the process might do the trick.
Things that interest the customer care team are similar to the ingredients of the decision-making ladder that we discussed earlier. What is the idea that got them interested and what kind of value your offering adds to their business? Are there aspects internally in the prospect organization that affects customer team? Also, you'll do a goodie to describe the personalities involved, so the customer team knows how to communicate with everyone.
For a customer, explaining everything twice is a drag. Attempt to provide a seamless transition when changing the guard and give the prospect organization a call or two during the months after handover to see that everything is running smoothly.
Things to remember:
- Well-executed handover improves customer satisfaction.
- Keep your colleagues happy by writing everything necessary down on CRM.
- Customer team is interested in similar topics as the customer is. Where's the value in the offering and how it should be used?
When the process has completed, it's time for evaluation. As said in the beginning, the sales process is necessary for knowing what to do during the time of lower inspiration.
Did a particular part of the process stress you more than the rest? If so, try to improve it so that the next time you've done necessary preparations to stress less. You can't prepare for everything, but you can always make improvements and thus lessen the stress. To be able to do this, measure everything! (you can download this Sales Activity Tracking Spreadsheet for help)
It's important to note that like every morning routine, every sales process is unique. Whatever works for you is the thing you should do. If you're really bad at writing things down on CRM (as yours truly) build a routine that makes it impossible for you to forget it in future. For me, it was to build a set of questions that I'd always answer after a customer-interaction.
Things to remember:
- Don't worry! There's always room for improvement.
- Kill bad habits with routines.
In the beginning, we proposed that every successful salesperson is an expert in handling uncertainty and the easiest way to increase certainty is to build your house on solid ground. That means to have a solid sales process.
I know that for some making a process of your daily life might sound agitating, but routines are necessary for evolution. Routines are boring, un-stimulating tasks, but because of that, routines won't drain your limited willpower stores. You need to - in a way - automate tasks in your daily life to have willpower for more fascinating things.
Applies to every part of your life, not just selling.