It takes a great deal of talent (or at least acquired skills) to be a good salesperson.
It takes a solid strategy to become a great one.
The best sales teams don’t rely on their gut feeling to win a deal. They don’t just work tirelessly in hopes to reach their quota – they know exactly how to deliver on the requirements, month after month.
To build a consistent revenue stream, you need to take all the guesswork out of your sales. You need a plan, you need a process – a sales process.
A formal, structured, repeatable sales process is what sets the top-performing organizations apart from the rest. It’s what helps them generate 28% more revenue on average and grow, on average, 15% faster.
In this post, we’ll talk about the sales process description in general and provide actionable guidance on how to build one from scratch (along with the free process templates to get you started).
First, let’s figure out what is a sales cycle vs process.
What is a sales process?
There are many ways to describe a sales process. Most organizations define it as a standardized, repeatable set of steps and the corresponding actions a sales team goes through to convert a prospect to a paying customer.
While the sales process steps usually repeat the buyer’s journey – from the first contact to conversion and repeat purchase – it is a common mistake to confuse the sales process and a sales cycle. Being tightly connected, they still refer to slightly different concepts.
- The business sales cycle is just a set of steps that replicates a buyer’s journey.
- The sales process, on the other hand, is a much broader concept that tells you exactly what to do to turn leads into loyal customers, including activities, methods, and tools you should use.
In other words, a structured sales process is a framework, manual for generating new business.
The default sales process steps
Sales cycles may differ depending on the type of business and product you’re selling. A B2B sales process cycle is nothing like the one used by B2C and the SaaS industry is in a league of its own due to a number of reasons (we’ll get to that). Similarly, an inside sales process flowchart will differ greatly from the one typically applied by retail organizations.
However, there are certain default, generic sales processes and procedures most teams follow to some extent. What are sales process steps? For example, here’s a typical 6-step sales process for B2B:
- Generate – whether it’s through inbound marketing or outbound outreach.
- Qualify – i.e. by offering prospects relevant content they would want to read/download or by directly reaching out to them and inquiring about business.
- Engage – presenting your offer, whether by showing them a pop-up with a product or conducting an in-person demo.
- Negotiate – handle objections and nurture the prospect into buying.
- Close – get the prospect to buy from you.
- Repeat business – upsell or generate referrals from your customers.
Many would also talk about the 5-step sales cycle, considering the repeat business stage a part of the post-sales process.
It’s important to understand that the steps within each sales process don’t always occur in the same order and might have a different duration. After all, you can’t expect every lead to act the same way regardless of what they are buying.
For example, if we’re talking about a single low-price purchase, a warm lead can skip most of the typical stages of the sales cycle and go straight to closing (and do so pretty fast!). So you won’t need to put any effort into engaging them or negotiating the terms.
High-ticket outbound sales, as in case of a complex IT sales cycle, typically require more effort and negotiations and can take months to finalize the terms and actually convert. SaaS business model offers another example of a sales process that has its specifics.