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7 Best Practices for Sales Process Design

The most recent version of the TOPO Sales Benchmark found that 59% of companies lack a well-defined sales process. It’s a shocking statistic given that your sales process represents the step-by-step plan for how you will win a deal. A good sales process moves prospects to a final purchasing decision, applies to many customer and deal types as you grow, and scales across your sales organization as you hire. By definition, it is one of the most important things your sales organization can design, build, and optimize.

In this post, we present 7 best practices used by high growth companies when designing their sales processes. It includes content from the recent TOPO webinar: How to Design Your Sales Process: 7 Best Practices.

One important note – there is a big distinction between your sales process and your CRM. Sales process is NOT CRM. Most sales organizations confuse the two. The sales process is a strategic plan for winning business, while the CRM is the platform you use to manage, enforce, and track the process.

1. Understand your buyer and the buying process

One size does not fit all in a sales process. I know a sales leader is about to fail when they walk into a new company and say: “Here is the sales process I ran before at company XYZ. I want to implement it.” Your sales process needs to account for how your buyers want to buy. The only way to figure that out is to interview buyers and develop a map their buying process. When designing your sales process, make sure that it accounts for the steps that the prospect is taking during their buying process. To do this:

  • Interview your buyers to understand the steps they take as they make a purchase.
  • Use this information to create a detailed, step-by-step map of that buying process including key buyer decisions, activities, and milestones.
  • Make sure you account for steps that buyers take without you. For example, what does your champion do to sell the project internally? These types of insights allow you to design meaningful plays for your sales process.

 2. Design a strategic, but detailed sales process

Once you understand how buyers buy, you should create a step-by-step sales process that supports that buying process. The sales process is a road map to closing deals and should tell sales people the following for each stage: where they are in the process, what they need to do at that stage, and what needs to happen to advance to the next step. To accomplish this:

  • Design the key stages in the sales process paying particular attention to the key activities that usually take place in each stage.
  • Focus on making the process as easy-to-understand as possible. Don’t use words that the average sales rep won’t understand.
  • Specify the requirements that an opportunity must exhibit to move to the next stage in the process.

Number of Stages in the Sales Process

Slide13. Develop tactical plays for each step in your sales process

For each stage in your sales process, there are a set of plays that a sales person should execute. Each play should be described in detail. For example, we detailed the champion content play in a previous post. In this play, sales provides their champion with content that allows the champion to guide, influence, and dictate the internal conversations about the product or service you are selling. When developing sales plays, make sure you:

  • Develop a detailed playbook for each play that includes key steps for how to run the play, who the play should be run against, when it should be run, and the resources required to run it.
  • Leverage successful plays developed by  individual reps for your sales process. Many successful plays are part of “tribal knowledge” and rarely get shared past a small subset of reps.
  • Finally, train reps on these plays, using your strategic sales process as a backdrop for individual plays.

4. Provide sales enablement for each step in the process

Your sales process should also serve as the foundation for your sales enablement program. It can help you make better decisions in the following areas:

  • Content – You should develop content to move buyers through particular sales stages. For example, during the “buy in” stage, a buyer may need to get sign-off from IT, who may be concerned about the amount of implementation work required. In this case, marketing should create an implementation one sheet designed to assuage IT’s fears.
  • Training – Best in class companies train based on key activities that happen during each stage in the sales process. For example, on a first call, sales reps may give a demo. They should be trained and certified on that demo.
  • Technology – You can make better decisions and gain greater adoption with technology purchases by assessing what tools drive success for each stage in your process.

5. Manage and enforce the sales process

One of the key traits of companies that have a well-defined sales processe is that they are religious about tracking, reporting, and managing the process. To accomplish this, remember that:

  • Your sales process won’t become a reality without an effective CRM implementation and training on that CRM.
  • More generally, training is an often neglected part sales process adoption. New hire onboarding should include sales process training (not just CRM training) and the process should be revisited in quarterly trainings.
  • One on one meetings are an opportunity to consistently reinforce the sales process with sales reps. Use process terminology and force sales reps to use stages to describe where they are with a buyer.

6. Track key metrics across the sales process

You need to measure your sales process in order to determine whether it’s working or not. When it comes to metrics, the most important thing to do is track conversion rates across stages. The best in class companies we benchmarked are able to answer questions like “how many demos does it take to get a deal?”. These types of metrics allow an organization to identify and remove roadblocks in the sales process. Many organizations also track age by stage to see the amount of time buyers remain in a sales stage without moving. By tracking this metric, they are able to optimize elongated stages in the sales process and shorten sales cycles.

7. Continuously optimize your sales process

Once you have a process and are measuring it, you can focus on solving specific problem areas in the sales process. For example, when a sales person is struggling, you can look at where they are losing deals in the sales process and help them optimize that specific point. The analyst team at TOPO has shadowed too many one on one coaching sessions where the manager is not sure where to start and the sales person is unable to identify the exact problem. With a standard process and the ability to track this process, you will be able to find out where the real problem lies and make the right adjustments.

About the author: Craig Rosenberg is a co-founder and Chief Analyst at TOPO and blogger on the Funnelholic sales and marketing blog. To learn more about how TOPO helps the world’s fastest growing companies design their sales processes, contact us here.

  • many buying organizations have “buying processes” designed to commoditize and strip the value out of your offerings…….mirroring those processes might not be the smartest thing to do…..

  • Henry Decosta

    Looks to be a good strategy for sales process..

  • Dave Crocker

    Craig, This article is right on. It amazes me that there is so much focus on predictive analysis and so little focus on researched, solid, prescriptive processes for sale. You do a great job of describing good sales process management! A good sales process manager should do everything you describe here. Nice work!

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