An optimized Sales Process is fundamental to creating a predictable revenue stream. Regardless of whether an organization is experiencing high-growth or pressure exists in meeting payroll, a predictable, sustained revenue stream enables an organization to execute its go-to-market plan and focus on operational excellence.
An optimized Sales Process facilitates scaling the organization — a critical component for acquiring customers and penetrating markets successfully. Because time-to-market and time–to-execution are critical success factors, a Sales Process that can scale is paramount. This is because a scalable Sales Process allows an organization to capitalize on its investments. Specifically, knowing the economic formula for expanding the sales model and realizing the results along a predefined timeline is a huge competitive advantage – and one that few companies enjoy.
There is no single one-size-fits-all Sales Process that fits every sales organization in every industry at every stage of growth. However, many best-in-class process commonalities exist. It’s important that fundamental questions be asked and answered so that the idiosyncrasies of the specific organization are incorporated into the Sales Process. Specifically, understanding the market and internal dynamics is essential to arrive at the best decision for one’s company.
While the outcome (Sales Process) will be different for every organization, below is an example of a Sales Process that can be leveraged and modified for an organization to achieve go-to-market success.
An Optimized Sales Process – Components
Developing a successful Sales Process consists of the following steps: Initiate Strategy, Plan, Confirm the Sales Strategy, Initiate the Meeting, Refine Strategy, Differentiate, Prove Value and Close Deal
Optimized Sales Process – Initiate Strategy
The first step in a sales process is to either initiate a sales strategy when prospecting or develop a strategic account plan for an existing customer. Steps to use when prospecting should include:
- Research and become familiar with the company
- Identify any partners/agencies/consultants that do or will influence the company in a purchase
- Perform a social media audit – determine the company contacts’ time in role, his/her connections, likes, favorites, who he/she follows, etc.
- Review the sales force automation system for any past contact with the company
- Profile the prospective company and validate the degree to which they fit the target account profile
- Review existing digital assets, events and promotions that relate to the company’s use case
- Locate and collaborate with other internal staff with possible useful insight about the contact, company, competitors or industry
- Begin documenting the company’s organization chart (and political organization chart) and think about people/roles one will want to meet as the deal progresses
Optimized Sales Process – Plan
The next step is to formulate the Plan.
- Initiate and review the value drivers for the personas at the targeted company
- Set up a meeting
- Set the agenda for the meeting plus determine the actual attendees and the corresponding roles that they need to play
- Determine the relevant plays for each meeting
- Create topical, industry, internal or competitor trigger questions that will enable one to engage at each meeting
- Define the minimum acceptable outcome for each meeting
- Plan ways to cement and enhance one’s personal and organization’s credibility with the prospect
- Plan and prepare for the meetings by noting desired outcomes, roles, responsibilities and tools that will be used before during and after the meeting
- Establish the next step(s), who will be responsible and a completion date
Optimized Sales Process – Sales Strategy, Meeting
It should go without saying to make sure sales management is onboard with the strategy.
- Validate the sales strategy with the Sales Leader
- Perform a dry-run of the sales strategy internally
- Confirm the meeting (attendees, roles, expectations and meeting duration) with the customer
- Initiate the meeting –incorporate insight-led conversations to understand the customer and open their eyes to opportunities they had not imagined – but can emphatically embrace
Optimized Sales Process – Refine Strategy
Based upon the initial meeting outcome, it will be important to refine the sales strategy.
- Set subsequent meetings with agendas, required attendees, objectives, roles and minimum acceptable outcomes
- Develop presentations focused on the use case, value drivers, differentiation and insights
- Dialogue in the customer’s, industry and use case language
- Enhance credibility at every opportunity as long as it is in-context and on-topic
- Create meaningful, insightful, multi-function and multi-level dialogue
- Stimulate, enhance and document insights and understanding
- Promote and establish unique, comparative and holistic differentiation
- Gain referrals and access to individuals in the targeted groups as well as other individuals that can either assist in moving the deal along or facilitate new business
- Run the agreed upon sales play based upon the business problem definition, run the appropriate lines of questioning and take action across the customer buying group. This creates and or enhances one’s understanding and/or establishes the:
- Compelling event
- ROI or TCO expectations
- Decision making process
- Understand the relationships needed between one’s organization and the customer as well as who will manage the relationship
- Understand what a personal and business win is across the buying group, why it is important and to whom it is most important
- Know and understand the competition
- Know whether the competitive product is already in use
- Familiarize oneself with the customer’s key buying criteria – i.e. how they made a similar purchase in the past
- Understand the steps in the purchase and procurement processes
- Be sure of who authored the business case
- Know with certainty the final contract signatory
- Know with certainty the legal contact
- Map key personnel to one’s organization’s management and facilitate potential meetings as needed
- Prepare the internal team for a formal presentation of the value drivers, differentiation, timeline & pricing
- Coach the customer for a final presentation of the value drivers and expected outcome of the presentation
- Coach the customer on who should attend the final presentation
- Monitor red flags as they arise and share with one’s Sales Manager for input on how best to close the gap
Optimized Sales Process – Differentiate, Value Drivers
- Shape the opportunity and eliminate any red flags to a buy decision
- Refine strategy and initial findings by addressing the following questions:
- Has further competition been uncovered? How is it perceived?
- Is the process moving along the documented timeline?
- Is the customer’s sense of urgency heightened?
- Has the business impact from NOT buying or missing the timeline been identified?
- Orchestrate proving value to the customer in the most appropriate manner:
- Add political aspects to the prospect’s organization chart
- Ensure all bases are fully covered and whether anyone is missing
- Quantify the degree of influence that each individual possesses and how this can be determined
- Research any further contacts that need to be made
- Use LinkedIn, internal referrals and partner relationships
- Make sure the personal and business wins of the whole buying group are understood – i.e. “What’s in it for each of them?”
- Ask whether everyone is on one’s side. Who is the sniper in the account? Who has reservations? How best to manage the negative players?
- Challenge the Champion to agree and help solve issues
- Coordinate and maintain a comfortable level of dialog (email/calls/meetings/entertainment) with the entire buying group and use various internal executives at the right time with the right person
- With one’s Sales Leader, review the strategy and how to eliminate any red flags
- Continue to assess value with Sales Process:
- Refer to and ‘harden’ the Value Proposition throughout – link value drivers and differentiators
- Highlight the financial impact if the prospective customer does not make a decision or delays a decision
- Continue to identify the ‘kill-zone’ (defensible differentiation against competitors, do-it-yourself and no action)
- Seek to further quantify a positive outcome to making a purchase decision by asking the customer “How would you measure that success?”
- Be sure to understand how the customer measures ROI and TCO
- Get customer agreement that Proof of Value (if needed) is the prelude to submission of a final proposal
Optimized Sales Process – Prove Value
- Run Proof of Value (POV) in accordance with POV process
- Be specific about POV acceptance criteria from the buying group
- Follow a managed, repeatable POV process
- Eliminate any weaknesses and cover any red flags uncovered in the POV process
- Understand what you and the customer learned from the POV phase
- Know whether there are any new gaps and if things don’t go to plan, get on track and demonstrate one’s ability to handle mishaps
- Determine whether there is an increase in scope during the POV. If so, agree internally and then externally the strategy (extend / limit / defer)
- Remember that the Sales and Pre-sales teams must collaborate throughout the process
- Make sure everyone is 100% ready to present the POV findings
- Review whether it’s necessary to update / harden the Value Assessment / ROI to reflect the outcome of the POV
- Prepare a formal presentation of the “presentation of POV findings” meeting, set agenda, speakers, slides, takeaways and evidence for the customer:
- Determine the best possible win-win outcome for this meeting
- Set a date for the “presentation of POV findings” meeting
- Coach the customer for the “presentation of POV findings” meeting and expected outcome of this presentation
- Coach the customer on the expected attendees for the “presentation of POV findings” meeting and include all relevant people
- If appropriate, pre-close the customer at the end of the “presentation of POV findings” meeting
- Recap the history of the engagement
- Determine whether anything happened to the customers’ business between the end of the POV stage and this meeting that might alter the situation
- Pre-close the deal prior to the formal proposal
- Ask if they are ready to receive the formal and final documented proposal and agree on a follow-up date for a meeting to discuss it face-face
Sales Process – Close Deal
- Customer gives verbal agreement to proceed
- Finalize proposal and present as needed – face to face
- Deliver Master Sales Agreement (MSA) and Order Form
- Review the process and be sure that you:
- Listened to the customer, asked intelligent questions, provided insights into customer’s business, facilitated customer thinking differently about their business and built the case for a strategic project
- Qualified, quantified and documented definition of their problem and desired state
- Linked their problem to value drivers and defensible differentiators
- Built multi-level/multi-function rapport across their buying group
- Established personal and organizational credibility with the customer
- Positively responded to objections, queries and doubts
- Re-positioned, diffused and or eliminated any competition
- Demonstrated and proved the value and demonstrated the results of implementing one’s solution
- Agreed on timeline and budget expectations that directly relate to the POV and understanding of the procurement/contract process:
- Prepared for contract negotiation delays
- Used Champion for check points
Optimized Sales Process – Final Thoughts
Research continues to show that sales teams with an optimized, managed and repeatable Sales Process consistently outperform those that don’t. That being said, not all sales processes are created equal — just because a Sales Process exists does not guarantee that an organization will be successful. In fact, ill-conceived Sales Processes can actually be detrimental to an organization.
An optimized Sales Process should not only be focused on closing deals. It should be focused on defining a process that empowers an organization to engage with a prospect while efficiently and effectively advancing the prospect through the sales process to become a customer.
By engaging in insight-led customer conversations with prospects and by offering solutions that provide economic value and unique differentiation, an organization can define and execute a Sales Process that will increase the probability of successfully executing it’s go-to-market plan.