How to Document Your Sales Process

document your sales processYesterday, Jim wrote about how a documented sales process can help you grow your revenue. Today I’m going to help with the next step – 8 steps to document your sales process.

1. List your channels. For example, if you sell directly to end-users and through a group of resellers, you have two channels, each with its own unique process.

2. Define the buying process. Many companies list the steps that they go through as they sell to a customer — initial qualification, first meeting, second meeting, proposal, contract.

However, a better way is to think about the stages a buyer goes through as they decide whether to engage with your company. When you put yourself in the buyer’s shoes, it’s easier to figure out what information you’ll need to deliver to help them move forward and make decisions more effectively and quickly.

Pretend you’re the buyer.

  • When do you recognize that you need help with a particular problem? [This is the first step in the buyer’s process.]
  • What will you do to find potential solutions? List all of the steps you’ll take as you research solutions, find potential vendors/providers, start discussions, narrow your choices, etc., all the way until you negotiate/execute a contract and become a customer.

Put each of these steps into the first column of your sales process spreadsheet.

3. Fill in the supporting details. Here’s the really valuable detail. Keep pretending your buyer and look at the process you’ve created. Start at the first step and answer these questions:

  • How will you decide which solutions/vendors warrant further effort?
  • What information (data, knowledge, relationships, etc.) will you need in order to make your decision?
  • Who else from your company will be involved in the decision? What are their roles and what information will they need to support/drive the process forward?
  • How long will it take you to make this decision?

Add this information to your spreadsheet, then repeat for each step in the process. You now have a comprehensive process that shows how a buyer will prefer to buy and what that buyer will need.

4. Validate your assumptions. Your process spreadsheet is a terrific place to start. You can further strengthen it by gathering feedback from current customers, prospects, and/or your sales team. Refine as you go.

5. Identify what you can do at each step to help the prospect move forward based on THEIR needs, not just yours.

  • At each step that the prospect takes, what literature, tools, or information can you provide to meet the customer’s need at this step?
  • Who from your company should be involved at each step?
  • Do you have any ideas for decreasing the time that a prospect will spend at each step?

Now you have a list of your sales tools & literature and when it should be delivered most effectively.

6. Decide how you’ll measure progress. This analysis helps you create your reporting requirements.

  • At each step, how will you know whether the prospect has moved to the next?
  • What tracking mechanisms or processes will you need to identify which step the prospect has reached?

Your CRM system can then be configured to help you generate these reports.

7. Finally, estimate your conversion rates.

  • At step #1, what % of those people will move to the next step with your company?
  • At step #2, what % of those people will move to the next with you?
  • Etc. When you reach the “become a customer” step, you won’t enter a conversion rate – they’re already at the end of the initial sales process.

When you’ve estimated each step individually, multiply all the conversion rates together. The result is your cumulative conversion rate – the % of people who start the process and then become a customer.

8. Use your process to track your progress, identify bottlenecks, and project revenue from your campaigns. As our previous post explained, this process is incredibly valuable in all areas of your business. Here are a few ways you can use it:

  • Estimate the number of customers and revenue a particular campaign should generate. After all, if you know how many leads should become customers, you can backtrack and figure out how many leads you’ll need to hit a certain goal.
  • Improve the timing of your sales & marketing programs. For example, now you know how long a typical lead should spend in your funnel. That way you can launch new campaigns and know how long it will take to close those deals.
  • Identify bottlenecks. Are leads getting stuck at one stage? What can you do to improve? Maybe you need better messages/offers/information at that stage. Or maybe you need to train your reps in a particular area. Or perhaps leads are falling through the cracks!

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