A sales process is a series of stages and associated actions that a salesperson executes to convert a lead (prospect) to close a deal (customer). It is a structured set of repeatable steps guiding the salespersons through every step of the sales process, helping them with the following tasks, ensuring that they engage with prospects effectively, addressing their specific requirements, and increasing the chances of converting them into paying customers.
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Sales teams across industries build unique sales processes depending on the business model and deliver the desired customer experience. Though, most sales processes can be defined into a framework of a standard set of stages as highlighted below:
Prospecting: Prospecting is the first step of the sales process, where sales representatives identify a set of potential leads basis the ideal customer profile that they believe are most likely to buy their product or service. The key steps involved here are researching the market, identifying a potential pool of prospective customers, and generating leads through cold calling, inbound marketing, and other lead-generation approaches.
Contact: At this stage, sales reps try to establish contact with the prospects via discovery calls or requirement-gathering sessions to identify the customer's needs. Additionally, reps try to understand the key pain points, estimated budget, closing timelines, etc.
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Qualification: After gathering sufficient information about the lead, the reps attempt to evaluate the qualify the lead depending on the requirement, the fit with their offering, budget, decision-making process, and interest level of the prospect. Qualification is a critical step in the process and goes a long way in building a healthy sales pipeline and minimizing leakages.
Presentation & Demo: Once a lead has been qualified and converted into an opportunity, more internal resources like account executives are tagged to the opportunity. Here, a detailed discussion around the needs, budget, timeline, decision-maker list, and other clarifications are made. Most teams try to take the qualified prospect through a demo and presentation at this stage. Modern teams identify demo sessions as an essential stage to wow the customer and establish their value proposition strongly.
Proposal: Once the presentation, demo, and discussions have been completed and all requirement-related details captured, the sales teams prepare a proposal for the opportunity. Key elements of the proposal include an Overall summary, commercials, and pricing details, solution details, Terms and conditions, resources, and a timeline outline. A proposal tailored to the core requirements and preferences of the potential customer will significantly increase the chances of success. Sales teams must pay attention to their needs and can reproduce the requirement effectively.
Negotiation: This is generally the penultimate stage of the sales journey. Once a sales proposal is shared with the prospect, this stage involves discussions, and clarifications on terms, commercials, expected value, and other aspects of the purchase. Both buyer and sellers go through a series of back-and-forth discussions and some concessions and compromise is expected from both sides to arrive at a mutually beneficial deal.
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Closing: Post negotiations, once the customer confirms the deal, closing although considered only a formality, is a very critical stage. In this stage legal paperwork, contract signing, appropriate approvals across teams, solution delivery, and leadership engagement are core elements. Different buyers may have their own due process and approval chain to get the deal off the ground., Thereby, sales leaders must keep the team focused on their job and not take drop the ball at this stage. Numerous instances of deals getting stuck and stuck post-confirmation to happen are common.
The sales process design is an extremely essential phase for all sales teams as it helps them chart out clear stages in their unique process. Helping them scale with ease while being productive and delivering high growth. All these are the primary objectives to make any business successful. Teams often take the liberty to design their processes suited to their own needs. Some popular frameworks have 6-9 stages in the sales process.
While following a definite sales process is indispensable for large and enterprise businesses, small to medium-sized companies can reap immense benefits by adopting a sales process. With limited resources to work, managing a sales pipeline helps small businesses plug leakages, identify stuck deals, convert leads into deals, and keep closing them seamlessly.