Free Sales Guide

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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 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.
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The default sales process steps

Sales cycles may differ depending on the type of business and product you’re selling. A B2B sales process is nothing like the one used by B2C or retail organizations and the SaaS industry is in a league of its own due to a number of reasons (we’ll get to that).

However, there are certain default steps (typically 5-7 steps) most teams follow to some extent. For example, here’s a typical 6-step sales process for B2B:

  1. Generate – whether it’s through inbound marketing or outbound outreach.
  2. 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.
  3. Engage – presenting your offer, whether by showing them a pop-up with a product or conducting an in-person demo.
  4. Negotiate – handle objections and nurture the prospect into buying.
  5. Close – get the prospect to buy from you.
  6. Repeat business – upsell or generate referrals from your customers.

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 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 typically require more effort and negotiations and can take months to finalize the terms and actually convert.

How is SaaS sales process different?

As mentioned above, the SaaS sales process has several distinctive features compared to other businesses:

  • Freemium or free trial options (which make it easier to convert leads into the users, but harder to turn them into paying customers).
  • Flexible pricing options, depending on product type and business model.
  • Subscription-based model – as opposed to a one-time sale.

As a result, the SaaS sales process typically has a longer and more complex sales cycle and involves more touchpoints and decision-makers along the way. They are mostly consultative sales – they prioritize sales engagement and nurturing as a means of building a long-term relationship with the customer.

5 steps to build a sales process from scratch (plus templates)

If you’ve closed at least one deal, you should already have some understanding of what your sales process looks like. All you need to do now is finalize and document it into a replicable, hands-on manual for your team to follow.

Here’s the action plan to build your sales process from scratch:

  1. Analyze your current sales processes and their performance
    The best sales process isn’t the one that is enforced but the one that comes naturally and is built around the way your business works. To start, try to understand what your sales team is already doing and how effective it is.
  2. Map the buyer’s journey for every target persona
    At the same time, take a closer look at the typical path your prospects follow to become your customers and match it to the existing sales process you’ve outlined earlier. Having the two aligned is vital for building an effective sales process.
    Note: for every business, there are usually several customer personas that might have slightly different buyer journeys. This means you will need several sales processes to cover all the possible scenarios.
  3. Plan the activities for each process stage
    Once you’ve figured out your sales cycle, list all the activities that go along with each one of its stages. In addition to listing your current efforts, leave some room for experimentation, i.e. emerging sales methods or alternative engagement channels.
  4. Set goals for each step of the sales process
    To make your sales process predictable, establish consistent KPIs for each step, including the conditions for advancing the prospect to the next step. This will add clarity to your process and make sure all of your team members are working toward the same goal.
    Just make sure your goals are measurable and the KPIs are realistic.
  5. Allocate responsibilities within your team
    Closing a sale isn’t solely the sales team’s responsibility. At different stages of the process, there might be other departments involved, from marketing and sales development to customer support/success and account management.
    So make sure each involved party knows their role and works together with the others.

5 steps to build a sales process from scratch (plus templates)

If you’ve closed at least one deal, you should already have some understanding of what your sales process looks like. All you need to do now is finalize and document it into a replicable, hands-on manual for your team to follow.

Here’s the action plan to build your sales process from scratch:

  1. Analyze your current sales processes and their performance
    The best sales process isn’t the one that is enforced but the one that comes naturally and is built around the way your business works. To start, try to understand what your sales team is already doing and how effective it is.
  2. Map the buyer’s journey for every target persona
    At the same time, take a closer look at the typical path your prospects follow to become your customers and match it to the existing sales process you’ve outlined earlier. Having the two aligned is vital for building an effective sales process.
    Note: for every business, there are usually several customer personas that might have slightly different buyer journeys. This means you will need several sales processes to cover all the possible scenarios.
  3. Plan the activities for each process stage
    Once you’ve figured out your sales cycle, list all the activities that go along with each one of its stages. In addition to listing your current efforts, leave some room for experimentation, i.e. emerging sales methods or alternative engagement channels.
  4. Set goals for each step of the sales process
    To make your sales process predictable, establish consistent KPIs for each step, including the conditions for advancing the prospect to the next step. This will add clarity to your process and make sure all of your team members are working toward the same goal.
    Just make sure your goals are measurable and the KPIs are realistic.
  5. Allocate responsibilities within your team
    Closing a sale isn’t solely the sales team’s responsibility. At different stages of the process, there might be other departments involved, from marketing and sales development to customer support/success and account management.
    So make sure each involved party knows their role and works togeter with the others.