Every startup wants to get bigger and better, but if your sales process isn’t optimized for conversions, growth, or repeatable business, you’re never going to grow.
Research shows that a structured sales process is a key differentiator of high-performing businesses. However, knowing how to implement and improve a start-up sales process isn’t everyone’s expertise.
In this blog, we’ll cover some of the fundamentals of start-up sales processes, including what yours should look like and actionable tips for perfecting each and every stage.
Definition: What is a sales process?
A sales process is a set of repeatable steps used to turn a lead into a customer, similar to a road map. The specific details of your sales process depend on the products and services you sell.
However, the main steps should look something like this:
- Prospecting – finding or attracting leads
- Qualifying – connecting with leads and gauging their relevance to your business
- Researching – learning more about leads and how you can help them
- Presenting – demonstrating your product or service
- Overcoming – counteracting any objections or concerns
- Closing – finalizing the sale
- Repeating – continuing to communicate and sell to the customer
When to focus on your sales process
What came first, the product or the sales process?
The best time to focus on sales is strongly influenced by what you’re selling and where you are in the start-up process. A start-up still building an MVP is hugely different from a start-up going for Series A funding with an established SaaS product.
However, as soon as that first sale is made, you’ve created a sales process – one that you should always be looking to improve.
The key components of an effective sales process
Before looking at the top tips for improving your start-up sales, let’s quickly cover the fundamentals of an effective sales process.
Your sales process should be:
- Customer-focused – aligned with your customers’ needs and motivators
- Defined – clearly set out for your sales team
- Repeatable – easy for your sales team to replicate
- Predictable – able to generate patterns of customer behavior
- Goal-driven – tailored for specific goals
- Measurable – monitored for results
- Flexible – responsive to changes in the market
If it’s not all of the above, you could be restricting your results.
Tips to improve your sales process
Now let’s get into the good stuff; how to improve your sales process. There are many tips and tricks out there, but these seven steps will get you on the right path to boosting your sales success.
1. Define the right KPIs
Sales process KPIs should tell you how well your sales process is performing overall and at each and every step. This means that you need to measure more than simply your conversion rate.
Common sales process KPIs include:
- Number of meetings (per account manager)
- Emails sent to contacts
- Number of replies from leads
- How long leads stay in each stage of your sales funnel
- Signups that interacted with sales
Don’t forget to supplement these with KPIs more specific to your individual process. For example, the percentage of leads who convert after a demo.
2. Analyze your current results
Use these KPIs to analyze your current process and identify any weak points where leads are lost or taking longer than they should to move onto the next stage.
One way to do this is by taking a selection of leads from the past few months, and analyzing the entire sales process, asking questions such as:
- What stage did leads spend the longest in?
- What action closed the deal?
- What action had the most churn after?
- How many touchpoints were there?
Use this information to identify positive and negative trends that can be used to tweak the process.
3. Redefine your buyer persona
As your start-up grows and finds product-market-fit, it’s fundamental to ensure you’re selling to the right audience.
Keep your buyer persona relevant and updated by identifying your current target customer and researching information on demographics, career, goals, problems, buying process, and decision criteria. The more you know about this person, the easier it is for your sales team to make a connection with them.
4. Map your customer journey
Use your refreshed buyer persona to map their journey as a customer, from awareness and engagement through to consideration and conversion.
This will allow you to understand the sales route from their perspective and to build a process that works in harmony with their journey, creating touchpoints and giving space where needed.
5. Identify “the action”
At each step of the sales process, there will be a specific event that moves leads onto the next stage. Whether that’s a demo, a customer testimonial, or overcoming a certain pain point – every stage will have that magic “action.”
Facebook discovered that if a new user invited 7 friends in 10 days, they were more likely to stay on the platform. Although it’s tricky to declare an end-all “aha” moment, your sales process should reveal insights that show you where to invest more time into (and what to cut).
Use your KPIs, buyer persona, and customer journey to identify “the action” of each stage, and then cement it into your sales process and give your reps the tools necessary to complete and enhance it.
Tip: Ask your leads. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone why they called in, scheduled a demo, or purchased your product. You can even speak to lost leads to find out why they didn’t convert.
6. Automate repetitive tasks
The average salesperson spends 21% of their time writing emails, 17% entering data, 17% prospecting and researching leads, 12% going to internal meetings, and 12% scheduling calls.
One of the quickest ways to improve your sales process is by automating repetitive tasks so that your sales reps have more time to sell.
This can be achieved by:
- Creating email templates and voicemail scripts.
- Using a CRM system to record leads, track prospects, and schedule calls.
- Using an online calendar tool to create appointments and book demos.
7. Document it
For a sales process to bring in repeated success, you must document the magic steps. Create, share, and teach your sales process, covering the main steps and the details within those steps.
- The information required before contacting a lead
- When to make contact and what to say
- Automated email campaigns used
- What content the rep can use
- How to overcome common pain points
While your sales process should never be so prescriptive is restricts creative freedom and natural skills, it should provide enough information to guide your sales team in the right direction.
Finally, don’t forget to experiment. The best part of growing a start-up is finding out what works for your business and customers. Experiment with different sales processes and techniques until you find the sweet spot, and reap the benefits with repeatable success.