Link customer buying process with your sales process
The knowledge of customers' purchase process will help you to understand how they buy and what kind of steps they take to end up buying. When a company´s way to sell is adapted to purchase process, it ensures attention to the activities that customers deem valuable. For company salespeople, this provides a solid backrest to focus on the essentials that advance sales at all stages of the purchasing process. If, on the other hand, company sales are driven by the factors not related to customers, sales resources are not allocated in an optimal way and the focus is on the wrong things.
Define sales process stages
Definition of sales process stages creates a common language for the sales team. If this common language is missing, the results may be good in individual cases, but in the longer term execution is not satisfactory. And when it is time to grow sales muscles, a well-defined process effectively transfers sales know-how to new persons and thus brings more results more quickly.
Criteria for the transition between the stages are the glue which makes the sales process ticking. The criteria must be based on customer behaviour. This ensures that customers will move a sale forward, instead of seller's pre-defined plans, hopes or dreams sitting on the driver´s bench. The seller's task is, of course, to affect customers so that they are continually advancing in their purchase process.
Define buyer personas
By identifying and defining key buyer personas that have major influence during the purchase process, a concrete direction for sales tool development is created. All personas have their own objectives, needs, desires and fears. On the basis of describing buyer personas, a successful business can focus on exactly the right measures that will increase customer confidence and remove the uncertainties. To secure that the sales process is advancing smoothly, the definition of personas needs to be made for each stage of the process.
Specify major customer interactions
In almost all successful customer cases - and also in less successful ones - it is retrospectively easy to identify those interactions that substantially contributed to the final result. When an effective sales process is in place, this is done in advance. By developing well-defined patterns to respond to customer interactions that are either advancing or stalling opportunities, sales persons will have a more professional approach and also sales cycles will become shorter.
Harness all customer interface functions
In a modern organisation, sales, marketing and other customer-facing teams work seamlessly together to provide value to customers. Thus the sales process can not be separated from other customer-related processes. Shared objectives will guide team operations, supported by coordinating processes, practises and tools to achieve the objectives.
Typically, demand generation activities made by marketing people produce qualified leads that sales persons start to work with. When a deal is done, various other functions - depending on the type of business - will be involved in fulfilling the customer promise. And after this, the round starts again to retain the customer, make upselling and cross-selling, etc. If sales just sub-optimises its own operations, it also builds barriers to its long-term success.
Make sales process an everyday tool
If a sales process is merely a forgotten document in a file, it does not bring any results. The most important thing is to make the process a part of everyday way-of-working. This is easiest to achieve by embedding it into the customer relationship management system; the system of course, can be of any kind, implemented through modern service or through excel tables. Thus, for example, sales pipeline management as well as planning and forecasting activities are done as part of the sales process. This will force everybody involved in sales to adopt the process quickly.
Focus on tools that bring value to customer interactions
It is easy to find and develop new sales tools or methods that claim to enhance operational quality and results. However, you should be careful with this. Sellers' time is very limited. By far the most important criterion - and often the only one - is how well a new tool or method can assist sales persons to work more productively with clients. It is too often that new things only increase paper work and other routines, thus taking time from customer value-adding activities.
By rapidly introducing right tools and methods, it is possible to create competitive advantages for the company, so even on this front you should do active development work. If a new tool or method that really improves customer operations is identified, it is vital that sales persons actively start to use it.
Measure adherence to sales process
Measuring adherence to sales process is a good way to ensure that results are achieved. In addition to measuring the development of sales pipeline, e.g. forecast accuracy, completion of key interactions in each stage of the sales process or use of sales tools are worth regular follow-up. The principle of using metrics also paves way to process, way-of-working, team and individual development.
Coach sales persons
Managers have a crucial role to play to secure sales process adoption. If managers do not show an example how the process generates excellent results, it will be considered only a top management gimmick with no value. Also, the acceleration of best practices sharing is an integral part of managers´ coaching role.
Continuously develop your sales process
When the world changes around us, also purchasing processes change. If we are not able to further develop our sales process and the way we respond to changes, we shall find ourselves using a typewriter in the age of the Internet. This has a devastating impact on the ability of our salespersons to successfully fight against competitors. Therefore, continuous development to respond change and learnings of current process weaknesses is the key to good future sales results.
Now is the right time to start sales development activities. If you know what to do, try to achieve first wins as quickly as possible. On the other hand, if you are unsure of your business performance and of where to start, a quick test on this page will help you to evaluate the health of your sales process and to prioritise your development efforts.