How to write your startup’s sales process

What is it and why is it important?

A sales process is a series of predictable events or phases you need do to turn prospects into paying customers. Having a process helps you avoid time-wasting activities, while replicating and scaling activities that get the results you want.

There is no one size fits all sales process; your process should be tuned to how your customers buy.

How your buyers buy

First you need to understand how your customers buy, and you can begin to get an understanding by asking yourself: why do they buy, when do they buy, how do they buy, who’s involved in the decision making process? If you don’t know the answers, you’ll learn them as you go along, so don’t beat yourself up too much. If you’re selling a new product where the prospects don’t know the buying process, identify stakeholders who would benefit directly and indirectly, and start with them.

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Example of a customer’s buying process:

Define sales activities that match your customer’s buying stages

If you’ve already got a number of paying customers, look back and examine the steps you took to turn them into a sale. If you don’t yet have paying customers, identify what sales activities you need to do during each stage of your customer’s buying process to help you progress towards a sale. Here are common steps to a sales process.

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Prospect

Prospecting is when you search for prospective qualified customers. There are range of lead generation strategies you can use, inbound activities include: SEO, blogging, PR, advertising, social media. Outbound activities include: networking, speaking, cold calling and emailing. Be sure to use a range of in and outbound tactics as they all vary in effectiveness.

Qualify

Qualifying your prospects help you focus on the right sort of prospects, and doing so avoids you wasting your precious time. Before pitching, ensure your prospect fit your customer profile: can you solve their problems? Can you help them achieve their objectives? If the answer to both is no, move on to the next one.

Discover

“Seek first to understand before being understood”, a powerful quote by one of the world’s leadership authorities, Stephen Covey. This dictum is the essence of successful selling. Before launching into your pitch, ask questions to understand what are your prospect’s challenges and objectives. Doing so helps you understand what your prospects value and how you can help them.

Advise

Now that you know what your prospect needs, advise how you can help them in a tailored manner that resonates with them. If you’re selling an innovative product, your “presentation” might begin with education and insight, rather than launching into a product demonstration. When you eventually talk about your product, focus on benefits that relate to their specific challenges. Following your presentation, you send a proposal

Close

This is where you ask for the business and handle any objections they might have. It’s where the customer says yes or no. For some timeless closing techniques to help close the deal, go here. [link to closing techniques blog post].

Work in progress

During each step in the process, you need to identify concrete actions you or your team take in order to progress the sale. Your sales process will always be a work in progress. Every 3 – 4 months it’s advisable to review it, see what’s worked and where it could be improved.

Anis Qizilbash is founder of Mindful Sales Training and author of Grow Your Sales, Do What You Love: Mindful Selling for Entrepreneurs and Freelancers. Sign-up here to receive her free 10-day mindful selling email course.