Designing an effective sales process for a complex B2B sale
Entrepreneurs have a fantastic passion for their products. This deep enthusiasm which they are able to convey is often the driving force behind their company’s first few key sales. A common complaint that then follows is that the initial sales people they hire are unable to close by themselves – the entrepreneur believes he/she has to remain involved in all opportunities. This is obviously not scalable and it highlights the vital importance of an effective and well-codified sales process.
What constitutes an effective sales process?
It should precisely reflect a customer’s buying process, for instance:
- Which individuals (influencers, decision makers and likely blockers) need to be met?
- What do they need to be presented with and what do they need to understand in order to give their approval?
- What is the optimal way to articulate and deliver this information?
- In which order do these individuals need to be approached and what is the best way to engage them?
An effective sales process provides answers to all these questions in the form of a ‘best-practice’ roadmap which is split into discrete and well defined stages, each with:
- A clear objective and unambiguous gateway (to the next stage)
- An information requirement (the key information which needs to be obtained to help you effectively progress)
- A ‘tool-box’ (e.g. FAQs, presentations, business case building structures, email templates) – i.e. codified best practice
How is it created?
A sales process can only be created through direct experience of engaging with your target market, and it is a process of continuous refinement. A different skill-set is needed by the sales-person involved in these initial pioneering sales. They need to continually gather insights around how customers use the product and how it can be most effectively positioned against alternative solutions, and then be able to incorporate these into a freshly re-iterated approach. It is vital to get this process well defined before ramping up a sales team – this is brilliantly explained in an HBR article ‘The Sales Learning Curve’.
- Effectiveness and scalability – by developing best-practice and codifying it, best-practice becomes repeatable (by other people)
- De-risking of the hiring process – all the different stages require different capabilities. Once these have been defined, the optimal individuals to execute upon them can be hired and managed
This role of sales-process creation is one of the key things we do for those of our clients at an early stage (i.e. where the CEO is often the sole sales-person). By clearly designing and segmenting the sales process we make their time go much further – we can execute a large percentage of it, and only involve them at stages where their capabilities are required. Also, by taking menial tasks off their hands (e.g. sending agendas, booking in calls) they are able to be positioned much more powerfully with the prospect.