Approaching sales without an effective sales process is like trying to play a game of chess without knowing the rules. If you’re going up against someone who even sort of knows how to play, you’re going to lose.
SaaS technology and service offerings are always changing. To remain competitive, sales departments need to operate using clear procedures that produce consistent results.
This is where your sales process — a standardized process for sales reps to follow to sell your product — comes into play. Your sales process is the gear system that keeps your sales machine turning. The main outcome of a good sales process is revenue, the fuel that keeps your business chugging along.
That said, even if you already know how important a sales process is for the success of your company, you may not know how to create one that actually works.
We’ll save you the trouble of putting yourself in checkmate a thousand times until you figure out the right process. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to start developing a unique sales process for your company. We’ll even give you a few tips to help your team adopt the new process with success and start reaching the revenue targets you really want.
Before you start developing your sales process, you will want to do a bit of research and think through some important aspects of your business. Assuming you have a sales plan, some of this material may already be available within your department. If not, you will need to spend some time developing these key resources.
Your sales methodology is your philosophy of sales. It’s the main driver of your sales process. If the sales process determines what to do, a methodology determines how to go about doing it.
Your sales methodology should be an extension of your company’s culture, mission and values. How you approach each part of the sales cycle depends partly on how you work as an organization and how you plan to speak to your target market.
There are a number of different models for sales methodologies out there to choose from, including:
While all of these models have some merit to them, designing your own sales methodology can help tailor your approach to the needs of your company.
At Prehired, our sales methodology is Science-Based Sales®. It’s also the name of our proprietary sales training curriculum built from hours of research and interviews with the top sales professionals in the SaaS industry. It focuses on building a relationship of trust with the prospect and making the value proposition as clear as possible.
Ideally, you want to use past data to design a successful sales process.
If you already have a sales team, you can start this analysis by looking at what your top performers are already doing. If you ask them, they probably don’t have a clear step-by-step process they could describe. But if you watch them do their job, you will likely find them repeating the same process for each call. You can break that down into simple steps and analyze the effects to design your own process.
You can then look at past performance data and spot the patterns. Look at the statistics of what works for your department and what doesn’t. This will depend on the average length of your sales cycle and how much work it normally takes to close a deal toward specific objectives.
If you’re a startup founder and you don’t have a sales team just yet, you are probably following a process yourself without even knowing it. That’s perfect — you are in a unique position. You know how to sell your product better than anyone else, and you can use insight from reflecting on your own performance to develop a process that is unique to your business. You can also look at what other successful companies are doing in your niche and refine those models based on your own sales data.
Customers don’t want your product — they want the value your product can give them. The main job of any salesperson is to help the prospect see the value of your product as it relates to their unique situation. To do that, you have to define your unique value proposition (the thing that makes your product or service the best choice among competitors).
Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
Answering these questions will help you develop a compelling and authentic value proposition that converts more prospects into customers.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have sales. If you don’t have sales, you don’t have money. Because of this, your sales process should be designed to sell directly to your ideal customers. Consider how they think, what they want to know and most of all — how to get them to trust you.
You can better understand your customers (and qualify them) by creating ideal customer personas. These are detailed profiles of people who are best fit to use (and benefit from) your product or service.
These personas should feature both demographic and psychographic information. For instance, you might describe an ideal customer as a mid-career marketing director at a large e-commerce company.
That’s good demographic information for the early stages of qualifying leads, but you also want to have psychographic information that describes that person’s desires, ideologies, challenges, fears, etc.. This information helps your reps empathize with prospects during a sales call and meet them where they are. Knowing everything about the product is great, but empathy and trust are most effective at closing deals in the end.
The first goal of your sales process is to build a repeatable workflow that your sales reps can execute without rethinking their approach each time.
The second goal is to build a sales pipeline. You don’t want to simply close deals individually (i.e. one after another). Instead, you want to have a steady stream of potential deal value in the pipeline at all times. To do this, your reps will need to evenly focus at each stage of the customer journey to keep revenue flowing smoothly.
While every sales process is bound to be different, most successful SaaS companies follow a basic 5-stage framework: Research > Making Contact > Discovery/Demos > Closing > Continued Support.
Let’s look at each stage in detail to see how they can apply to your sales operation.
Before a deal even exists, your sales reps need people to sell to. To find those people, your reps need to research potential customers. While this is the first step in the sales process, it’s also typically part of a sales rep’s daily workflow.
Good research involves a lot of digging and reading. The goal is to generate a list of potential customers and learn as much about them and their company as possible.
There are a number of ways to generate more leads. Social media platforms like LinkedIn and industry-related events (such as trade shows) are great ways to meet potential customers. But manually searching for leads and contact information takes up a lot of time. For a sales rep to operate at top efficiency, most use lead generation software like Zendesk Sell, Pipedrive or LeadFuze. These platforms use AI to automatically gather key occupational and contact information for potential customers based on custom criteria.
Instead of spending hours on social media just to find a phone number or email address, lead generation software accelerates the process by compiling a list of leads for reps to start calling right away.
Whichever method you use to generate leads, be sure to describe the process to your reps so they can follow those best practices.
Once a sales rep has a list of leads, it’s time to narrow them down with a basic round of qualification. Ideal customer personas are essential here. Start with demographic information, then try to narrow down the list by company size, occupation and other qualifying traits. Create criteria for this so that reps can easily sort through leads that don’t fit and those that do. Most of the time, the goal is to get as close to the key decision maker as possible.
Once finished, your reps should have a list of qualified prospects they can start contacting. The amount of prospects your reps need on this list depends on your sales data and statistical performance analysis. On average, what percentage of the original prospect list usually books a meeting? What percentage actually closes? You want your reps to start with enough prospects to (statistically) end up with the target number of closed deals at the end of the sales cycle.
Once your reps have a list of prospects, it’s time to start contacting them to set up meetings and qualify them further.
The trouble with this stage is the low connection rate. During the early stages, it can be difficult to get prospects to answer the phone at all. As a result, sales reps may spend a lot of time making calls before they reach anyone. Be sure to think through this aspect of the sales process and determine best practices for opening the conversation. If you can get a prospect to listen, you can often get them to book a meeting.
The first step in this stage is to reach out to the prospect. Much of the time, this means cold calling. But other times, it may be more appropriate to reach out via email or social media to schedule a call.
To optimize this first point of contact, try creating call and email scripts for reps to follow. Keep in mind: this stage’s goal is not to give a full-blown sales pitch. Most businesspeople don’t have the time to be sold something out of the blue. Instead, the goal is to book another meeting where your reps can have a deeper conversation about the subject.
Qualification is something that happens throughout the entire sales process. That said, you can do some initial qualification during the first contact.
The key question to ask is, “Does this seem like something you’re interested in?” If the prospect is willing to talk a little bit more about their current needs and challenges, encourage reps to listen rather than give a hard pitch. In this stage, your reps should try to learn as much as they can about the prospect in a short time.
From here, there are two primary ways to qualify leads:
Be sure to create clear guidelines for either method so your reps can determine whether a prospect is truly qualified for the product or not.
The next step in the sales process is to have your reps set up a discovery call and present the product as a solution via demos. This stage is the real meat of the sales process, so pay careful attention to how you define this part of the process.
The best tactic a salesperson can use is listening. If your sales reps know how to ask the right questions, they can gain valuable insight from the conversation. Then, they can use that to present the product as the best solution to the prospect’s unique challenges.
This is the point of a discovery call. In your sales process, develop a system of questions or scripts that uncover the prospect’s pain points, needs and challenges in their industry. As the conversation allows, your reps will have ample opportunity to showcase distinct product features that benefit the prospect.
Once your reps are certain that a prospect is a good fit, the next stage is to give a demonstration. This is where your sales reps will show how the solution works in context with the prospect’s needs. Most of the time reps will share their screen on Zoom and do a walk-through of the product, but it’s best to make these demos as interactive and personalized as possible.
As part of your sales process, you may need to work with a sales engineer or technical specialist to create demo sequences and unique customizations for certain prospects.
Sometimes, a demo alone will be enough to close a deal. If so, that’s great. But more often than not, prospects want to think about their options before making a commitment. That’s okay, too. In fact, 80% of deals require at least 5 follow-ups before closing.
Plan for a gap between the discovery/demo phase and the closing phase, but don’t let go of the deal. It’s best to design a specific cadence for follow-ups in your sales process, so your reps know automatically when to send an email or make another call. This serves to remind the prospect of the relationship and keep your product front of mind.
The goal of any sale is to turn a stranger into a long-term customer. Closing is when the prospect makes an official buying decision and becomes part of your company’s customer base. While this is the final stage of the sales process for your SDR and AE teams, it's important (just like when throwing a baseball) to follow through.
In your sales process, define how this part of your sales process should go and how to successfully transition the customer to the next team.
At Prehired, the core of our sales methodology is Clarity > Closing®. While old-school sales methods use high pressure tactics and coercion to close deals, we believe there’s a much more natural (and more effective) way to do things.
Rather than cornering the prospect into a contract, we focus our efforts on making the value proposition as clear as possible. This may seem counterintuitive to some, but in our experience, reps who practice Clarity > Closing® have better relationships with their prospects and close more deals in the end.
We teach our members to form a relationship of trust with the prospect. Their goal is to demonstrate the solution in a way that is uniquely tailored to the prospect’s situation. By doing this, you position your sales reps to act as a guide for the prospect as they move along the buyer’s journey. If done right, the close is a natural result of that relationship of trust.
While closing a deal should be very smooth and natural, you still need to send your customers a formal offer to review the details of the sale. This is why it’s best to build a formal proposal sequence into your sales process.
A formal proposal briefly describes all the details of the deal, including the complete service agreement, pricing adjustments, discounts and unique customizations. It can take a long time to create high-quality proposals from scratch, so it’s often more efficient to create templates. Reps can fill these in with relevant information as needed.
You may also send over paperwork (usually electronic) for the customer to sign during this process. But every buying process is unique, so be sure to define the sequence of events from acceptance to payment. Once the prospect completes the buying process and makes the first payment, congratulations — you have yourself a new customer.
While the formal sales process might be finished, there is still work to be done after a deal is closed. To maintain long-term customers, you’ll need to continue taking care of them. That’s what the Customer Success team is for.
Don’t stop at the close. Decide how you will continue to add value to your customers’ lives and provide great service for years to come.
When you’re dealing with new customers, you will want to make sure they can actually use the product. Any new piece of software is going to feel unfamiliar, and they may have trouble achieving full adoption of the solution in their organization.
At minimum, you’ll want to have educational content that’s easily consumed (such as tutorials and usage tips). This will help your new customers feel supported and safe in their buying decision. If possible, you will want to have a team available to solve urgent technical issues with the product so the customer knows you always have their back. You will also want to decide how much of a hand you have in customizing the onboarding process, since this may be part of a premium package with different tiers of service.
Beyond that, you want to make sure your customers are delighted to do business with your company and with your service overall. As part of your sales process, design a system for keeping in touch with your existing customers. You can send gifts, discounts, promotions or even just simple “thank you” emails to show your appreciation.
The more you delight and support your customers, the more opportunities you’ll have to sell them new packages and add-ons. This is great for both parties — the customer is investing more in what you offer while you add value to their original purchase. As the final part of your sales process, describe how you handle upselling and the different ways in which your customer success reps can approach this conversation.
Now that you’ve done all the work of developing your sales process, it’s time to roll it out to your sales team. This is where the real work comes in. Your sales process is only as effective as its execution.
To make the most of your efforts, here are some tips to optimize your process for top performance.
You will want to initially test your process with a handful of sales reps before teaching it to everyone, especially if you are a founder handing off the sales process for the first time.
You will need at least two or three reps to start. Why? Because if only one person is executing a new process, it’s extremely difficult to troubleshoot errors. How can you tell if it’s their performance or your process if you have nothing to compare it against? By starting with at least two reps, you can isolate issues and continue to optimize your process until it produces the desired results.
Once you start reaching targets on a regular basis with your test group, you’re ready to roll it out to the sales floor. As the rest of your sales team adopts the new workflow, continue testing your sales process against company goals.
Your sales process is the key element to effectively training and onboarding new sales reps. After all, this process is the sequence of steps they will follow every day they come to work. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be front of mind from the very beginning. Introduce your sales process on the first day of training to help your them ramp up even faster.
A sales playbook breaks down every part of your sales process into bite-sized modules. While reading a 20-page document can be overwhelming (especially for new sales reps), a sales playbook allows your team to learn the material at a steady pace.
It also makes it easy to consult the sales process about specific tasks like lead generation, prospecting and demos. This makes it easy for reps to refresh themselves on customer personas, lead qualification workflows, call scripts, product information and more.
In any moderately sized sales organization, you will need a CRM to manage your sales pipeline. A CRM augments the sales process by helping you keep track of prospects as they progress through the buyer’s journey. But this only works if you’re using it correctly.
Depending on what program you’re using, you can usually consult the CRM software company for best practices and tips. But no matter how you do it, you need to train your sales reps on how you use your CRM to keep track of important process details. This helps everyone stay on track when you hand off the conversation between reps and/or when sales managers provide direction for closing high-value deals.
At each stage of your sales process, you should have metrics that define your success in accordance with company goals. Most of the time, you’ll have metrics for individual reps and the department as a whole. Depending on your team structure, you may accomplish this in a few ways:
You can divide these metrics into lead metrics and lag metrics. Lead metrics (also called activity metrics) describe the work a rep does to achieve a result (e.g. number of calls made, emails sent, etc.). Lag metrics measure the results themselves (e.g. revenue, deals closed, etc.).
Metrics can also be used to measure the effectiveness of the process itself. Most of the time the main goal of a sales process is to generate a certain amount of MRR (monthly recurring revenue). However, you may also want to measure pipeline value and growth to illustrate how well the process is helping to close deals and scale your organization.
While the sales process described in this article seems pretty straightforward, it rarely plays out that smoothly. Remember, your sales reps are talking to real people — that always complicates the situation. To prepare for things that happen outside the norm, here are a few tips:
While your sales process should be unique to your organization, most SaaS companies follow some form of this basic framework. The key is to be flexible and allow for change when the data suggests it would help.
Remember to be open to feedback from your sales team. Continue optimizing your workflow as you gain more insight into how reps use the sales process and how effective it is on a day-to-day level.
But keep in mind that your sales process is only a technique. Strategy only matters in a game where the players are good at what they do. The real magic happens when you have great sales reps who can execute your process with finesse to achieve great results.
If you’re looking to hire better sales talent to help you achieve ambitious revenue targets, our team at Prehired can help. By becoming a Prehired partner, you’ll gain access to a whole pipeline of job-ready SDRs trained in best practices for SaaS sales.
Schedule a call to see how our members can boost the performance of your organization in just a few months.
As Prehired's Founder & CEO, Josh Jordan is leading the mission to help 10,000 people launch 6-figure software sales careers by the end of 2024.
How? With Prehired's Science-Based Sales® process -- born from helping dozens of software companies build their sales teams...
...and then consulting with hundreds of Software Sales Managers on exactly what they wanted new hires to know...
...and then helping hundreds of regular folks break into software sales in 12 weeks, on average.
Josh created Science-Based Sales® to help nearly anyone succeed in software sales, because it creates clarity for prospects. No killer closer instincts, charisma or kissing up to decision makers needed.
What are the best tech careers in 2021? Even with the recent turmoil, top tech companies are aggressively hiring for these eight positions.