The notion of using formal sales processes might seem counterintuitive to a small, scrappy startup or to a maverick company that “marches to the beat of a different drummer.” In fact, it might seem to be restrictive or overly bureaucratic — the exact opposite of the way in which most young, free-spirited companies operate.
However, a formal sales process, when designed and implemented correctly, can liberate a company’s principals to focus on executing innovative strategies rather than dealing with trivial sales force issues or even worse, lost sales due to bad procedures.
Formal Sales Process Basics
First, let’s define what a formal sales process is. Simply put, it’s a progressive series of actions used to take a buyer from prospect to customer, standardized for repeated use within a sales organization.
This means that every step, from how leads are procured to how the most common objections are handled, are codified and organized into a logical sequence. Supporting materials, from telephone call scripts to sales information sheets to CRM software, form part of a formal sales process as well.
Here are some of the hallmarks of successful formal sales processes:
- Custom-tailored to a specific organization/product.
- Simple. Each step should move the prospect forward in the sales cycle as efficiently as possible, and extraneous steps should be avoided. Here is an example of an extremely simple, four-part sales process. (At Asher Strategies, we teach clients a much more comprehensive process, but each step is still simple to understand and perform.)
- Measurable. Make sure your process is organized into steps which can be turned into metrics such as “number of presentations done” or “follow up calls made.” This helps ensure that those small actions needed to land the big sales are occurring, and that you know what your salespeople are doing with their time.
- Consistent. Successful companies get buy-in on their formal sales processes from the entire team so that everyone uses it. This allows all personnel to speak the same language regarding the status of a lead in the sales funnel and what to do with it next.
How startups can implement formal sales processes
- Do it early. If possible, draw up your formal sales processes and get everyone trained on it before you even launch.
- Assign ownership. Someone has to be in charge of enforcing the process and holding everyone accountable. Usually, this task falls on a sales manager or VP of Sales.
- For companies already generating sales, pilot first. Never dismantle a working operation to try something completely new. If your sales team is getting at least some results, don’t overhaul everything overnight. Instead, test out a new formal sales process with a small pilot group or with a small sampling of prospects, and roll it out to the rest of the team after refining. Otherwise, you can “shock” your sales division into a confused mess, killing your revenue and possibly losing good staff.
Over 80% of the best-in-class sales organizations use formal sales processes, either developed in-house or provided by an external source. If you need assistance developing yours, consider training with us or getting some one-on-one consulting help.