How often have you had pipeline review conversations, going through all your opportunities, then when asked for an update you answer along the lines of, “I’m waiting to hear back from the client but expect to close the deal.”
On whichever side of the table you sit, it’s a sign that an effective sales process isn’t being implemented and / or followed, and certainly isn’t being used as a way to improve conversion rates within the sales function.
Even if it looks like you are in a strong position based on ‘live’ opportunities, we often find inaccurate forecasting leads to a misalignment with the customers buying process and as such leads the risk of opportunities going dormant.
If you don’t take effective control of your pipeline, you will find that sales targets are missed and a large amount of opportunities are rolling over, as they are not progressing through the sales funnel.
In many organisations, we find that the emphasis in a typical sales process is often placed on ‘quote’ stage, i.e. how many ‘live’ opportunities there are. However, all stages are critical – from prospecting, qualification through to negotiation and close – to drive effective sales activity and performance.
Here are 4 key tips you should consider when developing an effective sales process for your business:
1. Buying Cycle
Link the sales process to the journey your client goes through. Once you have understood your buyers’ perspective and buying process, you need to map your own sales process to align with the buyers’ needs. This will ensure that only activities which will improve customer engagement are deployed. In certain situations, you can further map your process to the buying personas you interact with throughout the buying journey.
2. Buyers Outcomes: define the buyer commitment
Provide your sales teams with clarity on what they need to achieve to progress the prospect or opportunity. Identify what the buyer needs to commit to at and between each stage of the sales process. This way your salespeople will know exactly what is expected of them and what they are aiming for. By breaking it down through the sales stages, pipeline reviews will clearly identify where the process needs to go next.
3. Sales Requirement: list the sales requirements
Alongside the ‘buyer’s outcome’ you should also define what your sales requirements are at each stage from an internal perspective, e.g. any internal governance has been completed or product sign off has been achieved.
These two aspects combined provide your exit criteria for each stage, if they have not been achieved before moving to the next stage the opportunity has been forecasted incorrectly.
4. ‘Slight Edges’: highlighting best practices
To ensure success in executing sales activities at each stage, any ‘slight edges’ should be documented. By capturing and rolling out best practices and ways of working that make a positive difference, you will support continued sales success. Identify what your best performers are doing that has made a difference at every stage of sales cycle and embed these in the process, e.g. presenting proposals face to face vs. sending via email; Ensuring every meeting ends with the next action (meeting) diarised.
So, if you want to improve sales funnel conversions, hold pipeline review meetings that are meaningful and drive effective sales activities – track every stage of the sales process and set clear actions that will move your buyers through the funnel.
Tim Hillier, Principal Consultant
If you’d like to know more about driving sales performance through implementing an effective sales process, why not get in touch on +44 (0) 7833 446965 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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