Create a Sales Process for your Company or Startup
And change the way you look at sales
When companies have a disaster in their finance area, it is terrible. They will have to seek solutions fast or they will lose money, end up paying more penalties, fees, face problems with liquidity shortages, or even worst things. HR can be just as significant in this matter, workers will not be happy, people will not stay for long in the company, probably have problems attracting new talent and it will be very difficult to grow. But if you do not sell, there is no company at all. This is an essential attribute of a company, don’t believe this is a company’s final “why”, but it is the “how”.
Here is a simple and clear guide on how to improve the whole sales process for your company or create one for your Startup or project. It will be based on what I have learned in my years of work, studies, incubation processes, and all the great mentors along the way.
Understand that, to become good at sales, as an individual or a company, the learning process is just like every other aspect of life, there are some principles, guides, and tips, but finally, you have to experience, measure, improve, and then do it all over again in a never-ending cycle. It may sound challenging, but I believe the key to success, in any area of our lives, is to keep this mentality, the idea that you can always improve, always do better.
Selling to other businesses (B2B) is fundamentally different than selling to final consumers (B2C), and you should never lose sight of this matter. In B2C, the number of buyers your company needs to sustain the project can be hundreds, thousands, or more. So processes and strategies are usually very massive and standardized and pushed by marketing strategies.
In B2B, the buying decision is part of the job of a specialist, or sometimes even a team of professionals, that makes the decision much more rational in terms of costs, benefits, and total impact, but never forget they are still people.
Usually, there will be a relatively small group of customers, and it could even be one. This changes the whole focus of your strategies. You might as well have to be very “customer-oriented”, create and follow a process, dedicate time and a budget for each one.
Do not think of yourself as a seller. You are their advisor in your area of specialty. Think about your contribution to the client’s company success, get a deep knowledge of them, and find their final objectives, their deepest pain. View your client relations always in the long term, do not think about making a huge sale and disappear. This world is too small to have a bad reputation, and you want your project to be sustainable through time, you want to lay the foundations of a long-term win-win relationship and walk along with them all the way.
Based on my experience, comes the suggestion of the following steps to start with your B2B sales process:
1. Know Where You Stand
2. Your Value
3. The Funnel
4. Long Term
5. The Cycle
Step 1: Know where you stand
Know your market better than anyone, be a specialist, become a reference, there must be no unanswered questions in this matter, where are you selling your product or services? And I mean the exact geographical places. In this specific area, how many companies are there? How many can afford your product? Of these, which has the pain, problem, or necessity that you are solving? Which are is buying from your competitors? What industry is more likely to buy this? What is the position in the company that makes the buying decision for your kind of products? Who is that person (research on “Buyer Persona”)?
To start answering all of this questions one by one, and as soon as possible, you can do this on a CRM or even a spreadsheet, and ask yourself all these matters, so you can generate a roadmap that contemplates the exact amount, the names, people that work there and all the information you can get on who are your potential customers. This will give you a very powerful tool, a list of where to put your efforts, your potential customers.
Then, do the same with your competitors, talk to them directly, see what they are offering, who are their clients, how is their sales process.
You must do this before start selling, before even thinking about talking to your first client, and in this process, you can invite all the areas of your company, they will have different views and information.
Step 2: You’re Value
This isn’t the first step because I’m assuming there is a value proposition and that is why you created the startup or company, so we are going to use all the knowledge and data from step one to define how to communicate your value proposition. This is the company's message to the market, and where it will get all the information for the web site, mailings, social networks, pitch, ads…etc.
So let’s start by defining value, what is Value? Value is the difference between the cost of the product and what will customers win for acquiring it. We are talking about an outcome & $$$ money, that’s value. Then go one step forward, what can they do with this extra money? Achieve one of the company’s main objectives? That is a great outcome! So your proposal must be presented this way and make sense. If you are thinking of selling a $100.000 product that will bring a $ 100.001 return, you are on a hard path.
Three definitions that will help you communicate your value.
This is one of sales people’s biggest mistakes, skipping or not focusing on the problem. By now we know our clients, so we have to identify, measure, and show them the problems they have, and the opportunities they are missing, with real-life, day to day situations to supports this. And then relate this to a cost, translate it to money. Because although the specialist or the area manager understands his pain. When you give him the cost, he can easily communicate it inside of the company and get approval.
Focus on an actionable solution, the outcome, the final result the client will get, and just as in the last section transform the result and talk about money. What is the amount of additional income you will be obtaining for buying my product? This is by far the most important part because, if your proposal makes sense here, it’s a rational decision to say “yes”. Then you can add what makes you different from your competitors and all your features and characteristics, but remember these are all inputs, and what matters are the outputs, the results.
Prepare the speech, tell the problem and solution adding some social proof, for example, “this has had incredible results in other clients”, or if you don’t have clients “to X company that has tried this system”, people need this validation. Finally, it must be very clear, what do you do? You have to be able to answer this fast and simple so that people can understand it easily, not just specialized professionals, but anybody, that way you can get recommendations, and lots of: “Hey my company really needs that!” How do you know when you got it? Practice and practice, communicate your value and what you do, to as many people as you can, you will get loads of questions and this is pure gold for perfecting your Communication.
Step 3: The Funnel
It is mainly the process that a company has to go through to become a client. Helps business visualize and understand each of the stages involved. A good design B2B sales funnel can be a powerful tool to generate more sales, become more efficient, and reduce cost per client. You can have this on a CRM, a huge drawing on a wall, or any creative representation, but it’s highly recommendable that it is a graphic representation and everybody at least on your sales team has access to it.
You have to be able to measure each of the parts of this journey, this way you can make estimations. For example, if you have a 10% final conversion on any lead, you can estimate how many leads you will need to achieve your sales objectives.
And by analyzing the conversion and behavior of companies in each stage, you can identify what to improve, where you are the weakest, and what kind of return you may get from these improvements.
Every company is different, so you should have a sales funnel that adapts the best you can to your client’s process. Here are some general stages:
This is the moment a company knows you exist, either by word of mouth, seeing a LinkedIn ad, a YouTube video, met you in an event, webinar, or you appeared in a google search. Always keeping the image of being a consultor, try to add value, and educate your future customers.
This is where the marketing team comes in, and you have to keep in mind that with today’s technologies and automatizations there is a whole world of things you can do to improve your leads, in quality and quantity, I will write in more depth about this theme in another document, to have an idea and the first steps to creating your sales funnel.
Consider when creating the KPIs for this area, that more is not always better. Actually, here you should focus on quality because managing each lead is going to cost you money and time, so the target must be in your already defined potential customers.
If the stars are aligned and everything is perfect, they might contact you directly at that moment, but usually, that’s not what happens, but at least they will know of your existence and what you offer, this step is very important to build trust for the future.
This is the moment they become Leads, so a lead is a company that has shown interest in your product or service and (very important) has the qualifications to become your client, they can afford you and need what you offer. You know there are interested because they visited your social network or webpage, signed on your newsletter, asked for more information, or called you.
Remember leads must be managed, this means, you should know exactly how many leads are in at this stage.
This may be the perfect timing for a cold call, an email with information, or a story of success. Tell them just enough to raise their curiosity, the objective is not a sale, but to bring them to the next stage of the funnel.
Now, the company needs your product, they are aware of you, they have shown their interest, and they are qualified to buy from you, so you have to help them make that decision, it’s time to set that first meeting, I recommend every single one to be face-to-face.
For this stage, I’m going to add more information in another document so you can have more details on it. For me it is probably the most critical one, and where people make the most mistakes.
Now, this is very important! In the final meeting to close the deal, you need to tell them the perfect story for this company, the perfect proposition for them, but to do this, you need information (look at Step 2 point 4), costs, size, scope, and possible incomes of the project, and it’s very hard for you to know all of this from the start, so this meeting has two clear objectives: the first one is to start building a relationship with your future clients, building trust, and getting to know each other. The second one is to get all the information you need to create your proposal. And in case it is not a fit, get all the insight you can on why it is not, what you should change, adapt, or improve. So this is not at all your time to talk.
That is it, so as soon as you get back to your office you seat everybody together for debriefing and to begin working on the proposal, or if it did not go well, contemplating an alternative of product upgrade.
Closing the deal, the big meeting, now the client has passed all your funnel process and you have prepared the proposal (try to always think of more than one option, and not more than three; basic, normal, premium, each one has to be able to solve the problem). The objective here is to close the sale, to do this you have to bring an outcome, a result that will be irrational to refuse, and that helps them achieve their objectives. For example, you will be able to become the leader in the industry (main goal or pain), by investing in technology the $XXXX in savings by efficiency you will get (the result of your service).
If it is needed, try to have a contract or a “terms and conditions” ready, this will accelerate the process significantly. Also, keep in mind to set clear stages or goals for the project and KPIs to measure each one. How are you going to give these reports, how often and how will they look.
Step 4: Long Term
Whether you were successful in closing the deal or not always think in long terms, keeping each relation alive. Not only there is still a chance of becoming clients in the future but the feedback they can give you, is one of the most important elements to improve, your product, your marketing, your inner, and Sales Process.
And If you do close the deal also keep the long term mentality, the consultor mentality, focus on solving the client’s problems, achieving the promised value $$, have a great post-sale service, if there any inconveniences, step up and solve the problems, keep the periodicity and quality of your reports, make every meeting interesting for them. All of these aspects are key to keeping a client for a long time and have recommendations. A recommended lead is probably the best kind of lead there is because word of mouth is the best way to get trust.
Step 5: The Cycle
The final step, the cycle, at the end of a great sales or a period, you can even do it every day, sit down with everybody involved in the sales process, and evaluate it.
Get updated on the market, question your “Story” and evaluate it according to results, take a look at your funnel (graphic representation is highly recommended), and see how are each of the steps going, how are the conversion rates, and see where are your weaknesses.
Get the feedback on your product and processes with the respecting areas, and get ready to start the cycle and do it all over again…
I hope this information was useful to you, and that you can use it as a general guide to building your sales process. I’m going to be posting some information about each of the steps being more specific on how to improve and measure your results.
Special thanks to Osvaldo Saravia, Cristobal König and Laura Marcelletti