Once upon a time, perhaps a long time ago, your company devised a sales process – the ‘playbook’ for all future deals to follow. We know that the buying process has shifted dramatically in the last decade or so, but some companies have been slow to adapt their process accordingly. Have you checked in with your sales team lately to see if the established process still works for them? Let’s take the HubSpot definition of a basic sales process as a starting point and see whether it might be time to freshen up your playbook.
Back in the day, prospecting might have taken place largely through networking events and business directories. With the widespread use of the worldwide web, however, that all changed. Directories went online and salespeople went with them. More recently, the advent of social media has created another step-change in the prospecting process – it’s now possible to define whom in an organisation is most likely your best contact without even picking up the phone. If your existing sales process doesn’t include the use of social networking sites to source new leads, you are missing out. Take a look at our blog on Top Sites to Visit When Researching Your Prospect for more on this. We ran a Twitter poll to see how many of our salespeople followers researched and the results weren't great!
Back when the seller was more or less in control of the customer journey, cold calling was the typical starting point for a customer relationship. These days, cold calls are way down the list. A discussion on Quora provides plenty of food for thought for those looking to update their sales process. The upshot of it all is that the best way to connect with a customer can be determined with a little research. Whether you choose email, a referral or introduction by a shared contact, or social, this part of the process shouldn’t be so strictly defined as to prevent the salesperson tailoring their method of connection to the customer.
78% of salespeople using social media outsell their peers
If a customer is contacting you, you can bet they’ve done their research first. You owe them the same courtesy. The possibilities for research are almost limitless so before defining this stage for the playbook make sure you know what resources are out there. Choosing to subscribe to certain trusted services may help narrow the scope of this stage and help you move on to the next.
A lot of work takes place between confirming that the prospect is a qualified lead and having the opportunity to sit in front of them to present your product or service. Whereas in the past this might have followed a defined path – e.g. send email template 1, call, send email template 2, etc. – in today’s customer-centric sales model it is better to tailor the contact to the customer. Some may prefer emails, where multiple contacts can be included and there is time for a considered response, while others may like the immediacy and personal approach of a series of phone calls. In this respect, think of the sales process as a map rather than a set of directions. It sets out the territory, but there’s some flexibility in the route you take from A to B. Your goal in all the contact you have with a qualified lead up to the point of presentation is to make them want to meet with you. Once you’re in front of them, you get to wow them with your product/service in person (preferably using your Sales Enablement App) and naturally it’s plain sailing from there!
What is worthwhile defining for the sake of your playbook, however, is how you know the customer is ready to move from one stage to the next. Perhaps include a series of questions that the salesperson has to be able to answer positively before they begin to attempt the close.
Sometimes in movies you still see a salesman push a piece of paper across a desk and the customer picks up a fountain pen and signs on the dotted line. Perhaps that’s how things were once, but real life doesn’t often look like that these days. You’re rarely dealing with just one contact in the company, for a start, and final decisions tend to be a long time coming. Signing a piece of paper and shaking someone’s hand is usually saved for a photo op after all the details have been worked out.
This Salesforce article has some great tips on closing deals that ought to be included in your revised, modern playbook – in particular, coming up with a great qualifying question to ensure a deal will close and, if it looks like the customer is going elsewhere, using a kind of A/B test to understand why they might be making that decision.
Always be learning
Sales is a very old profession and that can lead to a ‘but this is how we’ve always done things and it’s always worked for me’ kind of an attitude. It’s important to recognise this and address it because otherwise that attitude is going to cost you money.
Your playbook won’t ever be perfect. There is always more to learn, new technologies to implement and fresh talent entering the business with original perspectives. It’s worth reassessing your sales process at regular intervals to see how these developments could help you improve further.