Sales Process 101: How to Develop Sales Stages
A sales team without a defined process for selling is like a herd of cats released in an IKEA — chaotic. Everyone takes off in their own direction, aimless and hoping for the best.
It’s no way to operate a business, especially when finding focus in the workplace can already be an uphill battle. Your team needs structure and insight into whether the actions they’re taking are actually leading them towards the desired end result.
A sales process serves as the constant. It’s an “if this, then that” map centered around stages that are most relevant to the sales cycle your product and/or service operates under.
Common Types of Sales Cycles
There’s a lot of lingo that gets thrown around in the sales world: process, stages, cycles, methodologies. It’s hard to immediately distinguish the use case for each and why they matter.
For the sake of establishing some baselines, let’s provide some basic definitions for each:
Sales methodologies: At a very high level, think of a sales methodology as the philosophy a company operates by in growing through sales and approaching their process.
Sales process: A sales process is the set of high-level steps and actions you take to close a deal. They are typically defined by anywhere from three to seven stages.
Sales stages: Sales stages are the stepping stones of your sales process. They are reflective of major milestones or shifts in a customer’s consideration of the product and/or service.
Sales cycles: Think of a sales cycle as the approximate amount of time it takes for a customer to move between not knowing who you are to making a purchase.
Before setting your sales stages into motion, it’s worth taking into consideration the length of your sales cycle.
The most common types of sales cycles include:
Business-to-Business Sales Cycles
Business-to-business (B2B) sales cycles happen, unsurprisingly, between businesses. With the high cost of enterprise products and how lengthy these cycles can be, you’ll see a lot of focus on marketing that improves customer retention.
As this sales cycle can span anywhere from a month to a year, the sales process might be more involved — incorporating more stages for reps to learn and utilize.
Business-to-Consumer Sales Cycles
Business-to-consumer (B2C) sales cycles are typically shorter in nature than those in the B2B space. They’re focused on the needs of individual purchasers rather than of a business as a whole.
As such, the decision-making process tends to be simpler. It involves less stages to work through and is more heavily focused on buyer triggers.
Seasonal Sales Cycles
When a product is only sold during a certain time of year, it falls under the seasonal category. Many sales processes may be impacted by seasonality, but seasonal selling itself packages everything up into a period of no more than a matter of months.
Reps have to move fast in order to satisfy quotas, making the stages they work through even fewer than the average B2C cycle.
Steps to Consider When Developing the Stages of Your Sales Process
With a clear understanding of how much time you have to work with in bringing a customer on board, you can begin to break down the rest of the process puzzle. This should involve piecing together any historical CRM data currently on hand.
Whether you’re a party of one freelancer or an enterprise sales team, maintaining a full sales pipeline comes down to adapting sales stages to customer behavior. You should analyze how prospects engage with your tactics as they stand to map out how they trickle through the funnel.
Here are some common sales stages to consider incorporating into your own process:
Prospecting is generally the first stage identified across most processes. This is where reps are getting leads from marketing, proactively finding email addresses or making cold calls to identify customers with potential interest in their business.
In addition to time spent researching, sales agents will also spend a majority of their day-to-day documenting and tracking new prospects. It’s vital to the sales process but also prone to inefficiencies.
Using tools like Cirrus Insight’s Salesforce integration reduces the busywork around making sure that what happens in your email is also reflected in your customer relationship management (CRM) software.
This stage may also be referred to as the Qualifying or Connecting stage. It’s where a rep digs into the specific needs of a prospect.
In doing so, you’ll quickly find out who is worth your time and who isn’t. Disqualifying a prospect early in the sales process helps teams better allocate their efforts towards deals that are both higher quality and more likely to close.
Once you’ve established pain points with a potential prospect, sales teams usually channel a seeing is believing tactic. The demo is a useful tool in moving prospects further down the pipeline.
With that being said, a demo is only as valuable as its ability to speak to what a customer needs. These should be personalized with highly relevant content and flexibility. You want to provide prospects with an experience that feels catered to them.
At the proposal stage, the light at the end of the tunnel feels oh so near. This is where sales reps will submit a personalized proposal to prospects. Depending on the length of the sales cycle, some teams may choose to designate an additional stage for negotiations, as well.
Once a deal is closed, the job is done, right? Not quite.
For as good as it may feel to reach this stage, the real work is just beginning. You have to ensure that all necessary paperwork is in place and details are documented for the sake of starting new customers off on the right foot.
Whether you choose to distinguish onboarding as a specific stage or not, there’s no denying the impact a good post-purchase process has on sales. Just consider, after all, at the effort it took to get your new customer from point A to point B.
If you simply pass them off to a customer team without providing your own level of support internally, you have little say over what happens next. See that everyone on your team has the information they need to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Final Thoughts: How to Develop Sales Stages
From sales cycle to customer behaviors, there are a number of factors at play in determining which stages are worth incorporating into your process. Look to the data and experiences of your agents to identify what makes the most sense for your sales team as a whole.
In need of a tool that can help you in streamlining productivity and learning from the actions taken across each stage of your sales process? Look no further than Cirrus Insight! Get started with our 14-day free trial.
Credit: Maddy Osman