Your ultimate guide on the stages of the sales cycle from start to finish
What are the steps of the sales process?
How do you teach your sales team the stages of the sales cycle?
Is it even necessary to provide your sales team with a sales process flow?
Training your sales reps in a sales process from start to finish can have drastic benefits for your organization—companies with formal strategic selling process steps reported 28% revenue growth.
A general sales process helps your salespeople know what to do and how to do it. Instead of hoping your sales team makes sales, a sales process provides your team with simple, repeatable steps that help them close more deals.
In addition, sales as a whole is changing. Technology and sales enablement tools are becoming more prevalent and necessary.
The Accenture Future Readiness Survey found that organizations that have moved to a fully digital operating model are 1.7x more efficient and 2.8x more profitable than other organizations. The sales function is no exception—increased digitization means greater efficiency and more top-line growth.
Are you ready to learn what a sales life cycle is and how technology can help improve your sales team?
In this article, we’re taking an in-depth look at the first step in the sales process to the last. As you read, you’ll also learn the new role technology is playing in sales and how to get your sales process into the hands of your sales team.
Let’s jump right into a sales process definition and steps.
What are the steps of the sales process?
A sales process flow is a series of repeatable steps members of your sales team can use to help them make sales. These steps equip your sales team to turn a lead into a new deal more effectively.
Each industry and client may require a slightly different process, so it’s okay to create flexibility within your sales framework.
However, it’s often valuable to nail down a general sales process outline first. Once your team is comfortable with the overall sales process, they’ll be more comfortable adapting based on the customer’s needs.
Here’s a rundown of the seven stages of the sales cycle to help you understand what fundamental elements a sales process should include.
The first step in the sales process is prospecting.
Prospecting is the process of seeking out new sales leads and opportunities. It involves finding other businesses that need your products or services. But it isn’t simply about finding anyone and everyone who seems like a good fit.
Instead, the modern sales approach considers the changes in buyer behavior over the last few years and adapts accordingly. This involves refining who your ideal customer is and how your products/services truly serve their needs. The most effective sales teams are predictive and targeted when reaching out to prospective clients—knowing what to offer, to whom, and when.
Once you’ve redefined who your potential client is and what they’re like, you can start reaching out to them in a more specific way.
Now that your sales life cycle has generated you a few leads, it’s time to start preparing to connect with them.
But preparation isn’t just about being one step ahead of your prospect. It’s about truly understanding them and their needs. It’s knowing that a buyer who’s interested in your product/service will already be educated on your offering and ready to have a deeper discussion.
Additionally, many buyers these days have more stakeholders speaking into the evaluation and purchasing decisions. They’ve most likely already identified what they want, so it’s up to the salesperson to “meet buyers where they are on an individual and personalized basis—matching the right product and service information.”
To best prepare yourself for a meeting during the sales process, you’ll want to:
- Educate yourself further on the client and their industry
- Collect and organize relevant information about your product/service
- Think about any objections or questions a prospective client may have
- Run through some role-playing scenarios or revisit old sales meeting notes to identify areas of growth
Good preparation helps you develop your presentation and tailor it to your client’s specific needs. And this kind of personalization is vital to moving your prospect through the stages of the sales cycle effectively.
After preparing and organizing relevant information, you’re ready to reach out to them.
Making an initial approach (especially if it’s a cold call) can be intimidating. However, there are some proven methods of connecting with potential clients you can try:
- Provide a gift or promotional item
- Give a free sample or trial of your product/services
- Offer a clear recommendation for action
- Touch on a pain point
In the past, a general sales process approach may have been made in person or over the phone. But today, online approaches through email, social media, or video chats are more common. A crucial part of the sales process is making sure your salespeople know and understand how to use these new virtual channels.
It’s also not enough to simply reach out to a customer with a generic message—personalization is key. Prospective clients are probably receiving tens (if not hundreds) of emails from sellers each week. Making your approach unique and highly personalized can help you stand out and connect more quickly with your prospects.
Your approach should draw the customer in and give them a reason to learn more about your product or service, providing the opportunity to run a formal presentation.
Walking your client through a presentation is the fourth of our strategic selling process steps.
Buyer expectations have shifted, placing a higher value on quickly and seamlessly receiving the next piece of information rather than a creative demo or presentation. Instead of a long PowerPoint or drawn-out demonstration, use this time to address your client’s needs and position your product or service as the solution.
It’s also a time to ask good questions and actively listen to your client. A good rule of thumb is to talk about 40% of the time and let the prospect speak 60%. You don’t want to overload your client with too much information. Rather, you want to help them come to the conclusion that your product or service is the solution.
Additionally, the presentation stage of a sales process flow is different today than it was a few years ago. Did you know that buyers are more open to technology now than they were previously?
In today’s world, virtual and hybrid (a combination of in-person and virtual) selling is more important than ever, so you’ll want to make sure your sales team is equipped to present sales materials in person and online.
Another one of the stages of the sales cycle is answering objections. Answering objections is something you should expect after any sales presentation (which is why we included it in the preparations list above).
Objections are concerns that a client needs help overcoming. Perhaps, the client is fearful of change and needs to understand how using your product will drive greater results. Or, maybe they’re worried about the cost and could be convinced with a free trial offer for a limited time.
By handling objections and alleviating concerns, you’re putting your client at ease and making a sale more likely.
At this stage of the sales process, it’s time to get a decision from the client.
The goal of every sales opportunity is to make a sale. But getting a “yes” from a prospect can be challenging. However, if you’ve prepared, listened, presented, and answered objections well, you should be in a good spot.
Closing a sale could be as simple as presenting the product or service and asking if the client is ready to move forward. Or, it could take some further negotiating and dialogue, as 60% of customers say no four times before saying yes.
In addition, we mentioned that technology is taking more of a front seat with potential buyers during the presentation step. The same is true when it comes to closing: 73% of sales professionals use technology to close more deals.
Using sales enablement software is a great way to set your sales team up for success when they’re closing a sale. Not only does it provide easy access to valuable materials, but it also provides salespeople with more provocative, actionable information through real-time insights.
The last stage in the selling process is to follow up with your new client or customer. Once you close a sale, you must have a strategy for continued communication with your clients.
You may have a client success team, or it may be the sales rep’s job to keep in contact with the client. Regardless of whose role it is, following up with a client throughout and after the sales life cycle can go a long way in getting referrals and retaining current clients.
Mastering the sales process from start to finish
Strategic selling process steps help your sales team navigate the various stages of a potential sale.
The first step in the sales process is prospecting, and the last stage in the selling process is follow-up. In between these two steps, your sales reps should:
- Prepare to meet the client
- Make an approach
- Give a presentation
- Answer any objections
- Ask for a decision
Once a salesperson makes a sale, the sales process starts over, and they perform each step again.
Additionally, technology is becoming more important than ever in sales, both in training your sales team and providing them with the tools to close more sales.
If you want to ensure your sales team can handle every stage of the sales process and close more deals, providing them with the right training, coaching, and sales enablement tools is a great place to start. But creating a custom sales process, training your sales team, and coaching them through the sales process can be challenging.
This is where Unboxed Training & Technology’s sales training and sales enablement software comes in. At Unboxed, we’ve dedicated ourselves to providing managers and sales teams with all the tools they need to succeed. Spoke®, our award-winning sales enablement platform, is a powerful sales enablement tool that allows you to:
- House and deliver custom sales training content to your team
- Coach and guide your sales team through the sales process
- Upload all the sales materials and tools your team needs when making a sale
If you’re ready to jumpstart your sales, reach out to us. We’d love to chat with you about how sales enablement software or a custom sales training program can breathe fresh life into your sales team.
Request a sales training demo and learn more about the areas in which Unboxed could help your business.