Do you have 100% confidence in your selling process? Are you sure that every step from lead generation to closing is as effective as possible?
If not, you have some work to do. First, make sure that you've built your selling process from the ground up for success.
If you've done that, you're ready for the next step: supercharging it. Let's start with a quick review, then we'll jump into the seven ways you can improve your selling process.
- → What's a selling process?
- → 1. Track the right metrics
- → 2. Hire the right people
- → 3. Build a killer sales qualification machine
- → 4. Improve your team's cold-calling skills
- → 5. Ask for the close early and often
- → 6. Constantly improve your objection management skills
- → 7. Level up your follow-up game
What's a selling process?
A selling process (or sales process) is the series of steps your sales team goes through to make a sale. It starts with lead generation and includes qualification, contact, objection handling, and more. It's the core of your sales program, and if it's working well, you'll close a lot of deals.
Of course, if it's not working, you'll lose a lot of deals.
As an example, here are eight common steps you might include in your selling process:
- Addressing objections
- Following up (and asking for referrals)
Once you have some sort of system in place, it's time to start making it kick ass. Here are seven ways to do that:
1. Track the right metrics
Metrics are the foundation of improvement. If you don't know how well your selling process works, you can't improve it. You need to establish a baseline.
But before you jump into super-detailed analytics, let's take a step back. Way too many organizations get caught up in analytics and metrics. They track as many things as they possibly can and they get inundated with a ton of crappy data.
Which is why I keep it simple with just three metrics:
That's it. The AQC framework tells you everything you need.
We’ll start with...
How active are your salespeople? How many calls do they make? How many emails do they send? How many texts? How much are your reps accomplish every day?
How many email responses did a salesperson get? How many times did they actually connect with a person on the phone? How many of those people were decision-makers?
What's a conversion? A sale, of course! But depending on your business model, you may count other things as conversions, too. What about setting up a demo? Signing up for a free trial? Setting up a pitch meeting? Any of these can be conversions, and you'll need to decide what counts. It may depend on your sales process. If you have a long sales process, a follow-up call or a meeting might be a conversion. If you tend to sell quickly, stick with sales.
The AQC framework will help you move through the stages of sales reporting faster than your competitors. With better information, you'll make better decisions. Your sales process will be better, and you'll blow the other guys out of the water.
"But what about X, Y, and Z metrics?" Whatever X, Y, and Z are for you, get rid of them. Sales pipeline metrics are meaningless. Overly detailed analytics don't help. Who cares if your most successful days are Tuesdays on odd-numbered weeks of the year when it's raining?
All you need to get started is activity, quality, and conversion. Once your selling process evolves, you can move on to track more advanced sales metrics.
Get these set up in your sales analytics platform (if you don't have one, get one as soon as you can), then start working on the rest of your sales process.
2. Hire the right people
Your selling process starts long before someone makes a phone call. It starts with hiring the right people for your sales team. If your salespeople suck, your selling process will suck, too.
How do you know if you're hiring the right people? It starts with timing.
If these three things are true, it's time to start hiring salespeople:
- Your customer lifetime value is over $5,000.
- Your larger trial customers are struggling to convert.
- The sales process for larger customers is complex.
If all of those are true for your company, it's time to hire your first sales rep.
Don't just hire anyone. Hire someone that’s hungry. That's how we did it here at Close in the early days, and it works. Don't look for phenomenal salespeople—look for people who have the potential to become phenomenal salespeople.
That way, they grow with your company. They don't come in with preconceptions of how sales should work or how our sales process should be structured. They want to learn, grow, and help create an awesome company. (And what’s more, you can afford to hire them on a startup-friendly budget.)
If you start your selling process by hiring this kind of salesperson, you'll be on your way to generating a lot of revenue. No matter how many people you have on your team, keep looking for ambitious and self-driven sales reps.
There's a lot more that goes into hiring the right people for your sales team. I wrote a whole book about it, and you can download it here for free.
3. Build a killer sales qualification machine
Selling to the wrong people will destroy your sales process. If you make the sale, you'll have the wrong customer, and that leads to a ton of headaches. If you don't make the sale, you've wasted your time with the wrong prospect. Both are bad news.
You might think that you know the answers to these questions–and that could be true. But if you haven't asked your customers directly, there's a good chance you don't know the answers.
Before you kick off your selling process, you need to understand who you're selling to.
Go to events and talk to people in your target market. Ask them what they're struggling with and what your competitors have offered them. Talk to your friends and acquaintances in the business. Strive to understand what people are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
Only after you've done this can you start to build a strong qualification process. Of course, you'll need to have a clear, effective product, too. And a knowledge of how it helps your prospects meet their goals.
Finally, you'll need to include qualification in your selling process. If sales or biz dev reps aren't asking these questions, they're not helping you.
If you want to kickstart the process, check out our list of 42 qualifying questions for B2B sales.
4. Improve your team's cold-calling skills
Cold calling is hard. It just is. It's one of the most difficult skills for sales reps to master. And because of that, many companies skip it. They think it's dead and that sales is all about inbound now. Inbound is certainly valuable, but outbound sales still rules supreme if you’re a startup that needs to generate results fast.
Why? Because you can talk to so many more people in such a short time. With technologies like predictive dialing, your reps can talk to hundreds of people a day. Unless you've created a massive inbound marketing empire, you're just not going to get numbers like that with inbound.
With Close’s built-in predictive dialer, your sales reps can dial multiple numbers simultaneously, so that your reps spend less time dialing numbers and listening to dial tones, and more time actually speaking with prospects.
But like I said, cold calling is hard. And if your team isn't on top of their game, those hundreds of calls aren't going to help you much.
What keeps your reps from being on top of their game?
- Fear of failure
- Poor objection management (we'll get to that in a moment)
- No sales script
- Unenthusiastic tone of voice or low energy
- Getting shut down by "send me more information"
And about a million other things. If your reps are struggling with any of these things, they're not going to be closing as many deals as they could. And that means your sales process is losing efficiency.
Make sure to address these issues in your sales training, and follow up with reps to make sure they're putting their knowledge into action.
Want an easy way to solve those problems? Sign up for our free B2B cold calling course. You'll learn the #1 cold calling mistake, why you're losing prospects before the conversation even starts, and a whole lot more.
5. Ask for the close early and often (and embrace the "no")
Selling isn't closing. And if salespeople spend too much time selling, they'll never close a deal.
This is really counterintuitive, and it takes a while to get used to. But you have to go for the close early. Even when you know the prospect isn't ready to say "yes" yet.
Why would you do that? Why would you ask when you know for a fact that you'll get a "no"?
Because the virtual close is your key to mapping out the selling process with this particular prospect. A "no" is extremely valuable.
Here's an example:
You: "So it sounds like our product would be a great fit for your company. What will it take for you to become a customer?"
Prospect: "Well, I'd have to present it to the executive team first."
You: "Okay, so assuming the executive team gives the go-ahead, what's next?"
Prospect: "We'd have to go through the procurement process, which means a few meetings with the procurement team and some financial projections."
And so on. You might ask a dozen questions before you understand every step of the buying process at your prospect's company. It will feel like a waste of time the first few times you do it. But it's absolutely invaluable.
Asking for the close early and getting a "no" opens the door to getting a lot of information about how the rest of the selling process will go with that prospect. And that means you won't be surprised when you find out the deal has to be approved by the legal department–or that the prospect has to schedule a meeting for you to pitch an exec.
Surprises are bad in sales. Going for the close early helps eliminate them.
If you look back at the example I gave above, you'll see a question that you might not be familiar with: "What will it take for you to become a customer?" If you're not using this question, start using it right now.
Why? Because it solves two problems at once: it makes it easy to go for the close early in the conversation, and it helps you start the discussion about the buying process at the client's company.
6. Constantly improve your objection management skills
If you're going for a "no" early on, you won't have to wait for an objection. But you'll still run into them. In fact, handling objections is one of the core skills every salesperson needs to have.
Your prospects will have all kinds of objections:
- "It's too expensive."
- "We like what we're using now."
- "I'm too busy, I can't talk right now."
- "Can you send me more information?"
- "I don't have the authority to make that decision."
- "This doesn't make sense for us."
Dealing with sales objections is a crucial part of the selling process—because an objection you can't handle will stop the selling process.
A lot of it comes down to practice. The more time you spend selling, the better you'll get at handling objections.
But you can take a big shortcut to boost your objection handling skills: create an objection-handling template. With this template, your reps will be ready to handle a variety of objections with responses that you've prepared beforehand.
It's just like using a sales script—you can move away from it eventually, but when you're getting started, it's a huge help. And when you come across objections you're not familiar with, you'll have the tools to deal with them. We even have a free objection-handling template to get you started.
7. Level up your follow-up game
Salespeople that follow up close deals. It's that simple.
So my advice is just as simple: if you're cold calling or cold emailing, follow up six times. If you've gotten any sort of positive response—anything AT ALL—don't stop following up until you get a yes or a no.
I once followed up with an investor 48 times before I got a meeting. I know people who have used my strategy to get meetings with investors, close new clients, win more deals, and significantly increase their closing rates. Some of those people followed up dozens of times.
It works. It might sound crazy, but it gets results.
Of course, you'll also need the right follow-up schedule. And to know the best way to follow up with your particular prospect (some prefer email, others respond best to calls, and you can even try texting).
You'll also need a good email follow-up template. That will make your life easier.
We’ve built our CRM with the follow-up in mind. You can set individual follow-up reminders when sending an email, or by creating a task directly in Close.
Or you can automate your follow-ups at scale with our email sequences feature.
But most of all, you need to know that following up isn't annoying. That you're not going to piss off your prospect.
If they don't want your product, they'll tell you. You'll get a "no." And that's good. Because it saves you time on future follow-ups. Obviously "yes" is better . . . but if you want to close deals, you need to go for the "no."
Following up is a game-changer, but it can take some time to master. If you want to rev up your sales process all the way through to the end, be sure to check out my free book, The Follow-Up Formula. It has everything you need to level up your follow-up game.
Never stop improving
That's a lot of things to tackle, but don't worry—you don't have to do it all at once. The most important step is committing to improvement. Admit to yourself that your selling process isn't as good as it could be.
Then start making improvements. After you've set up tracking for the right sales metrics, you can use any of the tips above to start supercharging your selling process. Maybe you feel like your qualification is weak. Or your reps aren't asking for the close early enough.
Wherever you think you can make improvements, start making it happen. Write up a sales script. Have your reps memorize the follow-up schedule. Change how you hire sales reps. Whatever you need to do, go out and do it.
But don't stop there. No sales process is perfect. It can always be improved. So stick with it and encourage your reps to focus on one or two things at a time. Set goals, get better, and repeat.
You'll have a kick-ass selling process in no time!
Want more tips on building a winning sales process? Get a free copy of my book The 2020 Startup Sales Playbook!