How to Build a Sales Process: The Complete Guide

If your sales team is operating without a sales process, you need to do something about it—right now.

Building a sales process is absolutely necessary to your company’s success, and is perhaps the most important thing you can do as a sales manager to impact your team’s ability to sell.

Fortunately, creating a sales process from scratch isn’t as complicated as it seems. To help give your sales reps a clear and effective path to follow, we’ve created this start-to-finish guide on how to build a sales process from the ground up.

Want to learn more about what a sales process is and why it’s important? Read this first.

Skip to PART 2: Choosing the right stages and steps

Skip to PART 3: Putting it all together

PART 1: Outlining your sales process

A sales process consists of a series of stages—usually three to seven, depending on the sale’s complexity—which cover the major milestones of a sale. Each stage consists of steps, laying out the key activities your team must perform in order to advance the sale from stage to stage.

Even if you’ve never formalized your sales process before, the raw materials are in place. Your reps likely have a general outline of sales activities that they follow for each sale, including commitments that they have to secure along the way from their prospects.

The first step in building a sales process is gaining a full understanding of what your sales team is currently doing to turn leads into customers. What is the first thing that your sales reps do to connect with a potential buyer, and what is the last thing they do to finish the sale? With those end-points in mind, you can begin to fill in the blanks.

“Too often, sales managers build a sales process that has no relevance or familiarity with what the team is already doing,” says Nutshell CEO Joe Malcoun. “Not only do you want your reps to recognize what you are asking of them, but you need them bought in from the beginning.”

Malcoun suggests sitting down with each member of your sales team to learn the actual steps that they’re taking to move a lead through your funnel. “Find out how they visualize the process—even in the absence of one—and build yours so that it’s familiar to your team, using their language as much as possible.”

To help with this process, take a handful of your recent leads and go through the following questions with your reps. Their answers will help you understand the specific activities that your team is currently performing during the course of a sale.

  1. How was the lead acquired?
  2. How was the lead distributed or assigned?
  3. How did the sales rep make first contact with the lead (i.e., email or phone)?
  4. How many attempts did the sales rep make to establish contact with each lead?
  5. Did the rep’s contact attempts follow a specific schedule or cadence?
  6. After making contact with a lead, what questions did the sales rep or sales development rep (SDR) ask in the initial conversation?
  7. How were the answers to those questions recorded?
  8. How did the sales rep coordinate follow-up contact?
  9. Which files, documents, or other content were sent to the lead?
  10. At what point were those resources delivered?
  11. How did the sales rep present your company’s solution? (i.e., on-site visit, webinar, phone call)
  12. What did the rep do to prepare for that presentation?
  13. When and how was your company’s proposal delivered?
  14. What were the major sticking points during negotiations?
  15. If the lead was lost, why was it lost?
  16. If the lead was won and the sale was completed, what did your first post-sale contact with the customer look like?

If you don’t have answers to all of the above questions at first, don’t worry. By building a sales process, you’ll define exactly what should happen at each point of the sale, so that all of your reps are following the same game-plan.

Let’s take a closer look at some common stages and steps you might consider including in your own sales process…

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