If you’ve ever worked in the restaurant industry, you know how many people and processes it takes to operate efficiently. You have the host to seat people, the server to provide excellent customer service, cooks to whip up the meals, bussers to keep the place clean, managers to ensure everything runs smoothly, etc.
As a small or medium-sized business owner, you have to operate your everyday operations in a similar manner, especially when it comes to hitting each step in the sales process. While many companies think they can get by skipping steps in their sales processes, they’re not setting themselves up for as much success as they could be.
When you break it down, there are seven core steps in the sales process that companies have to follow for predictable and sustainable business growth:
Sales opportunities don’t just appear out of thin air, so how do you get them in the sales pipeline in the first place? The answer is prospecting. Many small to medium-sized businesses rely on referrals for new sales opportunities. While this certainly is a way to generate new business, it’s not sustainable if you want consistent results.
Here are the steps you should take if you want to fill your pipeline with prospects that meet your company criteria:
1. Determine Your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)
An ideal customer profile (AKA a qualified prospect) is the criteria you set for prospective businesses to be in your sales pipeline. This could include the job title of the decision-maker, the industry they serve, the size of their commercial building, the number of employees they have, etc. Creating an ideal customer profile is vital for strategic prospecting because it allows your sales development teams to know what prospects are worth chasing and which have little to no impact on business growth.
An ideal customer profile looks different for every business and the industry they serve. For instance, the ICP of a commercial roofing company looks different from one for a commercial cleaning business because their operations are structured differently. A commercial roofer may require a roof square footage of over 10,000, while a commercial cleaner may require at least 10,000 square feet of cleanable space and over three cleaning days a week.
Once your sales and marketing teams have a consensus on your ICP, you can start looking into your target audience to explore where most of your sales opportunities lay. Additionally, you can uncover what kinds of decision-makers are most likely to be in charge of handling your company’s products or services.
2. Explore the Buyer Personas of Decision-Makers
A part of determining a company’s ICP is discovering who most decision-makers are for your company’s product or service. Once you’ve narrowed down your most likely decision-maker, it’s time to start exploring their buyer personas so you can build a business growth strategy that resonates most with potential buyers in your target market.
A buyer persona is a data-backed representation of how a majority of your target audience engages with sales and marketing content. When a company has a firm grasp of its target market’s buyer personas, it is more likely to convert leads into sales. Additionally, they’re more likely to shorten a lead’s time in the sales lifecycle.
Companies can gather insight into their buyer personas by analyzing their current clientele. For example, it’s essential to consider how your customers became your customers in the first place. Were they mostly referral based? Did they find your company online? You can gather this data by asking new customers how they heard about your business and use the same (or an accelerated) approach to generate new sales opportunities in your service region.
If you only practice an inbound marketing approach to lead generation, you can use this data to learn what drove customers to your business rather than competitors. What pain points did they have? How has your company helped resolve these pain points? Gaining this insight empowers your marketing team to create messaging around these core issues, reeling in more inbound leads from your website or social media platforms.
3. Build Your Ideal Prospect List
Now that you have a solid understanding of your ideal customers and their buyer personas, it’s time to start building a prospect list. Implementing the steps above increases the likelihood of getting the leads you want and minimizes the risk of chasing leads that are likely to result in closed business.
Every company has its own approach to building prospect lists; it could be from referrals of current customers or someone you met at a local networking event. While these are a few ways to get prospects for your sales pipeline, they definitely shouldn’t be your only approach.
Today, sales tools and technologies are incredibly complex. There are many B2B prospecting tools in the market that sales teams can use to find contact information about crucial company decision-makers, such as ZoomInfo and D&B Hoovers.
In addition to company and decision-maker names, you can also find:
- Job titles
- Email addresses
- Phone numbers
- Company sizes
- And more
These lists generated by the contact databases can be exported into Excel documents and transferred into your company’s CRM software for a seamless sales process from start to finish.
Looking for tips to accelerate your prospecting? Check out our blog here for more insight on how to build a prospecting strategy that yields long-term results!
Once you have your list of potential buyers, it’s time to start contacting prospects. Every sales development team has their own approach to contacting prospects and converting them into leads. While you could choose one tactic over another, they work best when paired together. This is because you can reach potential buyers through a variety of different platforms.
When it comes down to it, it’s important to consider the buyer personas of your target audience. If your target buyers are more susceptible to responding via cold call, you should prioritize cold calling over email marketing. However, if they’re more likely to respond via email, you should take that approach first.
Here are some ways that your sales development experts can reach potential buyers:
Make Cold Calls
Cold calling may sound like an old-school approach to lead generation, but it’s more effective today than in years past. The cold call isn’t dead—it’s just evolving.
One of the biggest gripes sales teams have about cold calling is that it doesn’t yield results. This is only true if you’re not doing it the right way. With the proper cold calling strategy in place, your SDR team has the opportunity to introduce your company, nurture the relationship, and set high-quality sales appointments.
Cold calling is a great first approach to connecting with prospective businesses because sales reps have the opportunity to talk with gatekeepers to learn if the decision-maker you have on record is the best one for your company’s product or service. If not, they can steer you in the right direction for a quicker connection to the right decision-maker.
Speaking with a decision-maker via phone call is the best way to start a conversation with a prospective business because SDRs can take the time to learn more about their business, pain points, and needs when hiring an outsourced product or service provider. Email can be very back and forth, and when sales reps are speaking directly with decision-makers, they can ask more open-ended questions and explore how the companies could be a good fit for one another. If they’re not a good fit, then it’s one less unqualified lead SDR teams have to follow up with and waste time on.
Send Sales Emails
Decision-makers are busy people who typically wear a lot of hats, so it can be hard to reach them on the phone. When a decision-maker is hard to get over the phone, sending a compelling sales email is the next best way to reach them.
While anyone can just send an email, it takes a special kind of people-first mentality to craft a sales email that converts prospects into leads. For instance, look at the number of emails you have sitting in your inbox—how many of those do you actually plan on opening? Probably very few, right?
Now, think of the last time you saw an email subject line so catchy that you had to open up the email to see what it was all about. This is exactly what you want your prospects to think about your email. You don’t want it to just end up in their inbox; you want them to open it and see the value your company has to provide.
Crafting, distributing, and receiving responses from sales emails may take a little longer than having a one-on-one phone call, but it has a lot of benefits. It allows decision-makers to be more conscious of their response. If they’re genuinely interested in learning more about your business, they’ll take the time to respond to set up a sales meeting. On the other hand, if they’re interested but not toward the end of their buying cycle, they can keep your email in their inbox to reference when the time comes closer to making a purchasing decision.
Another benefit of sending sales emails is that it presents sales and marketing teams with statistics regarding email performance. Analyzing email marketing performance empowers sales teams to learn what prospects engage with.
Sending emails through CRM or other email automation tools allows you to measure crucial email marketing statistics, including:
- Open rate
- Click-through rate
- Bounce rate
- Unsubscribe rate
- And more
Additionally, many CRM platforms allow you to see if prospects click on a link or attachment in the email. If they navigate their way to your website, then you have the opportunity to see what their journey looks like from the email to the website. This allows sales reps to make follow-up calls and gear their pitch toward the specific product, service, or topic they were looking at on the website.
Publish Buyer-Focused Content
Whether you want to focus primarily on a digital marketing strategy or integrate it with your outbound sales development efforts, publishing buyer-focused content helps you generate inbound leads who are actively looking for your company’s product or service.
B2B marketing teams can support sales by writing SEO-focused content with keywords relevant to potential buyers in your target market. They can find these keywords using vital keyword research tools like SEMrush and Ahrefs to explore what keywords are relevant to your industry and the pain points of prospective businesses in your service region.
Once marketing teams publish this content on your website or blog, they can share the posts on social media platforms for increased visibility and engagement. Posting website content on social media further drives traffic to your website, increasing the likelihood of converting users into leads that can be sent to the sales team for further lead scoring and qualification.
Lead qualification and scoring are essential for making sure the leads sales teams are following up with are worth the time and investment. To qualify a lead, an SDR must ask questions to verify they have the potential to close business with your company. This includes asking their:
- Company name, size, and address
- Decision-making capabilities
- Building square footage (only applicable for commercial companies like roofing, cleaning, HVAC, solar, etc.)
- Number of workspaces (only applicable for MSP and software companies)
Asking lead-qualifying questions ensures that prospects are sales-qualified leads (SQLs), meaning they can accept your company’s product or service offerings. While a prospect may be sales qualified, they may not be marketing qualified, meaning they may not have a need or interest in what your company offers. This is where lead scoring comes into play.
Every sales team has their own approach to lead scoring depending on what they identify as a high converting sales opportunity. Here are some lead scoring strategies that SDR teams implement into their standard sales process:
If you want the full scope of what these lead scoring strategies entail and how they differ from one another, check out our blog here.
With advanced sales tools and technologies, lead qualifying and scoring are made easier than ever before. When you use a CRM platform for your sales development efforts, you can qualify leads on their contact pages. Additionally, when email marketing efforts are integrated with your CRM, leads are automatically scored based on their engagements with your email marketing assets. For instance, the more times they open an email or click on a link within the email, the higher the lead score will be. Therefore, your CRM will prioritize them as a high-quality lead and push them to the top of the sales pipeline.
Unfortunately, not every prospect in the sales pipeline is ready to convert into a customer after the first point of contact. Therefore, your sales reps must take the time to continuously build and nurture the relationship with the decision-maker until they’re ready to buy.
Many leads stay in the lead nurturing stage of the sales pipeline for most of their time in the sales cycle. This is because they need to take the time to learn more about your business and trust that what you have to provide them is worth their investment.
To build relationships with leads, sales reps must make warm calls and send nurturing sales emails. During the warm calls, sales reps should ask decision-makers what their buying process looks like. Additionally, they should ask what pain points they encounter and explore how your company can help resolve these issues. As a supplemental asset, the SDR should share a case study from a client who’s been in a similar scenario. This encourages the lead to picture themselves in the shoes of your client.
When sending follow-up emails, it’s crucial that SDRs include relevant materials in the copy to help guide them toward the end of the sales cycle. The content in the email should align with the wants, needs, and interests they’ve expressed in previous conversations. This could include relevant blogs they can read and further navigate throughout your website, allowing them to see what else your company offers.
Additionally, lead nurturing sales emails should include marketing collateral for them to look at. Marketing collateral is crucial to the sales process because it helps establish brand identity and credibility. These sales enablement materials could include:
- Sell sheets
- Promotional videos
- And more
After days, weeks, or months of following up and nurturing relationships with qualified leads, it’s time to secure a sales meeting. While your sales reps have encountered a lot of objections, they’ve been through them all and should know what to say to overcome these objections and showcase your company as a trusted leader in your industry.
When asking for a sales meeting, SDRs should present decision-makers with two dates and times for them to choose from, which gives them options while limiting the risk of them refusing the appointment. Once an SDR sets a sales meeting with a prospective business opportunity, they should send them a calendar invite with a date, time, and location of the meeting (ideally at their office space). Additionally, the SDR should set an agenda for the meeting so they know what to look forward to and reduce the risk of a no-show appointment.
It’s important to remember that setting the sales meeting is not the end of the journey for your company or the potential buyer. SDRs have spent a significant amount of time highlighting your business as a valuable asset to their company’s everyday operations, so it’s time to wow them and show them that your products or services are worth the investment.
During sales appointments, your sales or account executives should present leads with a pitch deck that provides in-depth insight into what they’re looking for in a potential business relationship. This is the time for you to take all the information gathered by SDRs and use it to guide them to the end of the sales funnel. Remember to make the sales pitch targeted to the potential buyer, so it feels more conversational and aligns with what they want.
Once the sales appointment is over, set an agenda for the next steps in the sales process. You can do this by giving them a timeline of when you hope to see things in the potential partnership progress. However, this also depends on what their buying cycle looks like, so remember to ask open-ended and transparent questions, so both parties know what the next step looks like.
Now that the sales meeting is under wraps, it’s time for your sales team to submit a proposal and wait for the potential client’s response. It’s important to remember good things take time, so make sure your sales execs don’t rush or pressure them into signing if they’re not toward the end of the buying cycle. While you may want them to secure the sale as soon as possible, you also don’t want your execs to scare them away, which is what makes defining the next steps in the sales process an important part to cover at the end of the initial sales meeting.
When following up with potential business opportunities, have your sales and account execs ask them if they’ve had a chance to look over the proposal yet. If not, then suggest that they ask again when they plan on looking that over. Once the lead gives them an approximate day or time, have the sales exec let the decision-maker know when they’ll follow back up and see what can be done to close business.
The moment you’ve all been waiting for—closing the deal. If the lead sees value in what your company has to offer, they’ll sign the proposal, a contract is in place, and you’ve got yourself a new customer. This moment may have seemed like it was never going to come, but it’s finally here, which should get you excited to do it all over again.
While closing the deal is the best-case scenario, we’re realistic and know that, unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Even if a high-quality lead says they’re going with a competitor, thank them for their time and the opportunity to learn more about their business. Additionally, it’s important for your sales team to remind them that the door is never closed. If they have a change of heart and things aren’t going well with their other provider, your company is always open to being their next big B2B product or service solution.
To keep your company top of mind, sales execs can implement leads into a separate nurturing funnel to continuously remind them of what your company has to offer. However, it’s important to be strategic about this approach. If they get too many sales and marketing assets from your business, you increase the risk of them unsubscribing from your emails.
Like running a successful restaurant, following each step in the sales process is essential for getting the best results possible. While companies could get by skipping a step, they’re missing out on what could have been an amazing sales process that yields predictable and sustainable results.
By following these steps, your sales and marketing teams have the opportunity to maximize business growth potential:
- Step 1: Strategic Prospecting
- Step 2: Make the First Point of Contact
- Step 3: Qualify and Score the Lead
- Step 4: Build and Nurture Relationships
- Step 5: Secure a Sales Meeting
- Step 6: Follow Up and Submit a Proposal
- Step 7: Close the Deal
At Abstrakt Marketing Group, our A-Players are well-versed in each step of the sales process, ensuring that clients get the best and most qualified leads in their sales pipelines. Additionally, they have the sales expertise to effectively pitch decision-makers and set high-converting sales meetings. If you need a sales process that presents long-term success, contact the lead generation experts at Abstrakt Marketing Group!