You’re the CEO and a proud founder of a new startup venture. You also have a reliable team of sales professionals. You are gearing up to launch your product’s sales process.
Or maybe you are planning to expand your startup and are gearing up to explore the unknown territory.
Your company is scaling at an affordable rate, giving you enough time to check how your operations are running right now. You realize that your sales process and other operations can improve tenfold.
B2B sales is a much more complex process than B2C sales. As B2B sales have multiple stakeholders and steps. You can overcome this by restructuring your sales process into different steps and prepare your sales team to tackle each of them individually.
In this article, I am going to tell you how you can equip yourself better for handling potential customers by creating a winning sales process for your startup in 2020.
Hold on tight, the nine steps of creating a winning sales process for your startup is here! Ask these questions to yourself.
What is a Sales Process?
Your sales process is a template that guides you towards achieving your sales objectives. It also helps you in creating the benchmark of performance that you desired from your sales team members.
Creating a sales process is important as it allows you to develop a repeatable series of steps that the members of your sales team need for successful conversation.
What is an effective sales process?
The steps of your sales process consist of separate selling activities. Here is a typical view of how the steps in a startup sales process might look like.
Modern buyers are resourceful, well-informed and array of options. As a startup, you must align your sales processes accordingly.
2. Clearly defined
Make sure that everyone involved in your business completely understands each of the stages and elements of your sales process.
Your sales reps must be so well-versed with the sales process that they can easily replicate each of its steps.
There needs to be a certain amount of predictability in the flow and the expected outcomes of your sales process.
Your sales process must be planned for improving the achievement of certain activities, e.g, drive your company’s revenue growth, achieve better sales efficiencies, etc).
The activities in your sales process must be measurable for gauging the success and scope of improvement.
Startup owners must create a flexible sales process for accommodating the dynamic market, tech innovations, or the changes in your own way of operations.
If you successfully create a sales process with these points in mind, it will easily align with the purchasing journey of your prospects. Meaning you will focus on their needs by eradicating your own greed!
What’s the difference between sales process and sales methodology?
There has been confusion (especially among non-sales professionals) over these two terms. While they might sound synonymous, they refer to two different things in the sales universe.
Sales methodology is the framework or philosophy that guides how a salesperson approaches each step within the sales process. You may adopt a single methodology to govern your entire sales process or apply different methodologies in each step of the sales process.
What are the important sales process stages for a startup?
I will be focusing on the most crucial sales process stages every startup must focus to get the desired result.
Salespeople must have a good idea about their product, target customers, industry, and the unique value the band is providing to the market. The foundation of your sales process must be solid.
Research about the competition. What are you going to offer them that will stand apart from the rest?
Stand in your customer’s shoes. Find out the core problems the targeted buyer personas experience? What will be the benefit of using your product by this buyer personas and how will it solve their problems?
Go through the knowledge base and find out how your sales team or the industry leaders handle the pain points, overcome the objections, close the deals, and successfully convert the prospects into repeat customers.
Your efforts are not just limited to finding the customers for your product or service. It is about engaging with the right ones. The ones who will make the purchase.
You can use a CRM database for finding your potential customers. Other sources include social media pages, groups, blogs, and industry events.
Getting your sales and marketing teams together on selecting an ideal customer profile. Then they must screen each of their leads using this benchmark.
Doing so will help you allocate the resources to more qualified and high-value leads. You must ensure that your sales pipeline stays healthy.
You can do so by inspiring your sales reps to keep making phone calls to the prospects, sending them emails, and reaching out to them on social media channels.
3. Assessment of needs
Once you have attracted the right prospects, you need to determine whether they really want what you are offering.
In this stage, sales reps can offer personalized solutions for the prospects and increase their chances of closing the deal.
Your sales reps can be more productive if they have these traits.
- Active listener
- Builds trust
- Follows up on time
4. Pitch (Presentation)
Here you introduce your value proposition and pitch it to your prospect. You help them understand what they will experience after making a purchase from you.
How do you do that?
Connect their needs to the corresponding features and explain the benefits your product will provide.
Let me remind you of one more thing. Yes, you will be backed up by research and your product knowledge but you will always need to have a customer-first approach. It is a common mistake to focus too much on what you’re selling, and not enough on your buyer.
You and your sales team members need to act as a consultant and not a sales professional running just after the numbers.
5. Handling Objections
Well, I never said you won’t face objections, did I!
But then, it is part of the whole startup sales process, the endgame is overcoming the objections and earning the prospect’s trust. That is the only way you will generate repeat business for your startup and secure its future growth.
Try to assess the situation from the prospect’s point of view, train hard at being gritty and respectful to the prospect’s decision.
Okay, you have overcome the objections of your prospects. Congratulations, the dotted lines are soon going to get signed. As you prepare yourself for finalizing the deal you must remember that this stage involves you sending out a proposal or a quote. This proposal will cover everything you have previously discussed with the prospect of your offering.
While you attempt at closing, remember that you might fail. If something like that happens you can have a follow-up plan.
You can ask the present customers for a referral. If the prospect says that the time is not right financially, then request a future re-engagement
I don’t need to tell you how important this is for your sales process. Let me simply put it out this way, your sales funnel won’t end after closing a deal.
Your current customer base is a treasure chest. Make sure that your current customers are happy with your service. Your sales process must be planned for generating repeat business.
Keep your customers and prospects nurtured by keeping them updated about your business. You are in luck as there is a CRM for small business that provides you with the Sequences feature for creating automated follow-ups.
As per the Harvard Business Review, companies that use a formal, guided sales process were ranked as the highest performing.
So how can you design a repeatable sales process for your startup? Start off by answering these questions.
Create a repeatable sales process
1. Do we understand the market dynamics?
This stage focuses on finding the demand for the product and where do you stand in your domain/industry.
The majority of startups fail every year, and the leading contributor to this result is lack of demand. If your idea fails to provide a solution to your customers and is unable to drive any value, then you are doomed.
For starters, do market research to help you realize the potential and scalability of your solution.
- Conduct surveys
- Talk to industry leaders
- Read technology analysis
Stay updated with your industry news and try to identify the issues that your competitors have not yet focused on. You can also do so to see the scope of improvement in your product or solution.
If the budget allows, do research that involves you talking directly with your audience. Learn more about them, their pain points and how they can use your solution as a remedy.
Doing the above-mentioned research will allow you to check how your product will contribute towards resolving various problems.
You need to define the customer’s demands and take it into consideration at every step of your product development.
Many startups do so by offering freemiums, where they are actually sharing the beta version of their product with their target audience and collecting the user experience data.
List out some competitors in your market segment.
Analyze what is their
- goals and visions
- target audience
- key features of their product
Doing so will help you realize what degree of competition your product will face when it gets into the market.
The research will help you identify the improvements you need to make to your product, who is going to make a purchase from you and the future development plan for your business as well as the product.
2. Have you identified the target market and created buyer personas?
The next question you must ask yourself is “Who will purchase my solution?”
After researching the market demand, your next step involves the identification of the customers. Find out who needs your product and who will benefit from its use.
Identifying the target market and developing the buyer persona is not just an important part of your sales process but your overall business too.
Defining a target audience helps you convert faster and maintain lasting customer relationships.
You might think that developing a one-size-fits-all solution will help you survive the competitive market, but it won’t help you create a niche for your product.
Gather information on specific details from your target market. Once you win over these segments, then only think of expanding into other segments.
This decision will also help you develop a less complex sales process. Such a sales process is smooth, easy, and makes your sales goals more achievable.
Once you identify your target audience, it is time to create buyer personas.
While many of you will think or argue that developing buyer personas is the first step in your sales process, give me a chance to explain myself.
Why would you, as a startup, want to waste your resources on selling to unspecified customers. Ask yourself this, can you risk such a situation where you are okay to wait for results to come in at a slower pace.
Try to create a detailed and realistic profile of your future customers. Depending on the segment you serve, your startup can also have more than one persona.
Some of you might also have this thought in your mind, “But we’re selling other businesses, why must we create their profiles?
Let’s just say that buyer personas are not limited to B2C companies.
High performing companies are more likely to have developed buyer personas and assign internal resources to maintain these personas. – Cintell
It doesn’t matter if you are a B2B business, the decision-makers are individuals. Individuals will always have personality, traits, and preferences.
Having the right profile helps you and your team create better messages that can be shared with these decision-makers on the right channels.
Developing buyer personas will help your sales professionals (sales reps), customer support and even the marketing team members to have a much more meaningful and informed interaction with your prospects.
When your business starts knowing the individuals and their needs, you start delivering a very personalized experience to them. This will make them move from the potential customer category to a paying one.
When you are selling to the right customers, your churn rate decreases and makes the future expansion process easy and smooth.
So how do you build buyer personas? I am sharing a few questions here. These questions will help you while building a buyer persona.
The demographic data and personality
Find out where the people matching your buyer personas live.
You can do some research about their level of education, personality, and communication method they prefer for any interactions.
Research what job title they have. This will help you decide the approach as per their hierarchy.
Know what job responsibilities they must carry out as per their daily activities.
Dig deeper and find everything you can about their company information about their various verticals, the segment they target for their product or services.
Know about their reporting authority as this helps you decide how to reach the decision-maker.
Their goals and barriers
Find out their individual and team goals and their KPIs.
Know more about the daily issues and what they really want to resolve at present and in the future.
Their buying processes
What was the trigger that forced them to look for a solution?
Know where they do their research work and what they are looking for.
Try to find out if they are the decision-maker or they report to one.
Explore the method they use for prioritizing
Also, dig up the information or triggers that alter their buying decision.
Note: Buyer persona might change over time.
Once you release your product and deliver them to your customers, you can get better insights into your customers. Then you can revise your personas to better fit your current or future target audience.
Buyer persona templates
From Marketing to Product to Sales to Services, buyer personas play a pivotal role in shaping your startup’s future!
3. Have you created your product’s value proposition?
Important note: What you discover from the two stages I have explained above, might seem familiar to you. But it is not necessary that it will be easily understandable by your team or the prospects.
Once you have determined the gap your product can fill, give it an understandable figure in the form of a value proposition.
Keep your product’s value proposition concise yet informational.
Remember, you are trying to convince the prospect about the benefits of your product, not read the “once upon a time” story to them.
Identify where you stand amongst the competition, the issues the prospects are facing, and how your product will solve these issues.
If you are targeting multiple segments, create different propositions for them.
Include relatable and simple statistics that will back your claims and showcase a much more concrete product value proposition.
This tool helps visualize all the research and discussion of the customer into a map. This map has three key components.
- Pain points
This tool places customers at the center and helps you work out customer’s needs and puts your product’s capacity to fulfill these needs.
Using this canvas, you can create a simple value proposition and explain to the prospect how your product is the best option for mitigating the problems.
4. Is the customer journey being mapped?
There you go!
You now understand your market, you have the target audience and have the product value proposition.
It’s the perfect time to use this information for mapping the customer journey.
Ask these two questions to take full advantage of this stage.
- How are my customers going to purchase the solution?
- Is there a way I can track their journey to the “purchase” page?
I won’t leave you dangling over the questions. So, let’s help you with how you will get answers to these questions.
Use your imagination, put yourself in the customers’ shoes and think about the actions your customers would take to reach your product.
After creating a buyer persona, mapping out the steps leading up to the purchase is yet another important stage for your startup’s sales process.
Mapping these steps will help you create a customer journey. Dividing the steps of this journey will track your customers’ current status in their journey.
You can easily create strategies that will take them closer to the destination (making the purchase). Mapping the customer’s journey will help you focus your resources. You can also use this information and develop tactics for these customers in different stages.
For many startups, the customer journey can be visualized in the sales funnel. Yes, the digital age has given customers different methods for engaging with your product. Yet, the sales funnel steps are unchanged.
The prospect is now aware of their issues and the effect it has on their business.
The visitor is realizing that he needs a solution to this problem and has started looking for it.
By expressing their interest in knowing more about your solution they qualify as your lead.
Now that you have your lead, you contact them, give them a demo of your product, take the communication to the negotiation stage.
Once the lead has come to an agreement about your product’s capability and makes the purchase, he becomes a paying customer.
The cycle doesn’t end with your customer’s purchase. You start giving them world-class customer service to turn them into returning customers. If you keep providing world-class customer support, they will become your brand promoters.
While your prospects move through the funnel their numbers will start decreasing. Many of your potential customers will fall out of the funnel. Why? This is a routine result when the solution and your customer’s needs fail to complement each other.
To move the customers successfully to the bottom of your sales funnel, they need to build confidence in your solution. The good news is that those who reach the bottom of the sales funnel will make the purchase.
Building a startup sales funnel is not an easy task. Depending on the industry you serve, the steps will differ and maybe even divided into smaller steps.
You have Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) after that comes Sales Qualified Leads (SQL), then Prospects, and then Customers.
Sometimes the funnel gets divided into marketing and sales funnels.
Marketing efforts are focused on top of the funnel for lead generation.
After that, the Sales team takes over.
Both sales and marketing departments must work closely as customers can engage with the solution in many ways.
Your sales funnel is not linear and doesn’t apply to everyone.
One of the website visitors read about your solution from social media. He decided to send you a message.
Another visitor came across your product during their Google search.
He read everything on your website, was interested in what you had to offer and booked a demo. After a lengthy discussion and coming to an agreement the purchasing decision was made.
Your customers can come into the sales funnel at any stage.
Once you have a sales funnel ready, it is time to think about storing all your customer details. Choosing a CRM for a startup is the best option.
The customized sales intelligence tool is designed for assisting your business process and adapt to the way you carry out your daily activities.
You can easily organize your sales process using the smart workflows such a CRM has to offer.
Even if you have separate departments, mainly sales marketing, and customer success, they must be able to have access to every information and interaction to make the customer journey smooth and profitable. What I am trying to say is that having a CRM for startup gives you that freedom where you can share important customer and other information with the team so that they are always on the same page. This positively affects your workforce and brings more efficiency to the business.
For instance, a CRM system will make the lead handling process much easier. Marketing can hand over the sales department, who in turn can notify the customer support team. The support team will be ready to handle the requests, with every crucial piece of information stored inside the CRM.
5. Have you generated the leads?
Congratulations, you have created a sales funnel and the database is safe inside your smart CRM software.
Now is the time to get your CRM some leads to work with. Your sales funnel cannot show your results until they get those leads in them, can they?
Modern prospects know how to use online resources to know more about you and your product.
- They are researching, reading and talking about your product.
- They are basically forming an opinion and want to know if the decision of making a purchase from you will be a wise one or not.
- They are hounding the digital channels for gaining more insights on how these solutions can help them with their current problems.
Therefore, as a modern startup, make sure that your product’s social presence is evident. This is where you might attract them or make the prospect go away.
Your startup can use inbound marketing for bringing the right leads.
Focus on the targeted segments we discussed at the start of this article. Build a valuable and informative communication channel with your prospects. communications with them. Stay relevant to your content that the prospects are going to read. This will pull the prospects towards your solution automatically. No need for an unnecessary aggressive word of mouth in the market.
US B2B marketers considered content marketing to be valuable for moving prospects through the sales funnel. – EMarketer
You must remember that the content you produce is useful, relevant, compelling, and timely.
6. Are the leads qualified?
After getting your leads, you must qualify them.
As a startup, you are low on resources and I don’t want you to make the mistake of using those resources on a prospect that never signed up or made a purchase from you. That hurts both mentally and financially.
Ask for more than an email address of the lead. You can ask for additional information and if the lead is truly interested to make a purchase, they won’t have any issue sharing their work email, company name, and various other details about the business.
Remember this, the leads who want to make a purchase also want to talk with someone that is genuinely eager to help them get rid of their problem. And how will you be able to derive their problem by just asking their email address?
The cost at which you developed your product must be met with the asking price. How much will the customers pay for using your solution?
Do think of the time it will take them to get used to your solution. You will have customers who want a solution that gets up and running in a short time.
You must remember that there is always a decision-maker involved in this process. So, if you end up focusing your resources on someone who reports to the decision-maker and in the end, the person is not ready for the purchase, you will be disappointed.
Never be too afraid to vet out these personas
- don’t need your solution
- can’t afford to shell out the money right now
- not ready for the onboarding time afford to pay or wait
- not willing to refer the decision-maker
No, I am not discouraging you, I am saying these leads are not fitting into the sales process you are using for your startup, at least not for the time being.
7. Are you interacting with the right prospects?
The next step is to meet the prospects. And if you have known the sales scenario or even watched it in the movies, the experience is exhausting.
For startup founders, it is a tough process. They have to face the full criticism of their prospects and leave their product open to scrutiny.
Some of the time, the prospects even stop replying to your calls and emails after the meeting. What you as a startup founder can do is start the meeting by addressing the customers’ needs.
Prospects love to communicate with an advisor and not a numbers person! A salesman is always unwelcomed for the prospects, so tread the conversation carefully.
Start off identifying key problems and how your solution will be able to address them. There is no need for introducing the value proposition at this stage. And don’t go all gung-ho on the prospect with the list of features your solution has to offer. Choose the feature set that will specifically counter the problem of your prospect.
Always remember, the process of negotiating with your prospect and getting them to the closing stage takes a lot of time. So never rush your prospects into signing the dotted lines or they might react to it and never communicate back with you.
8. Is your closing ratio as expected?
Once the purchase decision is made, the next stage is to bring the money to you!
Once the agreement is signed or you receive the payment, the prospect must feel that he has made a correct decision of signing the agreement.
This is the stage where you start your onboarding process. And you can use the CRM system to automate this process for your customers.
You can use the sequences to send out welcome emails coupled with a starter guide. You can send out emails with a link to training and walkthrough with a support department link in the CTA.
If your customer is satisfied with your service, he is the most powerful weapon for turning your solution into a brand!
Keep in touch with the customers, always help them out with any difficulty they are facing and keep taking feedback from them.
Doing so will make them your brand promoters and they will never hesitate about sharing the positive reviews of your product on social media too.
Keep the email communication live and make sure that your customers refer you to their circle. This will not just boost your popularity but also make the closing ratio boom.
9. Are you measuring your sales process? How can you improve it?
Ask these questions to yourself once you have created a sales process for yourself.
- How can you measure if the set sales process is bringing the desired results?
- Is there a way you can find out the scope of improvement?
My answer for you is; data!
Startup business owners can easily track their sales process data by using CRM software. You can gain important insights that will allow you to adapt to the market dynamics.
Introducing the CRM into your sales process is a smart thing to do as data-driven decision-making will help save more time and money. As an owner of a startup, you must set KPIs for every step of the sales funnel.
Track the conversion rate and see how many marketing leads are turning into sales prospects. If this rate is experiencing a slump this means your marketing department is generating leads that are not the right fit for your solution. Now that you see the problem divide your marketing leads into different groups. After doing so, do a complete check to see who will most likely become your customer. This will help you in smartly focusing your resources on the filtered list of prospects.
You can also work on improving your sales process by improving the solution you are providing. And what is better than working on your customer’s feedback. Keep adding new features that are feasible and will keep the relationship with your customers cordial.
So here I am sharing five key metrics every startup selling SaaS must take into account
- The customer acquisition cost (CAC)
- Your monthly recurring revenue
- The customer retention rate (CRR)
- Your churn rate
- Lead-to-customer conversion rate
Being a startup owner, I will advise you to create a sales process map. And how can you do that?
List out your stages and customer touchpoints in a column. The two stages can be lead generation and qualification.
In another column, list down your metric.
Duration for each step
Number of the transaction occurring in this stage
In another column add the selling activities such as cold calling, follow-up emails, etc.
Slowly continue to each of the stages.
Being a startup you need to evolve your sales process and stay updated with the current trend of the market. Startups, with their fresh ideas and the hunger for success, often take a plunge into the unknown. Though this is brave, only to a point. You cannot do sword fights in the dark. That may hurt you!
I hope this article sheds some light on how you can create a winning sales process for your startup in 2020.
Until next time!
Learn Cold Email Techniques that will Grow Your Business!
We built two consulting agency businesses from scratch using these techniques.