The first part of this series looked at the benefits of improving your sales process: more data, better coaching, improved scalability and sales optimization.

Successful companies realize that continuous improvement is not about if. It is more about how.

How can you improve your sales process?

According to Mark Ripley, vice president of sales at Insightly, the best way to improve your sales process is through Focus on the buyer. Here are five steps to creating a sales process that reflects your buyer journey.

1. Get a buy-in from the guide

Before making any major changes to your sales process, it is important to communicate your vision and gain the buy-in leadership.

“For something as business-critical as your sales process, it has to start at the top,” said Mark Ripley, vice president of sales at Insightly. “Getting managers and executives to be immersed in what you do increases your chances of adoption.”

Getting buy-in from leadership may not be an easy task, especially if your sales and marketing teams are not aligned. After all, spending time refining the sales process can seem counterproductive compared to other, more pressing issues like strategic product launches, time-sensitive advertising campaigns, or quarterly reports.

Your next step: Equip yourself with data from your CRM that will help improve your sales process. Identify specific weak points such as customer churn or declining customer satisfaction that could be addressed through a redesigned sales process. Reconsider the tangible benefits of continuous improvement and be ready to share them with leadership. Be ready to have your best sales pitch!

2. Understand your customer’s buying process

If you’ve already studied your ideal customer journey and created an accurate customer journey map, you are ahead of the game. However, now may be a good time to reconsider your assumptions and get a fresh perspective on the customer’s buying process.

Mark emphasizes: “Basically, all buyers go through three phases that lead to a decision.” The phases are:

Problem awareness: The customer realizes that he has a problem.

Solution identification: The customer looks at his problem and makes a list of products or services that could offer a solution.

Cold feet: The customer decides whether it is actually worth solving the problem.

According to Mark, the “cold feet” phase is easy for sales teams to miss, but it needs careful consideration.

“When everyone buys something of significant value, everyone goes through a cold-footed period – even after doing all of the research to find a solution,” says Mark.

Your next step: Dust off customer journey maps that have already been created. Reevaluate your assumptions in the context of the three basic buying phases: problem awareness, solution identification, cold feet. Did you miss something?

3. Think like a customer

Understanding your customers’ buying stages is a good start, but not enough.

“You have to go one level deeper by looking at the world through the customer lens – not the sales lens,” says Mark.

To think more like your customer, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How does your customer decide that there is actually a problem?
  • What puzzles need to be solved before a purchase can be made?
  • What information is required to make an informed decision?
  • What questions and concerns does your customer have?
  • How does your customer go about obtaining information?
  • Is it more likely that the customer is watching an embedded video or reading a technical white paper?
  • Is there information that could speed up the decision-making process?

Avoid the temptation to reach conclusions. If you don’t have enough historical data to answer these questions, submit a survey or invite clients to take part in short 20-minute interviews. Ask open-ended questions that will help you understand their prospects and the steps they took to purchase your product.

Your next step: Slow down and immerse yourself in what makes customers tick. Put your existing sales process aside for now and try to understand customers on a whole new level. Get creative and use data to build a more complete picture of your typical customer.

4. Map your sales process to the customer’s buying process

With a data-driven understanding of the buying process and your customers’ prospects, it’s time to put it all together on a simple diagram.

Map the customer’s buying process

Using chart software, a whiteboard, or even pen and paper, capture each stage of the customer buying process (step 2) and related psychographic information (step 3). Since the customer comes first, this section should be documented at the top of the page.

Overlay your existing sales process

Once your customer buying process is clearly defined, the following area can help you document the specific actions and workflows in your sales process. For starters, it may be wise to simply list your existing process as it is today (in the context of the buying process). You will be surprised how much sales effort fits into one phase – at the expense of another phase.

Start developing an advanced sales process

If you examine your existing sales process alongside the customer buying process, you are sure to spot gaps and bottlenecks. For example, you may find that you need more resources in the “cold feet” buying phase. Brainstorming methods to balance your sales process and help the customer make an informed decision.

Your next step: Create your diagram and share it with key stakeholders. Start an internal discussion, find any misalignment between customer requirements and your existing process, and make a list of areas for improvement.

5. Work with Sales Ops to implement your sales process

As you move towards a sales process that is more in tune with the customer’s buying process, make sure that sales activities are fully involved in the conversation.

“Sales Ops is usually the team that implements the process by customizing your CRM, setting up the measurement framework, and reporting the data,” says Mark. “So it’s very important to have a close relationship between the sales force and the sales team.”

After working with Sales Ops, you may find that your current sales pile does not align with your optimal sales process. The good news is that there are many systems out there that can help you achieve your goal. Insightly’s intuitive user interface and customizability make it a great option to tailor the technology to your sales process rather than forcing your vision into a sub-par system.

“At Insightly, we’re well known for having a high adoption rate,” says Mark. “It’s easy to use, which leads to higher adoption and helps end users stick to the sales process to maximize sales.”

Your next step: Work with Sales Ops to tailor your tech stack to your ideal sales process. If this is not easy, you should evaluate other tools that meet your needs.

Future-proof sales process

Look forward to the third part of this series about sales processes. We give tips on securing the future of your sales process at a time when most teams are still working remotely.

In the meantime, if you’re ready to move to a new CRM, contact the Insightly team to schedule a demo.

Request a demo