Brian, Belkins' VP of sales, is a recognized professional with 15 years of experience in relationship-based sales and management.
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What are the differences between selling maintenance for gas tankers and selling software for enterprises? Actually, there are almost none. The B2B sales process can be longer or shorter depending on your customers’ scale, yet it will include research, outreach, pitch, negotiation, and closure paperwork (in one form or another) in any industry.
A factor that truly impacts the success of your sales team (and can add a couple of digits to your bottom line) is how you build and implement the said sales process. So keep reading to discover what to include in your sales protocol so it can bring you millions.
The B2B sales process is a multistep approach that helps your sales team close more deals. Based on the customer buying journey, this roadmap helps every sales team member stay on track and consistently follow the sales strategy.
How is the B2B sales process different from B2C?
When selling to individual customers (B2C), the focus is on making the sale happen quickly and ensuring the customer is happy with their experience. B2B sales, in contrast, are about consulting, building long-term relationships, and continuously providing value to the potential buyer.
The process helps you organize every part of this journey in a way that works best for your product and bases the practical instructions on tactics proven by your best salespeople.
The SaaS sales process tends to be slightly extended. This HubSpot survey puts the average time frame for sealing the deal in this industry at 83 days and notes that for 75% of B2B companies, it takes an average of at least 4 months to win a new customer.
Steps of a usual B2B sales process
If we look at the big picture of sales, all activities here can be divided into 4 types:
Negotiation and closure
The exact sales process varies between 5 and 7 steps depending on business specifics and sales methodology. However, this 7-step breakdown from HubSpot is a good generic example:
Prospecting (including lead generation): gathering leads and identifying potential customers for your product or service
Qualification: assessing the leads’ needs, budget, decision-making process, and authority
Preparation (research): educating yourself on the buyer’s specific needs and tailoring your pitch to answer them
Pitch: presenting your product or service and its benefits to the potential customer
Handle objections: talking to potential customers in detail to handle their concerns
Close: getting the prospect to commit to buying your product or service
Post-sales: following up to make sure the customer is happy with their purchase
As you work on your sales process, you will compile all the elements into one document. This roadmap will differ depending on your organization, product, customer, and chosen methodology.
There are 15 different sales methodologies in the market now, each one approaching the customer from a different angle. For example, you can introduce your product as a solution to the prospect’s problems instead of pushing it as is. This methodology is known as solution selling.
Another take is conceptual selling, which reverses the sales process. Here salespeople listen to the potential client’s pain points first and then sell them a concept of a potential solution that addresses every detail.
Though any sales methodology can work when applied to the right customer organization, B2B companies with the fastest-growing revenue approach customers with a more consultative mindset. In a 2022 McKinsey survey, 85% of sales leaders said they believe solution selling will be a core sales capability in the upcoming years.
Once you’ve picked your methodology, you can move on to planning the steps of your sales process. While the details will differ depending on your product, the steps follow the ones we mentioned in the previous section.
Roadmap of a sales process in B2B
Here’s what you need in your sales process roadmap:
Step name (e.g., qualification, education, validation, proposal, decision)
Education stage: “What are some challenges you face over the next six months?” “What are you doing to mitigate the risks of falling behind competitors?”
Validation stage: “What are the top things you need this solution to deliver?” “Can you take me through your company’s buying process?”
Proposal stage: “Do you need to make any changes?”
Activities that need to be completed at each stage (e.g., finalize proposal, get tech sign-off, review with legal, or identify needed documents)
Gives / enablers for each stage (e.g., agenda for initial appointment, white papers, case studies, pricing options, timetables)
Gets for each stage (e.g., internal process, agreement to move forward, confirmed implementation plan, signed contract)
This list is a fantastic place to start. Fill it in with what is relevant for your company and your process. Gather the best tools to enable your sales reps to do their work most efficiently and deliver a smooth experience to the customer.
Feel free to add things to this roadmap or change your questions to build B2B sales funnel that effectively moves your leads from the top to the bottom, resulting in closed-won deals. Treat your sales process as a living thing, react to market changes, and answer your customer’s emerging inquiries.
How to design an efficient sales process for B2B
The catch in C-level sales today is that prospects don’t want to be sold to. They need help with buying.
According to Sales Enablement Pro, 51% of sales leaders have noticed customers conducting more extensive research online, while 43% say buyers now prefer a digital-first experience.
So by the time the buyers come to you, they are likely sold on the idea of your product or service already. Now they need you to assist them with the education, customization, procurement, and implementation.
And here is how to design your sales process to exceed all of these expectations.
1. Understand the sales journey you’re building
If you drive a car without knowing where you want to go, you can end up anywhere. So you typically start a trip with your endpoint in mind. The same applies to sales.
You want to close a deal, but how do you want to get it done? And how do you want the customer to feel? Think of it this way: Your buyer has never bought your product. They expect the sales rep to guide them through this journey — and get them to the right destination.
How you want your customers to feel after the sale
With this knowledge you can create a perfect sales journey for buyers to go down that will end with you closing a deal.
Consider your bigger goal, beyond the closures, based on your company’s stage and trajectory. The details of your sales process will vary depending on whether your company is:
Entering a new market
Pursuing higher brand awareness
Trying to be the most sought-after brand
Tapping into a new target audience
Striving for higher profitability
These nuances will impact your goals and mindset and, therefore, your sales process.
2. Map the buyer’s road to purchase
Understanding why and how your customers buy is one of the most critical parts of your process building. No person ever has woken up with the thought, “OK, I’ve been an MQL for a while now; I guess it’s time to become an SQL — let me call that sales rep.”
Some things happen in your prospect’s life that drive them to start buying, and you need to lay these out in understandable terms without any marketing lingo.
Here’s one simple approach to it. It assumes that your potential buyer has these thoughts at some point: “I have a problem. I need a solution. Oh, here’s one. Sweet! These guys sound like they know what they are doing.” It is an example of precise mapping, explaining why and how people are buying and what they really think, not what sales reps assume.
Mapping out the thought process that drives your clients gives you an obvious idea of how to build your sales process.
Discover what triggers a person to turn to your particular services. Talk to your existing customers. Take 10 to 15 recent buyers, set up a call, and ask them these questions:
How did they find you?
What did they want/need?
Who was/were the decision-maker(s)?
What was their time frame?
What budget did they have?
How was their experience?
Where did they get the information?
How did they educate themselves?
These answers will be your gold when you turn them into action steps.
Tip: If you have a customer-success department, they can give you all these answers. Find out what drives your customers, what they care about, what messaging works for them, and what their post-purchase experience looks like — then use them.
Create a consumer panel from your best buyers (or early adopters if you’re a startup) and brainstorm with them. Understanding what and why these people are buying will significantly enhance the shaping of your process.
You can use your competitor’s customers’ insights — find another company or brand with a similar product and tap into their audience. In some industries, like tech, sharing knowledge about the customer journey is a widespread practice, and it flows free in webinars and online conferences.
And as a first stepping stone on your road to a closed deal, find what determines if these people are really ready to buy from you.
For example, as a B2B sales lead generation agency, we at Belkins start the sales talk by establishing the fact that higher-quality, personalized emails and hand-curated leads will result in more qualified appointments and closed deals. Sounds obvious, but not all people make this connection.
We also make it clear that our methodology does not bring instant results — it takes at least 3-6 months to build up the flow.
Once we agree on the basics, we can take our clients through the rest of the process and explain how we will achieve the result.
This approach also helps to filter the prospects. If someone does not agree with us at the beginning, it may indicate that going forward would not be a great idea. Mutual agreement on the basics is an essential foundation for cooperation.
3. Establish KPIs and set up the tracking
Establish which KPIs you will measure. Base this on which KPIs are best for forecasting, conversion rates, value, and ROI. These will directly affect how you manage your sales process and how you adjust to different activities.
This part ties into our first piece of advice: starting with your goal. The specific metrics you’ll want to pay attention to will directly depend on your desired destination.
Tip: Ask yourself these questions: What do we measure to drive what? Why am I measuring this?
Set up reporting and tracking so you can easily collect the data for your chosen KPIs both at an organizational level and at a granular (per-rep) level. This will give you insight into how to drive best practices across your sales team.
Let’s say you are a sales lead measuring the micro and macro conversions between the sales stages: landing on the registration page, viewing the price page, requesting a demo, etc. Depending on the number of customers converted, demos delivered, demos that converted to post-demos, and so on, you get data about your reps’ performances in the different stages.
From the conversion data, you can see exactly where your sales process is “leaking” and provide reps with the necessary training exactly where they are underperforming.
This shows how a correctly set up sales process eliminates the guesswork, empowering you to use resources efficiently and make improvements in all the right places.
4. Build a standardized roadmap for reps
Take every insight you learned about your customers and turn these into action steps by defining critical points and what you plan to do about each.
At Belkins, we use the following deal stages in our CRM:
Evaluation / solution presentation
Tip: When laying out the stages, outline what conditions a sales rep has to meet to move from one stage to the next. Create a checklist to define actions to take, questions to ask, and a proposal sheet to make. It will streamline your internal process and help your team understand their position in it.
Build a standardized sales follow up process that each rep can follow. This will act as a clear roadmap and take the guesswork out of the process.
The action items must:
Be assignable to the name or role
Be divided into clear steps (“Here’s what you need to do: 1, 2, 3.”)
Bring value to the customer
For example, don’t treat the proposal step as simply sending out a document. Rather, think about how exactly sales proposal solves your customer’s problem.
Tip: Want to speed up new processes adoption? Get professional sales development services instead of building everything from scratch.
5. Create templates based on the best practices
Wondering how to figure out the best practices? Pick the methods that work for your specific business based on your previous closed deals and ongoing sales process. Here’s what you can do:
Be in the room when your sales reps are working.
Gather insights right after they’ve landed a contract or moved a prospect through the sales process.
Interview them to find out:
How did the customer find them?
What problem were they trying to solve?
What questions did they ask?
What were their doubts?
What materials did they require during the sales process?
Were there any “aha!” moments?
Record this interview and share it with your team.
After several interviews, you will see patterns driving the desired response from prospects.
From here, build templates, scripts, and messages for your team to leverage during the sales journey and test the receptiveness so you can minimize the number of manual tasks that your reps are responsible for. This will also ensure continuity in the messaging and value proposition that your market is receiving.
As you crystallize the messaging, run it by your salespeople who will be using it daily. Test what is working and implement these practices as standard.
6. Run it by the reps and train the team
Make sure that the people who are developing the processes connect with the actual sales operations that are happening. If you have top management crafting their own vision and then sending it to sales reps who don’t believe in it, you will have a hard time enforcing it.
To avoid pushback, ask experts from your team to review chunks of your sales process and provide feedback. Ask them:
How do they do this part now?
What do they hear from the customers?
Is the new take realistic?
Be open to suggestions from your reps as they are your boots on the ground. Always align your actions with the reality of the everyday work and cross-reference each step with your customer’s needs.
When everything is good to go, train your team on how to utilize their tools best to follow the proven methods that you have built for them.
7. Do more of what works, again and again
A thoroughly planned sales process is valuable because it allows you to do more of what works and eliminate what doesn’t. This means you can measure the effectiveness of all your actions, know precisely which steps are taking you toward your goal, and consciously repeat these steps. It is the difference between stumbling and running.
The important part: How to implement the sales process
Planning and crafting your sales process is only half of the job. The next stage is implementation.
The step-by-step breakdown looks like this:
Train the team on the process.
Integrate processes into the workflows.
Reinforce the method in sales team meetings.
Coach your team on the process.
Manage the process and fine-tune it as needed.
You may still encounter a situation where your team is hesitant or even resistant to apply new approaches. It is human nature to oppose something new since change brings with it an uncomfortable nudge to adapt.
How about introducing the new sales process in a way that will guarantee its application by your sales reps? Here are several rules to follow:
Clearly explain how the sales process will make life easier for your sales reps. After all, this is what you are after: to have regulations in place that ensure your team spends less time and effort hitting quotas. If the process doesn’t benefit the sales reps, it’s unlikely to stick. So be explicit about what’s in it for them: less work, more money, etc.
Follow the training stage with the coaching stage as reps start applying the process. Your team may nail the process during training, but what matters most is that your reps use it with real customers. Keep a close eye on it and coach as necessary until the new rules become the new routine.
Stick to the process in all your company meetings and protocols. After launching the new sales process, ensure everyone follows it. For example, when you have a team meeting and someone claims a deal is on stage 4 but is describing what should be happening in stage 2, politely point out that this deal is in stage 2. Consistently training your people to understand and embrace the process is what brings the result.
Benefits of the elaborated sales processes for B2B
A solid sales process that includes an established training protocol decreases the ramp-up time for the new sales reps. All you need is to guide them through the training process, which usually takes several weeks.
Sales-process training ensures that new hires learn all the benefits of your product or service. They know the problems your buyers have and how to address them. All of that information is based on tried-and-true insights and methods that have brought your company the highest success rates.
Here’s what else a sales process can do for your company:
Boost deal success rate
Elevate the customer experience
Reduce customer turnover
Reclaim time for selling
Decrease the sales cycle duration
Increase the average deal size
Lower the sales force turnover
Minimize sales expenses
According to CSO’s research, companies with high adoption rates of the sales processes and sales methodologies consistently beat the average results for revenue plan, quota, and win rate.
What is in it for you?
A deep understanding of how to develop an efficient sales process based on customer journey and the ability to successfully implement it within the company is the ultimate manifestation of a great sales leader.
If you are capable of creating the process, proving its value, rolling it out, training dozens of people to follow it, and delivering results, kudos to you. This is something to showcase on your resume, as it can help you make a stellar career in sales.
Or are you really busy and could use more capacity for building certain parts of the sales process? Book a call with our sales experts to find out how to optimize your process and start seeing results.
What are some inefficiencies in the B2B sales process?
Usual inefficiency factors in the B2B sales process are poor lead qualification, lengthy sales cycles, insufficient sales and marketing alignment, neglecting lead nurturing, and missing out on technologies.
How to make improvements in B2B sales process flowchart?
Sales flowcharts vary by company, but these common shortcuts can enhance each step:
Have an ICP to target the right audience and prioritize leads based on predefined criteria.
Utilize discovery calls to dive deeper into a prospect’s specific challenges.
Use pre-built templates for solution demos and customize them to address specific challenges.
Take a consultative approach during negotiations by actively listening to the prospect’s concerns.
Implement electronic signature tools to streamline the contract-signing process.
Develop a proactive customer-success program to nurture long-term customer relationships.
Quickly identify areas for improvement through automated analytics.
Foster continuous improvement by regularly assessing your process and making adjustments.
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Brian is a recognized professional with 15 years of experience in relationship-based sales and management. He built teams and implemented sales processes in startups and Fortune 500 companies across numerous industries.