Do you have a routine that you follow outlining each step that your sales team executes?  Does the outline intertwine both sales and marketing steps that are taken as you move a lead to a prospect, and a prospect to a client?  Do you utilize metrics to track how long it takes between each step in your sales funnel?  A strong sales process should have a definitive yes to each of the above questions.  However, if you were unable to answer yes to all of the questions, the remainder of this article creates framework that you can begin to employ to help your sales process gain strength. 

Peter Drucker, who was one of the most influential writers on the subject of management theory and practice, said that the difference between marketing and sales is that marketing is about strategy and sales are about tactics (Source:  Nurturing Customer Relationships, Cecil and Rabinowitz, 2006).  As an entity it is important to intertwine the two into the sales process.  Step one of the sales process should consist of determining how marketing collateral can be used along the way to further the prospect in the sales funnel.  Thus, sales and marketing should not be divided, but should work together to create efficiency for both departments.

The second step of the sales process involves qualifying the prospect to ensure that they are a good fit for your firm’s services.  Large account sizes often overshadow the important “fit factor”.  It is important to not only focus on assets, but also to pay careful attention to the chemistry that exists between the prospect and your staff.  Once it is determined that the prospect is a good fit and is qualified, the third step in the sales process focuses on bringing the prospect closer to commitment.  Once the prospect is not only qualified, but has agreed to move forward in the process and will become a client in the near future, the prospect is referred to as “closed”.  This is the fourth step in the process.

Each of the above mentioned steps could very well incorporate certain types of “drips” along the way. For example, the prospect could be included on a newsletter or market commentary that is sent to existing clients.  Documenting the items that are sent to prospects is very important.  This will help to establish the effectiveness of using the materials during each of the steps. 

The last step of the prospecting sales funnel is when the prospect becomes a full-fledged client, or is “active”.  This is where many people stop the sales process.  However, to be most successful, it is important to maintain a routine that can be perfected over time.   Your sales funnel for prospecting must have an afterlife.  You should decide what your prospects will now receive as clients, and determine how your clients can help you build the top end of your sales funnel with referrals. 

A well thought out sales process as described above, will provide a consistent message and experience for your prospects and customers.  And over time it can accomplish the following:

  • Drive Down Marketing Costs – You will develop a contact strategy that gives your prospects and customers the material and information that they want, when they need it.
  • Provide a Predictable End Result – A well-documented and reported sales process using metrics within your sales funnel will give management the ability to forecast sales and better allocate resources.
  • Offer Stability – An effective sales process will provide your sales team with a track to run on.  They will have a plan each day because they are tracking where each prospect is in the sales funnel and which step comes next.
  • Recognize Problem Areas – This is a powerful tool to diagnose where your organization gets stuck in the process.  You will be able to provide targeted training to help your team become more effective and quite possibly speed up your sales process.
  • Provide Benchmarks – Because metrics are vital and factual, you will have the ability to benchmark salespeople and marketing without guessing.
  • Give a Company Snapshot – With proper integration through tools like CRM, you will have the ability to report all levels of the sales process and associated activities to provide a snapshot of your business.
  • Generate Referrals – By following up with current clients, it is likely that you will generate a strong referral system.