For some people, even just the idea of creating and documenting the steps in a sales process sounds tedious and pointless.
I get it; you want to get out there and SELL!
So, tedious? Maybe at first. But pointless? Absolutely not.
The concept of sales processes can seem intimidating. But it doesn’t have to be when you’ve developed one specific to your goals and personality type.
A process is simply a collection of steps necessary to complete a task. When you write them down, they become your standard operating procedures (AKA SOPs).
For our purposes, that task is selling. And all aspects of selling become so much easier when you follow a process, no matter how good of a salesperson you are.
Eagerness Delays Process-Building
When you start a new business or role, it’s normal to focus more on getting the job done than creating a process. You probably don’t know enough yet to think about how much time it takes, ways of improving, or how good the results are. You just need clients and money coming in.
You’re barely thinking about the individual steps, much less the sales process as a whole.
As your business grows, you figure out those details and various sales metrics. You gain more and more data (hopefully tracked in a CRM), and a process begins to develop, even if you don’t realize it.
But if you never get over that “just get it done” attitude, the process won’t be repeatable, scalable, or helpful for future growth.
Processes are what make the world’s biggest companies run smoothly.
And they help top salespeople reach success.
They started with nothing, and as they grew, they developed sales processes and standard operating procedures.
However, a considerable difference between the very top salespeople/businesses and the strugglers is not just the presence of a process; it’s the documentation.
Is It So Bad Not to Have a Documented Sales Process?
When you have a documented process, it’s the glue that keeps everything together.
See, there’s an issue we don’t talk about very much, but it hurts a lot of sales teams. You can be the most well-intentioned (and successful!) founder or salesperson on the planet, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to train your salespeople well.
When you don’t write them down, there are vital steps in a sales process that you can’t explain. You’ve been doing them for so long that it becomes a part of your routine.
But that means your salespeople will not use those techniques well or at all—which will become a huge problem if they can’t replicate your numbers.
To make matters worse, many companies simply give new salespeople a goal or quota to hit, and then they’re pretty much on their own. They’ll probably get some product training and maybe a script (which is terrible), but no actual sales training at all.
Sales leaders often expect new salespeople to go out and make it happen. But if you stop to think about it, that doesn’t sound fair, does it?
That is an enormous part of the bigger issue; everyone only focuses on the result. And it creates a range of unfavorable circumstances.
What happens to new salespeople without a documented sales process:
- They slog away every day trying to get better, but the ramp-up time from getting hired to hitting quota takes way too long. Worst case scenario: you have to fire them before they’ve had a chance to painstakingly find their own process and success.
- They’ve found a way that works for them, but it hurts you and the business. There’s no scalable process, so they bring in every lead they get, leads that will never be a good fit. This causes stress and slows things down on the fulfillment side. Worst case scenario: they cost money or hurt your reputation by bringing in bad leads, and you have to let them go.
Either way, you have to start over with somebody new.
Now, you might get lucky. You might find somebody who was killing it for somebody else, has their own successful sales process, and can quickly adapt it to fit your company.
But who can afford to wait forever for somebody like that? Not only is it a pipedream, but you’ll also miss out on some great potential talent.
So, what do we do to fix this?
It starts with documenting all the steps in a sales process.
Why You Should Document the Steps in a Sales Process
You may think it’s a waste of time, but please believe me when I say it is not. A little time spent upfront documenting all the steps in a sales process will save you tons of time later. It will help you:
- Train new salespeople: Instead of just giving them expectations and product knowledge, you’ll be able to hand them a blueprint of what you’ve used to find success for your company. They’ll know who the best leads are, how to qualify them, and how to close the sale reliably—no more constant call-and-pray or bringing in bad leads.
- Find the gaps that may take more time or prevent more success: When you’re just winging it, doing what you’ve always done without really thinking about it, there may be gaps you don’t even recognize. These gaps could be lengthening the sales cycle, letting good fits fall through the cracks, or letting bad fits in. When you document the steps in a sales process, you’ll have an easier time finding these gaps and closing them.
- Adapt: If you’re a business owner or manager, you probably know how vital adaptation is. Things change, trends change, and people change. And you have to change too. But when your sales process only exists in your brain, it’s harder to change. Documenting it puts your strategy on paper and makes it a tangible thing that you can adapt when needed.
- Improve communication: A documented sales process doesn’t just help your new hires. It helps everybody. With a strategy, you can hold everybody to the same standards. Instead of just hitting a quota, their success will be judged by how well they follow the process. This eases stress, makes for better company culture, and creates more success in the long run.
Process Creation Takes Time
The thing to remember is building and writing down the steps in a sales process takes time and some work. Very few of us are lucky enough to see massive success with little effort. There’s a lot of trial and error in finding ways to improve each step in your sales process. But documenting all of that does make it easier!
I’ve had hundreds and hundreds of conversations since starting Adapted Growth. Remember that documenting your process goes as deep as how you run each conversation in every step of the sales cycle.
Even after that many, I still consistently find things to improve.
I try new things to see if something shortens the sales cycle, qualifies prospects quicker or better, or closes more sales. Whether it works or not, it gets notated. When something works more than once, it goes into the documented process.
These steps aren’t written in stone, and your sales process will and should evolve!
Malcolm Gladwell is well-known for enlightening us with the 10,000-hour rule for becoming the best of the best. While it probably won’t take 10,000 hours to sell one product or service well, it does take time.
That is the time you’ve spent finding success in your business. When you’ve reached enough that you need somebody else to do what you’ve been doing, can you wait that long for them to figure it out on their own?
If you document your steps in a sales process, you don’t have to.