How to Develop a Sales Process for Your Small Business

When you’re a small business trying to claim a corner of the market, you’ll quickly find you need to develop a solid sales process and team. You may be tempted, as the small business owner, to have a member of your staff take charge of this important unit of your business from the get-go, but that should be the last thing you should do. To build a profitable sales process, commit yourself to actively developing the process. Or better yet, conduct the early sales of your small business yourself.

For business owners without sales experience, here’s the sales process you should follow when you are building your small business from the ground up. You can also read our related article on how to build a sales process that drives growth

Start Reaching Out to Your Customers As Early As Possible

It is absolutely vital that you start reaching out to your target market as soon as you start developing your sales process. The mentality of just getting out there and getting a feel how to engage with potential customers will help you in the sales development process. Pick up the phone and cold-call people who may need your services for a week, or even just a few days.

These early calls will give you a sense of the objections and challenges you might have to deal with, and provide you with direct customer feedback about your product or services. The input you’ll receive may even persuade you to change a key aspect of your product or services before sincerely launching into the market.

As the owner of your small company, you need to be the one to do this before passing the job on to someone else. Personally reaching out to your customer base will enable you to better understand their needs, their frustrations and the market. The more people you engage with as a salesperson, the more you can use their input to refine your product as your sales process evolves.  

Practice with your Team

Rehearse the conversation you will have with your potential customers. Start by pitching a lead and then walk through the whole sales process with that person. Finish by having your support team take over the customer account when the sales process has concluded. Practice your pitch with co-workers who understand your style, then do the same with others outside your company who don’t. (Outsiders quickly pick up on flaws and inefficiencies.) These play-acting scenarios not only give you practice before implementing the sales process, they enable you to identify the problems with it.

Say you successfully get a customer’s credit card number – how do you proceed? Do you yourself process the payment? Who handles the account once you are done? Practice calls are a good way to practice your sales pitch and perfect the logistics of a sale.  

Determine What your Qualifying Criteria Will Be

The list of traits that qualifies someone to buy your product or service is what constitutes your qualifying criteria. It may sound simple, but many small businesses struggle to identify the traits about a customer that make them a right fit for your product or service.

So how do you identify qualifying criteria?

Standard criteria questions for customer leads are:

  • Does your service save them time and money?
  • Is the price of your product in their budget?
  • Does your service solve a problem of theirs?
  • Are they currently using a competitor’s service?
  • How quickly can they make a purchasing decision?

Start by developing just five criteria on what you think you should know about a customer, then reach out to a group of potential customers. Identify the five criteria in the pool of customers you targeted, then decide whether there should be more than five criteria, or less, to evaluate whether they would be a good customer for your product or service.  

Don’t make the mistake of considering a lead qualified because “you had a pleasant conversation.” Learn to differentiate a qualified lead from an active opportunity. An active opportunity is a qualified lead that understands the cost of your service/product and has stated the price is within their budget.   

Develop a Sales Script

Consider your call script the means of guiding a customer through the sales process from beginning to end, while communicating to them the value of your service/product.

A good call script usually has the following segments:

  • Intro
  • Qualifying inquiries
  • Q&A about pricing, features and next steps
  • Asking for the sale
  • Handling customer objections
  • Deciding on the next steps

The first step to developing a good call script is to do the research behind your service/product and how it fits within the market so that you can communicate this in simple terms to the customer. Your script must include your qualifying questions – in order to identify whether the customer is right for your product/service – as well as common problem points, and benefits.

Build A Conversion Funnel

Use a “reverse” approach to build your conversion funnel. Figure out how many deals you’d like to land within a week or month. Then calculate how many deals/active opportunities you need to qualify in order to meet your goal. This is otherwise known as the conversion rate.  

Ask yourself, how many sales pitches will have to be performed each month in order to reach your target amount of qualified opportunities? Using the (conservative) conversion rates you’ve calculated, figure out how many emails/calls, or leads generated, you’ll need each month to generate the x number of sales pitches you want to make.  

The number of emails or calls you will need to make every month is likely substantial – this is the conversion funnel top. If this is too large, your “concrete deals” goal may be beyond the capabilities of your small business. Begin with a number that is doable yet ambitious. And then start working so you can attain the goals you established for the month.  

Once you’ve begun, mark up your goal by 10 per cent each month. This is indispensable to securing a healthy month-over-month growth for your small business.

Refine Implementation

The sales process doesn’t end when the customer agrees to pay for the product. As the business owner and salesperson of your company, you need to make sure the customer will receive the promised product/service in a satisfactory way. This means ensuring your support team will deliver the product/service in a timely manner. As the small business owner, you’ll be constantly refining and improving the delivery process so that customers are pleased with the service. This is extremely important if you are to obtain customer references that will generate more profits for your business in the future.

Look to Constantly Improve

Just because the sales process is working, doesn’t mean it can’t be better. Be sure to always be testing your process to see how it can be improved. Maybe the call script needs to be updated or a new human translation provider needs to be brought in to freshen up content targeting foreign language speaking customers. (Maybe you should opt for quality localization services altogether and present a transcreated website for minority Spanish speakers.) Your conversion rates could be too low or your emails aren’t triggering the response rates you’d like. Exploring every possible leak will fortify your business in the long run.

When you’re not looking to constantly improve your sales process, you may be missing out on potential profits. This is why it’s critical that you, as the business owner, actively engage in early sales so that you have an idea of how to boost sales and be on the same page of the sales people hired to implement the process. Only then, can you contemplate handing off sales to a director who can refine the process even more. By having had the experience, you can always keep an eye on how good of a job she or he is doing and step in with your own ideas and recommendations at any time.

For more info, read our related article on how to 6x sales revenue in 12 months with a simple change in mindset.

James Anthony

By James Anthony

A senior FinancesOnline writer on SaaS and B2B topics, James Anthony passion is keeping abreast of the industry’s cutting-edge practices (other than writing personal blog posts on why Firefly needs to be renewed). He has written extensively on these two subjects, being a firm believer in SaaS to PaaS migration and how this inevitable transition would impact economies of scale. With reviews and analyses spanning a breadth of topics from software to learning models, James is one of FinancesOnline’s most creative resources on and off the office.

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