Buyers today have all of the information they need to make purchasing decisions at their fingertips. The internet has given rise to savvy modern buyers and changed how we make purchases and conduct business. To motivate and sell to these informed decision-makers requires a B2B sales process that leverages expertise across marketing and sales skill sets.
Today’s buyers hold all of the authority in the buyer/seller relationship—and they aren’t interested in being distracted, pitched, or sold.
Prospects want value-added sales interactions that provide insights and help with their buying decisions—on their terms. If a business doesn’t offer a desirable buying experience, buyers will pick up and move to another organization that does.
It’s time to ditch the legacy sales process and start selling the way modern prospects buy.
It’s time for a buyer-centric B2B sales process.
This blog serves as a resource for building a modern B2B sales process and pairs with our guide: Creating a Buyer’s Journey Trail Map
What Is The Difference Between Legacy Sales and A Modern Sales Process?
Before we jump into building a buyer-centric B2B sales process, let’s cover a few important concepts.
What Is A Sales Process?
A sales process is the series of predictable events and actions required to guide a prospective buyer to purchase a product or service. Sales efforts group into clearly defined stages or phases that enable tactical planning, tracking, and forecasting deals.
These stages then tie directly to your sales efforts of nurturing prospects towards becoming customers.
What Is A “Legacy” Sales Process?
“Legacy” refers to sales strategies that are business-centric and transactionally focused—relying on scalability, standardized sales pitches, and sheer volume to generate revenue. These processes promote gaming the system, carelessly slogging through repetitive interactions, and pressuring prospects to buy. “Legacy” operations produce environments where salespeople become transactional facilitators that do little to nurture prospects, advise decisions, or become trusted partners.
You might have a legacy sales process if you’re:
- More concerned with the quantity over quality of interactions
- Unable to identify and qualify good fit leads
- Only use email and phone calls to reach out to leads
- Not equipping sales with the resources to educate buyers beyond your offerings
- Not tracking acquisition costs or customer lifetime value
- Creating the same sales interactions for every prospect
- Competing on price
- Struggling to meet revenue targets without face-to-face interactions
What Is A “Modern” Sales Process?
“Modern” approaches to the sales process are a prospect-centric framework instead of a business-centric procedure. A modern sales process provides sales reps with the tools, resources, and freedoms to tailor interactions around a prospect’s needs—enabling salespeople to become educators who provide valuable insights at every buyer interaction. In these environments, sales focus on finding good fit prospects, sharing their expertise, and guiding potential customers through the buyer’s journey.
Modern sales processes create a streamlined sales experience and meet prospects on their terms across multiple channels.
Benefits of a modern sales process:
- Higher conversion rates
- Shortened sales cycles
- Greater customer engagement
- Increased customer lifetime value
- Lower acquisition costs
How To Create A Modern B2B Sales Process That Prospects Enjoy
Every sales rep knows—and has probably reminded you several times—that the act of selling is an art form.
Meeting each individual prospect’s needs and overcoming objections is one of the few business processes that can’t be boiled down to a step-by-step procedure. An effective B2B sales process requires a framework that empowers salespeople with the freedom to improvise, tailor interactions, manage multiple stakeholders, and anticipate buyer needs.
Freedom to improvise doesn’t mean your sales process has to be the wild west. You will need rules, methods for measuring progress, and the ability to forecast. A sales process framework creates a sales environment that combines freedom with the right mix of predictability and measurement.
Last note. Each sales process is custom-built to fit the business, industry, and customers served. So there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Sorry. That said—we can provide you with a “recipe” for developing your own custom sales framework.
Step 1: Identify Your Target Buyer Personas
Always remember—sales is about people. It should be no surprise that all extraordinary B2B sales processes start with knowing who your buyers are. Buyer personas are an excellent tool for identifying prospects and developing strategies around them.
With a persona for all of your essential buyers and stakeholders—you can craft messaging, build playbooks, anticipate needs, and counter objections. Furthermore, sales team members can quickly identify bad fit leads and focus efforts on buyers that are more likely to make purchases.
Step 2: Create A Prospect Compatibility Matrix
A “Prospect Fit Matrix” will allow your sales team to vet prospects for compatibility before engaging them in lengthy and time-consuming sales activities.
Does the company you are interacting with meet the industry, revenue targets, personnel count, and business model you are aiming for? If not, then you’re likely wasting valuable resources on a sale that will be difficult to close—as well as drain resources if won.
Know—and focus on—your target market. It’s where your efficient money is.
Step 3: Define Your Sales Methodology
Your sales methodology will help guide how your team approaches selling and the role they l take in the buyer’s journey. Modern buyers have little patience for the traditional “pushy” salesperson. Instead, your sales team will need to become solution providers, advisors, educators, or challengers.
In complex B2B sales, your teams may use a variety of sales tactics and methods at different stages and with varying stakeholders within a single deal.
Determining which sales methods create the desired sales experience and motivate buyers is essential. When sales teams know how to approach a prospect and modify their tactics—they make an enjoyable and compelling buying experience.
We are big fans of the inbound and Consultative Sales Methods, and we built our own sales process around these methodologies.
Step 4: Map Your Buyer’s Journey
When making a purchasing decision, people progress through a series of thought processes known as the buyer’s journey. Every buyer travels the three stages of the buyer’s journey: Awareness, Consideration, and Decision.
Being able to anticipate prospect needs and proactively counter objections requires that sales possess a deep understanding of the buyer’s journey. The ability to proactively manage prospect needs at each stage of the buyer’s journey creates an effective B2B sales process that shortens sales cycles and motivates purchases.
Consider the example below and the questions that will help you identify how to provide the most value to buyer’s at each stage of their journey.
To achieve a robust and comprehensive buyer’s journey you’ll need expertise and insights from both marketing and sales personnel within your organization.
Step 5: Create Your B2B Sales Process
Analyze your current sales process and identify the critical steps that every salesperson must make to close a deal. Don’t focus on every detail and effort that could happen, only the ones that MUST occur.
The key here is simplicity.
Once you have captured the critical sales actions, you’ll want to group them into deal stages.
Practical deal stages are clear in their intent, have definable beginnings and ends, and measurable. A proper deal stage begins with a tangible sales action and ends with a buyer result that progresses the sale to the next stage.
Essentially, these stages provide the framework for your sales process and every deal you engage.
As mentioned earlier, we follow the Inbound Sales Method within our frameworks. Inbound identifies the following stages for its sales process. You may use whatever stages best fit your business—but this framework is easily adaptable and intuitive.
Inbound Sales use the following deal stages for its sales process.
1. Identify Stage: Find Good Fit Leads
The Identify stage is about finding good fit leads and minimizing wasted efforts.
Whether these leads come from marketing, a lead generation website, or are prospected by sales—they must be qualified for fit. Performing research on leads before sales engagement reduces wasted efforts by confirming fit, identifies opportunities to provide value, and makes rapport building more natural. Don’t skimp on this stage. Spending 10 minutes and to evaluate if a lead matches a persona and if their business fits your compatibility matrix saves hours of wasted time.
This stage ends when sales decides a lead is a good fit and is worth engaging.
2. Connect Stage: Introduce Yourself & Determine Needs
The Connect stage is where sales conducts initial outreach.
Don’t ruin your first interaction by opening with a pitch. This isn’t the time or place.
The point of this stage is to build rapport, get people talking, and learn about their challenges and goals.
A first connection can happen over any number of channels and the more you try, the better your chances of making a connection. Think beyond email and phone calls and consider social media, video, and chat. Ideally, you are able to glean which channels your lead prefers from your initial research. Are they active on LinkedIn? That’s probably a better place to start than with a cold email.
This stage ends when sales has made introductions, gained a rudimentary understanding of the lead’s needs, and the lead agrees to additional discussions.
3. Explore Stage: Discover If/How You Can Help
During exploration, sales reps interact with prospects to further define and understand their challenges, goals, and resources. Prospects—depending on where they are in the buyer’s journey—may not be able to explain or articulate their problems yet. That’s okay. This is an opportunity for your team to educate and build rapport.
Ask open and qualifying questions, practice active listening, and determine if your business can offer solutions.
This stage ends when stakeholders achieve a level of understanding about your services and their problem—typically with the completion of a successful evaluation, demonstration, site visit, etc.
4. Advise Stage: Formal Proposal of Solutions
This stage begins when a formal submission of a proposal or quote and the deal is recognized as an opportunity.
Sales efforts during the advise stage should center around proposing solutions, managing stakeholders, countering objections, and motivating purchases.
A prospect’s willingness to share information, trust advice, and engage will all be influenced by the sales experience you provide.
During this stage—you should anticipate needs, showcase expertise, and build rapport. These efforts will all contribute to more positive deal outcomes.
This stage may include a number of rounds of discussion and negotiation—but it formally ends when a prospective buyer decides to become a customer—or end discussions.
5. Closed Won/Lost Stage: Did You Win The Deal?
This stage is—of course—self-explanatory.
The stage begins when a contract is sent to the customer and ends when it comes back signed, or negotiations fail.
In either result, the reasons for the outcome need to be recorded for insights and future strategy.
An individual deal may be won or lost for any number of reasons—and it may be difficult to determine exactly where negotiations went right or wrong. However, the ability to analyze aggregated deal “win/loss” data can be invaluable in optimizing sales efforts for greater results.
6. Delight Stage: Ensure Success & Promote Long-Term Partnerships
The period of time immediately following a successfully closed deal is one of your greatest opportunities to solidify a long-term, profitable relationship.
On the other hand—abrupt changes in interactions and communication once a deal closes creates a transactional relationship between sales and customers. It’s imperative for sales to facilitate a smooth transition for a prospect becoming a customer. Clunky handoffs, missed communications, and delays create an unpleasant buyer experience and damage brand perceptions.
The most successful sales processes take this a step further—scheduling ongoing periodic meetings to ensure adoption, success, and ROI. These Interactions help you maintain strong relationships between your sales reps and your customers—and ultimately—create opportunities for future deals.
Step 6: Identify Needed Content & Collateral
As you may have gleaned, deploying an effective B2B sales process will require that your sales team is equipped with educational resources spanning the entire buyer’s journey—as well as each stakeholder.
To achieve this, you’ll need both sales and marketing teams to work together to identify collateral and resources that educate and support each stage—and each stakeholder—along the buyer’s journey.
Without comprehensive sales collateral and resources—sales teams often end up relying on a “standardized” pitch deck and a few sales sheets. These limited resources offer little value and don’t address the specific needs of different buyer personas or industries. They also diminish your sales reps’ ability to be seen as helpful advisors.
Remember—buyers want your insights and help with education. If you can’t provide what they need— they know that someone else will.
Refer to the diagram below for more information on what types of content are valuable at each stage of the buyer’s journey. By taking note of what content and collateral your sales team already has—as well as identifying what new materials will be useful—your teams can work together to prioritize the creation of new materials.
FREE DOWNLOAD ALERT
Make a copy of this Google Sheet template to start mapping your sales collateral.
Step 7: Define Success and Reporting
No sales process is complete without comprehensive reporting. Define what success looks like and what it takes to get there. Identify what, when, and how leading and lagging sales metrics and KPI’s are measured.
Focus on measurements that prove results and worry less about the exact number of sales actions required.
A buyer-centric B2B sales process is less concerned with how many emails get sent and more interested in measuring the results of interactions. Finding what motivates buyers requires sales metrics and KPIs that center on outcomes and substance over volume.
Comprehensive metrics that focus on results, rather than volume, enable sales leadership to hone tactics, modify strategies, and predict revenue.
Step 8: Adopt Tools That Empower Sales To Wow Buyers
The last step is to determine what tools, systems, and resources are needed to maximize execution efforts of your newly-created B2B sales process.
A comprehensive CRM and sales enablement tools empower sales teams to engage customers on their terms and manage complex sales cycles.
Spreadsheets and disjointed systems burden sales efforts and hinder their ability to create enjoyable sales experiences.
A CRM should declutter and simplify a sales process with automation, manageable workflows, and powerful tools. If a CRM is difficult to use, sales will ignore it—turning your sales process into a free-for-all.
For our clients and our own business, we use HubSpot’s CRM and sales tools. It’s a fantastic platform that has helped us—and over 100,000 other customers—effectively execute a complex B2B sales strategy. HubSpot CRM empowers sales teams—rather than bogging them down in manual tasks. It’s easy to adopt, has simple workflows, and offers a wide range of tools native to the platform.
There are many CRM and sales tools available on the market. Make sure you choose the one that fits your business and helps you create a seamless B2B sales process that focuses on providing value to your prospective buyers.
A compelling and effective B2B sales process seeks to add value and motivate buyers on their terms. If your sales process is cumbersome, focuses on quantity, and pushes selling—then you’re likely losing out to competitors who have spent the time and energy to create streamlined and enjoyable sales experiences.
If you’re ready to learn more about creating a modern buyer’s journey— you might find these blogs helpful:
- What Is The Buyer’s Journey?
- Is Your B2B Sales Strategy Effective For Modern Buyers?
- Tips For Developing A Prospect-Centric B2B Sales Framework.
- Nurture Leads Through The B2B Sales Funnel.
- Sales Enablement Tools for Each Stage Of The Modern B2B Buying Experience.
Or—if you would like help mapping your sales process—download our Buyer’s Journey Trail Map. We developed this resource to help you understand buyers and build an effective “prospect-centric” sales process.
Optimize Your Sales & Revenue Ops By Mapping Your Ideal Buyer’s Journey
We’ve designed this resource to help you build the foundations of a streamlined and enjoyable buying process. Shorten sales cycles, empower your sales reps, and wow buyers with a buying experience that makes your competitors jealous!