At Leading Edge Connections, more affectionately called LEC, our team has been privileged to partner with numerous early stage startups, small businesses, and mid-size organizations to help them establish their own customized sales process. Most of them come to us when they arrive at the point to create their very first sales process, and sales team for their organization. The best of the best that we’ve worked with are the ones whose founders are humble and smart enough to recognize they need help, consider outsourcing that help to experts, and remain heavily involved in developing their process.
A good number of our clients fall under the tech umbrella in some capacity. It could be SaaS or Hardware, we aren’t partial. We thoroughly enjoy helping great tech companies create and execute in the area of sales. It allows them to brilliantly do what they do best while we brilliantly handle the rest.
For those startups and entrepreneurs out there without sales experience, here’s how you build a sales process for your startup from scratch.
1. Jump into customer outreach as fast as you can
The first thing we recommend doing to develop your sales process is to get out there as quick as humanly possible. That lean startup approach you used to start the company also works great in sales. Depending on your product or service offering, spend a week, possibly just a few days, cold-calling your customers. Yes, cold call people. It’s simple and direct. It will also give you a feel for how to best communicate with them.
During these initial calls, you’ll get a sense of what the real challenges, needs, and objections are. You should also be able to determine how a good call should go and get some direct customer feedback about your product offering. This may even give you the ability to tweak your product if needed before getting too far down the line.
As the founder, YOU absolutely must do this before handing it off to someone else on your team or outsourcing it to another organization. Conducting the preliminary outreach to your customers will helps you better understand your customer, their needs and the targeted market space, as well as refine your product offering as you develop your sales process.
2. Fully walk through at least one close
Walk through a simulated complete cycle that begins with finding the lead and travel through the entire sales process, ending with handing the customer off to your retention team
Do this with trusted colleagues who understand your marketspace, then try your pitch on someone who doesn’t. These test scenarios not only give you great practice before implementing your process, they’ll help you identify gaps in it.
Think about it like this. You wouldn’t want to get on your first real sales call and find out the credit card processing process doesn’t work or that the installation process is broken. Test it all out.
3. Create customer profiles and criteria
Qualifying profiles and criteria are just a list of traits that make up a good lead, or qualified lead, to invest in your product offering. This sounds like a no=brainer but you would be surprised how many young companies have no idea what they need to know about a customer to make a sale!
So how do you develop qualifying profiles and criteria? How do you track them?
Common components are:
• Is your product in their budgeted spending range?
• Are they using a competitor’s product and paying for it?
• Does your product save them time, money, or resources?
• Does your product solve their pain points?
• What is their buying timeline?
The Best Practices in this exercise is to create around five criteria based on what you THINK you need to know about a buyer, and then reach out to a subset of customers. Identify those five criteria in the customers, and then see if the criteria need to be expanded, or even cut down, to know if they would be a good fit. You need to know who you are talking to, helping and solving problems for. This will drive a far more streamlined message for marketing and sales conversions.
Always keep evaluating your criteria. Once you close a few deals, take a good look at the deals and figure out what you really needed to know in the first conversation to mark someone as “qualified” and move the deal to a close.
Something to keep in mind. “GREAT” conversations do not equal qualified leads. A qualified lead should be a prospect that matches all of the criteria to purchase your product, and one that has expressed interest in learning more and speaking again. Most folks are nice over the phone and the myth of getting chewed out by a lead is the exception rather than the rule. Remember, a qualified deal is different than an “active opportunity”.
An active opportunity is a qualified lead with a specific value attached to it. This means that you have communicated the cost of the product/service to the prospect, they understand it, and have expressed that it is in within their budget. It’s imperative to lock down each step, or as Tommy Hopkins would say “use Tie-Downs”.
4. Author an award-winning call script/flow
A good call script or flow is a way for you to guide a customer through your sales process from start to finish, while showing them the value of your product/service. It’s crucial because this is what establishes the roadmap for sales people and customers to get from Point A to Point Z. If there are breakdowns along the way you are able to see where they are happening and assess if it’s an issue with the sales person or the sales process using data driven decision making.
A call good script, or call flow, has the following components:
• Sourcing & Qualifying questions
• Q&A about features, pricing and next steps
• Building Prestige and Value in the offering
• Managing Objections
• Establishing Next Steps
Developing a script is a highly iterative process. Don’t get married to one version of it. The entire process begins with research. Know your product and how it fits into the market, and find a way to convey that as simply as possible to the customer. Keep It Silly Simple #KISS.
It’s important that your script incorporates evolving qualifying questions that allow for your sales people to proactively eliminate objections while also including opportunities to reactively overcome them.
5. Build you sales conversion funnel
Here’s an example of the ideal basic conversion funnel: Data/Lead Generation - calls/emails Contacts Qualified Buyers Sales Presentations/Demos Closed Deals Customer Retention. Side note, once you have enough people in the customer retention piece you may want to establish a full cycle there as well to include what we call “WIN BACK” campaigns to reestablish customers who attrite.
We always suggest reverse engineering your sales conversion funnel. Establish a range of accounts you’d like closed over the course of a week or even a month. Then ask yourself, “To close that many accounts, how many active opportunities/accounts do I need to qualify in order to achieve that goal?” This is how you determine your conversion rate. In some lines of business, we also determine the SPH (sales per hour) or SPW (sales per week) by including time constraints.
This exercise helps you determine how many qualified opportunities you need to achieve in order to reach your “closed account” goal. But how many scheduled calls or demos do you need to perform each week to in order achieve the desired amount of qualified opportunities.
Next, leveraging the conversion rates you estimated (always lean toward conservativism), determine how many calls/emails, or leads generated, you need each week in order to schedule that target amount of calls.
It’s important to note that the amount of calls or emails you need to send each week is pretty large—this is the top of the funnel. In turn, this might mean that your “closed accounts” goal might be too large. Start with a number you believe to be attainable, but aggressive. Work through the entire process and reach the goals you set out at the beginning of the week. If you aren’t an expert in a portion of the funnel, say bottom funnel, then it is advantageous to consider outsourcing portions of this to experts. There a great top and bottom funnel teams out there than will reduce your burn rate during ramp periods due to their experience and expertise. They may also lower costs and get you a stronger ROI.
Once you’ve done that, start increasing your goal each month. Never be satisfied. Great sales teams have a constraint blend of accomplishment and chronic dissatisfaction because they know there is more to be done.
6. Optimize onboarding
Sales doesn’t end with the close. The days of taking customers and throwing them over the fence to IT or Customer Service are over. To ensure customer retention and CX are on point salespeople must make sure that the customer is successfully integrated, and this means a clean handoff to your support team. As you develop your sales process, communicate with your CX and IT teams, and check in with your customers to see how they’re doing.
As an owner/founder, you’ll quickly find ways to improve your processes and ensure that your customers remain sticky. This is also crucial in order to secure customer referrals. Referrals are integral in bringing in new business down the road! There’s no better Billboard for your business than a happy customer.
7. Iterate.. Evolve… Iterate
I can’t stress this enough, just because something works, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do it. Make sure you’re constantly stress testing your people and process to figure out what’s potentially broken. Maybe your SDR script still needs some work, your email open rates aren’t where they could be, or your SPH is lower than you anticipated.
Don’t get stuck doing something because it works. Too many companies get stuck in that “this is the way we’ve done it” mode. Lack of iteration is what prevents companies from making a good sales process great!
It’s crucial that you, as the owner, conduct some of this early outreach and help develop your company’s sales process. If you don’t understand sales or have a lack of knowledge it’s equally imperative that you have the humility to acknowledge that and do what’s best for your business. Outsource it or hire consultants to assist you. That said, stay intimately involved in that creation process with them.
Only once you’ve developed this repeatable process, and know it works, can you confidently hand-off sales to a director that can refine the process even more!
My company, Leading Edge Connections, helps startups, small busineses and midsized organizations every day in this area. It’s what we love and we wanted to share our tips with the world.