When it comes to turning an interested lead into a client for your small business, the process of selling your services can be long and intricate.
For many professional services businesses, it can take upwards of weeks or even months from interested prospect to landing a new client. The process is way different than selling a customer a product from your website or a retail store. There are many steps and details to remember, and it can be overwhelming to keep track of all these moving pieces when you’re juggling multiple deals.
To further complicate this, when you have a whole team trying to close deals, you’ll often find that everyone follows a slightly different process. The problem with an ad hoc sales process where everyone makes up their own steps is that it becomes difficult to grow and scale. Some people take longer to close deals than others, some people don’t convert as many deals, and on-boarding a new hire is a painful process that takes way too much time to get them up and running.
When this is the case, you’re bound to lose out on business that you could easily be winning if you had a streamlined process for your team to follow.
Streamline the process by building your pipeline
To close deals faster, increase the rate of deals you’re closing, and improve efficiency, you need to streamline the process. Create and map out a process that you and your whole team can use to track each deal. The idea is to have a documented process that everyone can follow so everyone’s on the same page and knows where each deal is, how many are on the go, and what needs to be done next.
If the idea of creating a sales process seems daunting to you, don’t worry! Here’s a step by step guide on how to streamline your process and build your sales pipeline:
Step 1: Map out all the steps in the customer journey
This is the fun part. Sit down with your team, grab some post-it notes and write down all the different steps that a potential client goes through, from learning about your business to becoming a client. You’ll want to use a new post-it note for each step.
While you’ll want to include steps your team does (for example, follow-ups) it’s ideal if you can think about it from your customer’s perspective. By thinking about it from your customer/buyer’s perspective, it will open up opportunities for streamlining the process to make it more efficient.
For example, you could do a quick exercise with your team where you have them go through the process a potential customer would go through and narrate the highlights and the lowlights.
- What are the friction points?
- What do you do well on your website or through the process to gain their attention?
- Are you answering common questions and concerns the buyer would have?
For your buyer, their process may start with a Google search, then comparing options by checking multiple websites, talking to a salesperson to find out pricing options, discussing their needs, getting a quote, negotiating the price, then finalizing details, etc.
Ask yourselves these questions during this exercise:
- If I’m a potential client with a need we solve, what would I do first?
- What are the different steps I would go through to become a client?
- What questions or concerns would I have throughout this process?
You should end up with a whole bunch of post-it notes each with a specific step. This step is supposed to be a bit messy, but if you can, try to order them as best you can in chronological order.
Step 2: Define your major stages
Once you have a bunch of post-it notes all over the place, start to order them from left to right so they flow in a logical timeline (if you haven’t already) and then start grouping little steps together. The groups will become the major stages in your pipeline.
For example, your main groups (stages) may end up looking something like this:
Stage 1: Inquiry
Stage 3: Quote
Stage 3: Negotiation
Stage 4: Close
Try to keep the number of stages to a minimum by grouping the little tasks as best you can. For example, if you have more than 7 stages, you’re probably overthinking the process and some of those steps can become pieces within a major stage. If you’re unsure how to distinguish a major stage from a step within a stage, read this next tip.
Step 3: Order the steps within the stage
Once you have your major stages, take the smaller steps within each “group” and start to order those.
For example, you may have the following steps within each major stage:
Stage 1: Inquiry
- Capture contact details
- Find out how they heard about your business
Stage 2: Qualify:
- Schedule first call/meeting
- Complete intake form to define needs/requirements/budget
- Confirm their needs are within scope of your business services/products
Stage 3: Quote
- Review list of needs & requirements to build proposal
- Send proposal to the lead
Stage 4: Negotiation/Follow-Up
- Follow up 3 days later to discuss the proposal
- Schedule call or meeting to discuss needs and budget
- Send revised quote
- Follow up 2 days later
Stage 5: Close
- Get signed contract
- Process order or start client project
Step 4: Document and share the process
After flushing out this process and organizing all the stages and steps, document this process so it’s shared with your team.
At a minimum, this can be done in a shared spreadsheet, but the ideal option is a shared small business CRM, like Daylite, for example.
Step 6: Track and optimize
As you start using this process to track your deals, you’ll get a feel for what’s working and what steps or stages need to be tweaked to streamline your sales process.
Try and carve out time after the first few weeks to evaluate and optimize the process.
- What stages or steps take too long?
- What steps or hurdles slow down the process?
- What steps can be removed to optimize?
- What steps need to be added to further qualify leads?
- What questions or concerns are you not answering clearly for your buyers early on in the process?
You may find throughout this process that the first stage doesn’t really involve your team, but there are ways that you can optimize this for your potential client.
For example, comparing you and competitors on your website or making it easy through your website to input their needs and get a quote.
By creating and sticking to a streamlined process, you’ll improve efficiency, save time, and close more deals. It’s also a good training tool for hiring new salespeople so they already know what process to follow.
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About the author:
Kristie Holden is an online marketing consultant. She helps startups get more leads by clarifying their message and creating a marketing strategy to attract and convert their ideal client. Connect with her on Instagram.