Want to know the best way to build a great sales motion? Buy more technology. Recently I had to evaluate HR software and got to experience three very different sales processes first-hand. I did some Google research, then I read some blog posts. A couple of names came up consistently, and I reached out to three.
One company, Remote, allowed me to book time the next morning through their online demo request form. This was a lot quicker than submitting a demo request then going back and forth with an AE.
This same company had a laser sharp discovery process that made me feel like they fully understood my needs. I ended up meeting with all 3 companies, but it was these tiny differences built into their sales process that made me choose Remote.
This is a simplified example, but it illustrates my point: your sales process is a differentiator.
If you've read any sales management books you've heard the same thing: "Build a repeatable and predictable sales process." The same authors then offer no real insight into how.
That's why we decided to take things into our own hands. We organized a discussion with the early sales leaders from Tray.io, Front, Stripe, and Five9 to share how they successfully implemented, documented, and reinforced their repeatable sales process.
Here are 10 takeaways:
1. Think of your sales process like a set of guardrails.
Sid Kumaran, Head of Sales at Tray.io, said “sales process is a set of guardrails that helps you have more repeatable success.”
Highway guardrails exist to reduce the risk of a serious accident, and your sales process functions in the same way.
“The way I think of the sales process, especially in the early-stage (from seed to C, where most of my experience has been), you’re trying to set up a machine where your inputs are leads and discovery calls, and your outputs are closed won and ARR,” Sid added. “Everything that happens in between is the sales process.”
2. Start with the skeleton first, then add detail.
If you’re doing founder-led sales, or if your sales team consists of the founder and one AE, focus on the skeleton of your process first. Start adding more details as your confidence increases that you’re doing the right things. Sid said he likes to have 15 successful customers.
“There’s such a thing as building in too much detail too early,” Sid said. You’re going to want to be iterating and experimenting. Leave room for this.
Mikaela Stamas, Solutions Engineer at Front, said “Once you find product market fit and are scaling, your sales process needs to be top of mind. As you’re hiring and growing, ask yourself how can you set all these new people up for success in a way that scales, reduces human hours, and takes the burden off of tribal knowledge? Tribal knowledge isn’t scalable.”
3. Make sure your process aligns with your company’s other efforts.
You want your customers to have a cohesive experience from marketing to website copy to product messaging, and onboarding. Carry that branding through to your sales process. Also, be sure your sales process aligns with your company mission, or “North Star.”
Tom Hemmingsen, Senior Director of Commercial Sales at Five9 said, “Our North Star is helping our prospects understand we have the best product and team in the industry. The alignment across the organization around this North Star helps me say, ‘OK this is how my sales process is going to drive toward that.’”
At the end of the day, it’s about winning deals. But as Tom pointed out, for every company and every stage, how you’re going to win will be different.
4. Visualize your process as tactics and strategies.
It can help to visualize your sales process as a series of tactics and strategies.
Sid said, “Tactics are This is what you message, This is what pricing looks like. If they say X, you go Y. Strategy is the overarching theme of the deal. What’s the overarching pain? What’s the overarching initiative the company has going on? What are they trying to do at a more strategic level?”
When you have a documented sales process in place, you spend less time figuring out those tactics—because they’re right in front of you. You know what works at each step. That frees you up to focus on the strategic piece … the personalization that accelerates win rates.
5. The sales process is everyone’s job.
AEs are allergic to the term “sales process” because they’re sick of getting a process that doesn’t reflect the way deals actually get done. This happens when the sales leader creates their sales process independently.
Collaborate with your team. Gather your key stakeholders, your leaders, and your individual contributors who are on the road closing deals.
“Talk about the trends they're seeing, what’s working for them,” Mikaela said. “Get alignment as a group. Then based on that, outline the steps, add more detail, identify who’s responsible, etc.”
Once you’ve documented it, it’s everyone’s job to refine it over time.
6. Use technology.
Of course, you need a CRM.
Beyond that, customer collaboration software lets you map out and visualize your entire sales process, step-by-step, so it's accessible and can be iterated on over time. Reps know exactly what to do and say at each step, and sales leaders can easily pop in to see where each deal is at.
7. Keep a pulse on your performance.
As your team grows, Mikaela said operational rigor becomes all the more important: “Identify the minimum level of KPIs you want to track. Inbound vs. outbound. Is it a product-led sales cycle? What’s that conversion? Is it a sales-led motion where it’s a demo to close? Are they in a trial? Are they doing a paid pilot?
As you begin to mature, loop in Solution Engineers, and think about implementing a deal support request process and tracking engagement of other stakeholders on these deals. Look at when deals get closed-lost at a certain stage. Why is that? Are you identifying specific trends?”
8. Iterate, iterate, iterate.
Your process should be evolving—especially if you’re a young company.
“I’ve noticed a sales process that works one year may be very different the next year, and may not work the same way the following year because competitors may be doing something else or the market is doing something else,” Sid said. “Or if you’re trying to go to a different vertical, it may not work the same in that vertical. Every time you’re trying to change a variable, go back and look at your sales process to see if it’s still stacking up.”
9. Know what a good sales process looks like.
A good sales process is strategic, consultative, collaborative, and customer-focused. When you experience a world-class sales motion, bring those best practices and learnings back to your team.
And this brings us to our last key takeaway ...
10. Get out there and play a part in purchases.
Sid was involved in the evaluation of Gong a few years ago:
“They did a phenomenal job understanding our pain points, going deeper-than-surface-level and really understanding what was going on in the business and why this was important. They also tied everything back to metrics. Then they tied each of those metrics and each of our pain points to customer references we could be speaking with.”
Mikaela experienced Gong’s world-class expansion motion:
“Our account manager at Gong reached out to a bunch of Solution Engineers like myself to hear about our experience, and how we were using the product. We didn’t have full licenses, but we were listening to call recordings. Based on that feedback, they reached out to our Head of Solutions with a bunch of data points about how they help teams like ours. It was absolutely brilliant.”
Tom said People.ai does an excellent job getting buy-in from multiple stakeholders:
“We recently went through the sales process with People.ai. They did such a good job of evaluating all the different stakeholders that were involved, reaching out to them, and understanding what was important. I had someone reach out to me with a thoughtful initial email. They wanted to understand my pain points, then they were able to distribute that amongst the other folks involved in the sales process. It was a good combination of team selling and identifying different stakeholders.”