The Only Sales Process Guide You'll Ever Need

August 13, 2019

Shawn Parrotte

Before you shut yourself in a room and whiteboard out a new sales process, read this. We’re sharing exercises and templates to help you build your sales process from scratch.

Already have one? Great. Use this blog to refine your existing sales process with data-backed best practices.

Below you’ll find insights from millions of calls we recorded with Conversation Intelligence. Learn how some of the world’s top performing SaaS organizations run various stages in their sales processes, including discovery calls and demos.

What Makes a Good Sales Overall? Here are a Few Tips: #

It’s customer-centric. #

Before you build your sales process, go on a listening tour. Identify all of the necessary conversations and touchpoints to define the stages in your sales process.

Gain a detailed understanding of the customer’s voice, including the questions and objections that come up during specific parts of the sales process, as well as the materials prospects request. You also need to put tools in place to regularly access the customer’s voice over time.

Clearly define what makes an opportunity fit to progress from stage to stage, as well as any “green” and “red” flags reps should watch out.

Only after this initial research should you map out or change your current sales process.

It’s clearly defined. #

The sales process needs to be detailed in a visual way so that reps can easily follow it.

It’s critical that you look at areas where the sales process is most prone to breaking down and define exactly what’s needed to succeed. We’ll share our favorite sales process template later on!

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It’s replicable. #

Your reps should use the same sales process across every deal.

Sure, there may be some nuances when working accounts of different types or sizes, but if your sales process is allowing for too much customization, it’s not going to scale.

Some common mistakes we see organizations make when building their sales process include too loosely defining the qualification, proposal, and pricing parts of the process, or permitting reps to use wildly different scripts or talk tracks.

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It’s measurable and predictable. #

A good sales process starts with data-backed best practices.

At minimum, you should understand the typical duration for each stage. You should understand how specific triggers, such as competitor mention or new titles entering a dea, accelerate that deal toward close — or inject risk.

If you don’t have this data yet, it’s important to set up a tracking system to better understand what needs to take place within each stage to win. That’s one way our customers use Conversation Intelligence.

It’s goal-oriented. #

Every part of your sales process should start with an objective. Some examples include:

  • Assess that there’s actually a need and the customer is qualified to buy
  • Educate the customer and prove value
  • Agree on a solution, including pricing, timeline, deliverables and KPIs
  • Complete a contract

It’s adaptable. #

The sales process will need to be refined over time as you gain more insights from your market, offer new solutions, or onboard more reps.

When it comes to sale process you should never “set it and forget it.”

As you get started, ask yourself these foundational questions… #

  • Is our current sales process built with the needs and voice of multiple customers in mind - not just our first, biggest, or loudest customers?
  • How can we regularly gather voice of customer insights and make sense of them?
  • Do we have our sales process documented in a simple, visual way?
  • Are reps using the same sales process across every deal?
  • If not, where is the current sales process falling short?
  • Are we using data to build our sales process and set benchmarks? If so, is it accurate and dynamically updated?
  • Do we use insights and best practices to coach reps through every stage?

5 Steps to Build a Best-In-Class Sales Process: #

I’ve worked with dozens of sales teams. I’ve seen our partnership work magic -- building brand momentum and skyrocketing our pipeline. And I’ve seen it fall apart -- siloed, each of us keeping our hard-earned secrets to ourselves.

1. Pick a sales methodology #

There are many methodologies out there to help you sell your product. Before you build the sales process, you should first understand how you want your team to sell. Here are ten of the top sales methodologies and a quick description of each:

  • SPIN Selling: A question-cetric and tactical methodology that focuses on four areas: Situation, Problem, Implication, Need/Payoff.
  • N.E.A.T Selling: A framework that helps reps gain a deeper understanding of the prospects’ daily responsibilities, including their needs, economics, access, and timeline.
  • Conceptual Selling: A method that helps you add discipline to your sales process and facilitate results-oriented meetings. Conceptual selling is very focused on helping the buyer and seller align on objectives and ensure a productive use of time.
  • SNAP Selling: SNAP selling is a framework for understanding modern buyers. Some of its key tenants include: keep it simple; be invaluable; always align; raise priorities by focusing on what your prospect is focused on most.
  • Challenger Sale: The challenger sale is all about presenting a different point of view. Debate and push your prospect by developing a strong understanding of their business.
  • Sandler System: The Sandler Selling System involves efficiently building rapport, qualifying prospects and opportunities, and closing the deal by focusing on the pains uncovered in the sales process.
  • CustomerCentric Selling: Customer centric selling is focused on helping sellers empower buyers to achieve desired business outcomes. This starts with sales and marketing agreeing on which titles must be engaged to sell, fund and implement the offering. Reps then win over each title with messaging tailored to their role.
  • MEDDIC: MEDDIC is a methodology used for complex sales. It helps reps navigate areas like: Economic Drivers; Economic Buyers; Decision Criteria; Implementation Process; Pain Points; and Landing a Champion who can sell on your behalf.
  • Solution Selling: Solution selling is a three step process that starts with identifying pain-points; developing questions that focus on the buyer and their company, rather than your solution; and establishing the ROI of your product (rather than leading with features or pricing).
  • Inbound Selling: A sales methodology that prioritizes the needs, challenges, goals and interests of individual buyers. Instead of pushing to close customers, inbound selling looks to meet customers where they are.
  • Winning By Design: WBD helps B2B companies design a system that is based on best practices of what works today. This blue print includes hands on implementation throughout recruitment, training, and launch.
  • Force Management: Force Management is a consulting company that enhances the effectiveness of B2B sales. It helps clients balance an external focus on the customer, with an internal focus on sales management best practices.
  • Value Selling: This methodology focuses on the "why" - the value of the solutions and the financial ROI - rather than on the "how" and the functionality of the solutions.
  • ProActive Selling: Is a step-by-step approach to the "why" and "how" of a decision-maker's buying process.

2. Identify the stages in your sales process and outline success criteria for each #

We mentioned this earlier on, but a good sales process is detail oriented. Reps must have a deep understanding of each stage in the sales process, as well as how to work the pre-sales and post-sales processes to success.

At Chorus we’ve spent three years gathering insights from more than five million recorded calls to better understand how key parts of the sales process should be run. We’ll share some of our top findings here.

But first, a note on pre-sales...

A high-performance sales process starts with a pre-sales process. This includes building resources around areas like:

  • Market Research
  • Territory & Account Lists
  • Account Planning & Mapping
  • Email & Social Selling Templates
  • Cold Call Scripts
  • Qualification Criteria
  • Pre-Call Research Templates
  • Call Agendas

A few tips...

  • Do your market research. We suggest investing significant time in upfront market research to understand how you want your team to focus and prioritize. Do you know with precision what percentage of your rep’s time should be spent working key verticals and company sizes? Avoid relying on an educated guess!
  • Rank your accounts. In addition, consider all of the criteria that might influence whether an account is a good fit for your organization or not. You’ll want to weigh your target accounts using a rubric. This will enable you to “rank” the accounts in your pipeline so you understand which ones are truly most strategic. Copying and pasting a list of the Fortune 100 or Fortune 500 typically won’t cut it.
  • Invest in account planning. You should also push your reps to do regular account planning exercises so they know exactly how they’ll approach their book of business.
  • Build templates and scripts. If you have an outbound sales function at your organization, you’ll need to arm this team with templates to reach out via email, social or by phone. Check out our cheat sheet on how to run engaging cold calls that convert into follow-up meetings here. In addition, we suggest providing a pre-call research template that is typically filled out by a Business Development Representative or Sales Development Representative who feeds leads to the sales reps. You can also build a pre-call agenda email that can be sent out to let the prospect know what to expect.

From there, it’s time to decide on the stages in your sales process. We recommend starting with “meeting set” followed by a “discovery call” or “needs assessment phase.” That said, there are many ways to title the different stages in your sales process.

Here’s one of the most common sales stage naming conventions:

  • Meeting Set
  • Discovery Call
  • Demo Complete
  • Proposal Submitted
  • Proposal Negotiated
  • SOW Submitted
  • Redlines Received
  • Closed Won

Running Effective Discovery Calls:

Discovery calls are often the most critical in the sales process. We analyzed more than 500,000 discovery calls to understand how to best run this important stage.

Here are the greatest hits, backed by data:

  • Create at least two engaging moments on the call, but aim for four.
    Meetings with at least two engaging moments are 60% more likely to close. Engaging moments are driven by high-value questions that inspire a prospect to speak for more than 30 seconds about the situation they’re facing, a pain you can address, or your product’s value. Closed won deals typically involve 3-4 engaging moments spread throughout a call.
  • Keep your talk time to ~50% and don’t pepper prospects with questions.
    There is no ideal talk-listen ratio, but as a general guideline, try to stay within 45-55%. If you ask more than two questions in a single minute your prospect will likely get frustrated and feel like you are peppering them with too many questions.
  • Identify and prioritize highly educated prospects
    There’s a significant difference between the way uneducated and highly educated prospects who’ve done research on your category engage. Highly educated prospects are more likely to buy -- their win rates are 50%. They ask you one or more questions every three minutes, so be on the lookout and detect these potential champions early on!
  • Come prepared with five powerful questions
    Five is your magic number. When reps ask more than five questions on a discovery call win rates dip by 24%. It’s important to have the five best questions identified so that you start engaging conversations, but don’t risk bombarding your prospects.

For more tips on running effective discovery calls, access our Discovery Call Cheat Sheet here!

Proving Value During Demos:

Once you’ve qualified a prospect, you’ll move them forward to an education phase, which often involves providing a product demo.

Here’s a checklist of items to prepare before demos. Some of the highlights include:

  • Identifying 3-5 pain points your product can address for this customer
  • Turning off all notifications, such as Slack or email, so they do not distract
  • Checking your browser -- only necessary tabs should be open
  • Opening the product to the most impressive or default screen
  • Customizing the demo environment (if needed)
  • Preparing a relevant client story around the use cases or features you’ll address

Submitting an Offer & Beyond:

After a demo it’s time to submit an offer and negotiate terms. This stage is typically considered “proposal submitted” or “offer submitted” and is followed up by a “proposal negotiated” or “offer accepted” stage.

An important note here: it’s key that you differentiate between an offer that has been submitted and an offer that has been officially agreed to so you can understand how long it takes for reps to successfully negotiate deal terms.

Typically a proposal will include the following components:

  • Problem you’re solving and/or your opportunity together
  • Total cost of the investment, including any discounting
  • What’s included
  • Timeline and next steps to go live
  • Deliverables & KPIS
  • How you’ll measure success
  • Case Studies // Business Case to showcase ROI

We suggest being as clear as possible about what proposal templates are permissible, what should be included in proposals (or not), when they can be shared, and in what formats.

Some additional suggestions...

  • Build a buying guide. If your offering is complex or multiple stakeholders are involved in the decision making process, a buying guide can help your champion sell. It typically includes information about your product and category; ROI validation, such as stats, case studies, or testimonials; and best practices to implement successfully.
  • Roll out a pricing calculator and proposal approval process. At organizations with flexible offerings or services you may want to consider a pricing calculator and proposal approval process for non-standard deal terms to ensure all internal stakeholders are signed off. These items should be attached to the CRM record along with the proposal itself, and eventually, the SOW.
  • Automate alerts. At a minimum we recommend automating a report or alerts for key stakeholders who want to track the volume and quality of proposals that go out.
  • Get explicit about legal. It’s no secret that legal stinks and can often be the longest, most annoying part of the sales process. Be very clear about what’s happening here. Understand the time it takes to not only submit an SOW, but to receive redlines back from your prospect’s legal team once the contract has formally been routed. We suggest avoiding vague stages like “Verbal Commit” that leave a lot to rep’s individual interpretation.

3. Document the process in a visual way. #

We cannot stress this point enough. It’s vital that you document your sales process. Download, print and laminate these sales process cards, taping them to your reps' desks!

Here's a sales process template we love:

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Consider the following when filling these out:

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General Description:

  • Is a meeting set?

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • Who will join the call?
  • How will they influence the decision making process?
  • What’s the value prop we can offer?
  • How did we book the meeting?
  • How can we prepare for the call?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • Case Study

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Who will join the call?
  • How will they influence the decision making process?
  • What’s the value prop we can offer?
  • How did we book the meeting?
  • How can we prepare for the call?
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General Description:

  • Prospect is qualified there’s a defined need

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • What’s their interest level?
  • How will they evaluate purchasing our platform?
  • What problem would we solve for them and can we quantify it?
  • What was the "WOW" moment on the call?
  • What’s their timeframe to buy & budget?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • One Pager

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Upload proposal to Salesforce
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General Description:

  • We’ve identified a place to start

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • Which features stood out and why?
  • Who would use and implement different aspects of the Platform?
  • What, if any, objections exist?
  • What will we build a proposal around?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • Access to Free Trial or Demo Environment

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Submit proposal for internal approval
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General Description:

  • We’ve proposed a solution

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • How will the procurement and legal process work?
  • Did the proposal (price and what’s included) work for the customer?
  • What will the technical/security review process be?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • Buying Guide

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Upload proposal to Salesforce
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General Description:

  • We’ve agreed on a price & understand the legal process

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • How will the procurement and legal process work?
  • Did the proposal (price and what’s included) work for the customer?
  • What will the technical/security review process be?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • Implementation Checklist

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Update pricing in Salesforce
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General Description:

  • We’ve submitted a SOW

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • Does the team have any general feedback on the SOW?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • Kick-Off Survey

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Upload SOW to Salesforce
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General Description:

  • We’ve aligned on details for kick of

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • What key dates and internal meetings should be we aware of as we kick off?

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Lead internal kick-off
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General Description:

  • We are identifying up-sell and cross-sell opportunities

What to define or “get” from the customer:

  • What is our opportunity to expand via up-sells and cross-sells?

Sales Collateral to Give:

  • Swag Package

CRM & Internal Touchpoints

  • Fill out client health form bi-weekly

4. Align with your internal teams. #

It’s also important that everyone who supports the sales process is on the same page about key details.

Ask yourself: who do I need to be aligned with to make my sales process run smoothly?

Consider the following titles:

  • Marketing for all of your sales collateral needs
  • Sales Ops for KPIS and tracking
  • Finance for pricing and budget
  • Legal for contract reviews
  • CS for qualification criteria and proposals
  • Sales Enablement for training
  • Sales Leaders & Managers to reinforce

Regularly meet with these stakeholders to get feedback on how the sales process is working for them or where it can be refined.

5. Measure and adjust over time. #

There are many ways to monitor your sales process, but here are some of the top KPIS we suggest tracking:

  • Total # of leads contacted over a given period of time
  • Subject line conversions, click through rates, and response rates
  • Conversion rate across stages
  • Time to close
  • Average Contract Value (ACV)
  • Average Contract Length (ACL)
  • # of strategic logos
  • % growth in new verticals
  • % growth quarter to quarter and year to year

As we mentioned, the sales process is never set it and forget it. You’ll want to regularly improve it, but not too often or abruptly. Give reps time to adjust and adopt the changes you’ve already made.

A note on the post-sales process…

Just like with the pre-sales process, your post-sales process is also key.

Your sales process should transition smoothly into your customer success process to ensure a seamless customer experience.

The post-sales process includes resources and touchpoints like:

  • An implementation checklist
  • A customer or post-sale survey
  • An internal brief or meeting
  • Kick-off deck
  • Regular reporting (e.g. automated weekly or monthly reports)

If you’re interested in learning more about how to run a smooth post-sales process, check out our eBook on How to Fix your Rollercoaster Customer Hand-off Process.

Now go on and crush it!

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