You wouldn't try to cook a new meal without a recipe or drive to a new city without a map, and your business shouldn't try to convert leads without a sales process.
A B2B sales process is a detailed outline of repeatable steps that guides your sales team. Having a sales process for your business will help focus your sales strategy and keep your sales team on track to convert potential leads into customers.
B2B Sales Strategy
Your business' sales strategy should inform your sales process. Your sales strategy is a set of principles your business will follow to sell your products or services. It explains how your business will pitch its product or service to reach customers.
A B2B sales strategy based on your business' value proposition will help you differentiate your business from your competitors.
B2B Sales Flowchart
A B2B sales flowchart is a document that shows the steps that each member of your team should take as a customer moves along the sales process. The flowchart uses yes or no scenarios to illustrate how your team should respond to your prospect's decisions and actions during each stage of your business' sales process.
B2B Sales Process Steps
Below we will walk through the steps of the B2B sales process so you can easily follow best practices.
1. Set your sales goals.
Setting goals for your sales team can keep your sales process focused, improve your sales strategy, and make your business more efficient.
Start by analyzing your current sales performance and noting where you can improve. Would you like to close more deals? Increase sales leads? Identify new prospects? Make a list of business goals you would like to achieve.
Next, turn your business goals into SMART goals. Creating SMART goals ensures that your sales goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. For example, instead of simply aiming to increase revenue, set a goal to increase monthly revenue by 7% by the end of Q3. You can do this by running a promotional campaign during Q2 and Q3.
Setting SMART goals can improve the efficiency of your sales team and your business as a whole. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology found that setting SMART goals decreases stress, improves workflow, and increases engagement in the workplace.
2. Involve all stakeholders in the process.
Your sales process can’t be created by the sales team alone. It’s a team effort that requires input from all of your business' departments — from IT to marketing to customer service. Therefore, it’s essential to identify what stakeholders are involved in each stage of the sales process. Including every department can help to combat risk and ensure that sales are completed successfully.
Schedule time to meet with your stakeholders and share your business' SMART goals, then determine the role that each stakeholder will have in completing the goals of the sales process.
3. Outline the sales process.
Now that you know how your business' stakeholders will contribute to the sales process, it's time to outline the sales process for your business.
Your business' sales process maps out the steps a customer will take during each stage of their journey, from becoming a prospect to completing a transaction. Creating a single sales process that includes all of your business' stakeholders will ensure that your process is consistent and your teams work toward the same goals.
The B2B sales process consists of six stages: prospecting, connecting and qualifying, researching, presenting, handling objections, and closing. Determine what tasks need to be completed during each stage of the sales process and assign your business' teams to each task.
Prospecting and Creating a Buyer Persona
The prospecting stage focuses on finding leads that you can nurture and convert into paying customers. Prospecting can be difficult — more than 40% of salespeople say that it’s the most challenging part of the sales process. However, despite the challenges that the prospecting stage presents, it’s crucial to the success of your business' sales process.
The prospecting stage of your business' sales process starts with researching your prospect to determine if your business can meet their needs and add value to their business. This research can be completed online using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Quoraor in person at conferences and industry events.
It’s important to prioritize your prospects based on how likely they will convert to customers. Creating a buyer persona that includes your ideal prospect's business demographics, objectives, and pain points can help you determine which prospects may need your product or service to solve their problems.
Connecting and Qualifying
The connecting and qualifying stage of the sales process focuses on contacting the prospects you have prioritized and determining whether they are likely to continue the buyer's journey.
When you contact your prospects, ask them qualifying questions about their budget and current spending, recent changes to their business, their pain points, previous attempts to address those pain points, and other aspects of their business.
Qualifying your prospects can save your business time and money that may otherwise be wasted on prospects who don’t require your business' goods and services and are not likely to convert into customers.
Researching and Performing Market Analysis
The research stage of the sales process focuses on learning more about your prospect and their business. Researching your prospects will help your team get more familiar with their needs and the specific challenges their businesses face.
Researching your prospect's business and performing a market analysis can help you learn more about your prospect's industry, users, and competitors' strengths and weaknesses.
Although this process may be time-consuming, performing thorough research will help you position your business as the best solution to your prospect's problems and better prepare you to pitch your product or service to your prospect.
Pitching Your Product or Service
Pitching your business' product or service to your prospect in a sales demo is crucial to the sales process. This stage of the process allows your sales representative to demonstrate how your business' product or service can resolve your prospect's specific pain points.
Sales demos are usually presented after a prospect officially becomes a lead. For example, a sales demo may be given or proposed to a prospect after they complete a micro-conversion, contact a member of your sales team, or request a consultation.
Your sales representative can present sales demos to your prospects through many different channels, including phone calls, email, in-person meetings, and video conferences using software like Zoom. When presenting your sales demo, choose the delivery method that best meets your prospect's needs.
Regardless of how well your sales representative presents your sales demo, your prospect may have reservations. The most common objections prospects have during the sales process concern a lack of budget, a lack of trust, a lack of need, and a lack of urgency.
Anticipate that your prospect may object to your proposal. Be prepared to meet with your prospect to discuss their objections and take steps to address them. Listening to your prospect's objections also gives you an additional opportunity to present your business' product or service as a solution to their problems. You’ll do this by addressing and alleviating your prospect's doubts surrounding your business.
There are many ways to close a sale with your prospect. Your approach to closing a sale will change depending on your prospect and their needs. No matter what method you use, your sale should close with a mutually beneficial, contractual agreement between your business and your prospect's business.
Although closing is the ultimate goal of your sales process, it’s not the end of the process. Your business relationship with your prospect’s business continues as you nurture them after the sale is closed.
The nurturing stage of the sales process focuses on continuing to communicate with your customers after a sale is completed and reinforcing value. Sales representatives should reach out to customers and confirm that they have received the product or service that they purchased from your business.
They should also occasionally contact past customers to ask about their businesses and discuss new ways your business can meet their needs. Reaching out and nurturing relationships with past customers can lead to new opportunities and growth for your business.
4. Look at your sales process from the customer's perspective.
After you have outlined the sales process from your business's perspective, use the business personas that you have created to outline the sales process from your customer's perspective. Take note of the actions that a customer may take at each stage of the buyer's process: the discovery stage, the evaluation stage, the decision stage, and the loyalty stage.
During the discovery stage, the prospect discovers a problem with their business and searches for a solution. Your business can begin to form a relationship with the prospect at this stage by helping them understand their problem and how your business can solve it.
During the evaluation stage, the prospect explores their issue and the available solutions. You can strengthen the relationship with the prospect at this stage by convincing them that your business can provide a solution to their problem.
During the decision stage, the prospect compares the solutions they’ve found. If you have succeeded with the prospect during the previous steps of the process, they may choose your business' solution.
The prospect picks your business's solution during the loyalty stage and becomes a customer.
Outlining your sales process from your customer's and your business's perspectives can keep your teams focused on your customer's needs and desires when working through your sales process.
5. Test your sales process and measure the results.
Once you've outlined your sales process from your company’s and your customer's perspective, you can put your sales process to the test and measure the results.
Implement the sales process in your business routines. Go through each step of the process with your teams and pay close attention to how your customers react at each stage of the process. As your teams move through the sales process, make changes if it isn't moving smoothly.
Why does the B2B sales process take so long?
Seventy-five percent of B2B companies have a sales process that takes at least four months. The B2B sales process takes months to complete because multiple stakeholders are involved in buying decisions, which slows the process.
The B2B sales process is also slowed down by buyers' behavior. B2B buyers tend to spend more time trying to identify and reduce risk factors. They research products and services that may damage their credibility, reduce their job security, or cause them to lose money.
Ensure your B2B sales process goes smoothly.
Using a sales process will help your business convert prospects to customers, but only if it's followed carefully. By setting SMART goals, involving all departments, researching, creating an outline from mutual perspectives, and making changes when needed, you can develop a sales process that rewards your business, prospects, and sales team.