If you have a product that is ready to get into the market, maybe you even have some initial sales, you know that following up correctly with all the deals gets messy very, very quickly.
Despite the several articles depicting the perfect-world scenario of a sales process, it has a couple of assumptions that you can hardly check-mark:
- Everyone on the team MUST follow it religiously
- There can’t be any ambiguity in any step
- It can’t take too much time from direct sales activity
For a while, you might think that you don’t need 100% accuracy to be able to get a good grip on your sales activity. For what we’ve seen, bad data has hidden compounding effect that erodes good data very quickly. People stop trusting what they see, stop logging in, the data gets worse, the whole platform is getting ignored.
It’s a classic example of the broken windows theory.
If this is such a big problem, how come big companies, with even bigger budgets, don’t solve it? And if they do, how?Big companies have the luxury of having more indirect sales team members - people that still report to the sales organization but don’t have an individual quota to achieve, like Sales Ops, Sales Analysts, among others.
These team members have the responsibility to look at the data on a daily basis and course-correct along the way. In some cases by fixing some minor labeling issue on Salesforce or good old nagging sales reps to report sales activity.
If you’re a small, lean company though, all the headcount you have in sales has to be for direct sales.
So how teams that want a simple and agile sales process that is super easy to maintain while still generating good sales data?
In Lean words, we’re looking for a Minimum (e.g. easy to update) Viable (e.g. actually useful) Sales process.
A process, not an interface
The first thing to get your mind in the right place is that you’re not looking for an interface that will solve all your problems, but a process that can involve several interfaces, tools, and people.
Do you use email a lot? Or maybe you do more phone calls? That’s part of the process, doesn’t matter which CRM interface you use. Which tools does your marketing use? That’s part of the process, too.
Sales processes’ first principles
1 - Follow a kanban-style pipeline
This means that there are a certain number of steps that deals go through like “Initial Contact”, “Demo booked”, “Decision maker bought-in”, “Contract Sent”, “Closed Won”, “Closed Lost”.
2 - Define what’s the input and output of that pipeline
Before a lead enters your sales pipeline, what information do you need? How creates the deals in the first place? Are they pre-qualified? Answering these questions will make it less ambiguous about which deals are created.
On the output side, when do you mark a deal as closed lost or won? A Closed lost deal is not a burned bridge or a contact that you’ll never speak with again. It’s simply a deal that is not advancing anytime soon. If you prefer, don’t call it Closed Lost, call it Not Yet :)
3 - Each stage is a past action
This is super important. Stages should always be a very specific action (demo given, contract sent) that already happened. That way, everyone understands where that deal is and there’s no confusion on what to do next.
4 - Only active deals, no matter how hurtful!
If you’re in sales, you’ll hate this. Mark deals as closed lost. It’s ok, you can re-open them later if the opportunity rekindles. If you don’t close them when you stopped actively pursuing it, your sales pipeline will be quickly polluted with dormant deals.
5 - Find the simplest way to log every single business opportunity
If it takes 15 steps to create a new deal, your sales team will stop logging all of them. Find a super quick, 1-2 click way of creating new deals even if they do not contain all the details yet.
6 - Always add amounts
The only information you need on new deals is a name and a specific amount for the value of that deal. It’s absolutely normal that in the initial stages you don’t have a clear idea of how much this should be. If that’s the case, simply define a “small”, “medium” and “large” deal amount and fine-tune it later. If you do this, you have a very clear idea of how much you can close soon and act accordingly.
So there you have it, hope you found these principles useful and that it was easy enough to get started. Having a simple sales process that everyone can adhere to means that you can follow many more deals at any given time and that no deal will every fall through the cracks.
This will give an unfair advantage over your competition, too :)
If you’re starting out, it’s hard to ignore Hubspot CRM. It’s free, has more than enough features to get you started and is evolving considerably in the last few months. Depending on several variables about your business like company size, sector, even region, other CRMs might be best.