You have a product ready to enter the market. Maybe you even have some initial sales. You already know that following up correctly with all deals can get messy very, very quickly.

The perfect-world scenario of a sales process ignores that some premises must be in place:

  • Everyone on the team must follow the process religiously
  • No ambiguity in any step
  • The process can’t consume too much time from direct sales activity

You may think you don’t need 100% accuracy to get a good grip on your sales activity. From what we’ve seen, bad data has a hidden compounding effect that erodes good data very quickly. People stop trusting what they see, stop logging in, data gets worse, the whole platform starts getting ignored.

It’s a classic example of the broken windows theory.

If this is such a huge problem why don’t large companies (with even larger budgets) solve it? And if they do it, how?

Big companies have more indirect sales team members – people that still report to the sales organization but don’t have an individual quota to achieve, such as Sales Ops or Sales Analysts.

These team members have the responsibility of looking at data on a daily basis and correct it along the way. In some cases, fixing some minor labeling issues on Salesforce or just good old nagging sales reps to report sales activity.

However, if you’re a small, lean company, all the headcount you have in sales must be for direct sales.

So how about teams that want a simple and agile sales process, 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) SalesProcess.

A process, not an interface

First things first: you’re not looking for an interface to solve all your problems. You’re looking for a process that can connect several interfaces, tools, and people.

Do you use email a lot? Or more phone calls? That’s part of the process, no matter what CRM you use. Which marketing tools do you use? That’s part of the process as well.

Sales process principles

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1 – Follow a kanban-style pipeline

Deals go through certain steps such as “Initial Contact”, “Demo booked”, “Decision maker bought-in”, “Contract Sent”, “Closed Won”, “Closed Lost”. Adapt a kanban board to include your deal stages.

 

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2 – Define the input and output of that pipeline

Before a lead enters your pipeline, what information do you need? How to create a deal in the first place? Are they pre-qualified? Answering these questions will reduce ambiguity.

On the output side, when do you mark a deal as closed lost or won? A Closed Lost deal is not a burnt 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.

 

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3 – Each stage is a past action

This is crucial: 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.

 

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4 – Only active deals (no matter how painful that might be)

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.

 

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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 any information. Find a quick, 1-2 click way of creating new deals, even if that means not all the details are entered (yet).

 

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6 – Always add amounts

The most important information you need on new deals is a name and a specific value for that deal. It’s absolutely normal that, in the initial stages, you don’t have a clear idea of how much this amount 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, I hope you found these tips useful and easy enough to get you started. Having a simple sales process that everyone can adhere to means you can follow many more deals at any given time and that no deal will every fall through the cracks.

Getting started

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.