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5 Steps to Establishing an Efficient Sales Process within Your Startup

Carol Evenson
Carol Evenson

Sales are the lifeblood of any business. Startups are no different.

It can seem that there are so many things that need to get done when starting up your business that coming up with a sales process is just not on the radar.

This is a real shame because the startup phase is the very best time to put in place the sales processes that will help your startup grow.

According to a research study by the Harvard Business Review, companies that have a basic defined sales process grow 15 percent faster than those that don’t.

Furthermore, companies that utilize multiple types of sales process management have 28 percent higher growth rates. Your startup can have an efficient sales process if you follow these five steps.

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Step 1: Support Set Sales Objectives

It’s important that your startup has defined sales objective from the get-go. The importance of aligning your sales objective to your startup can’t be overlooked. In particular, marketing objectives need to be closely aligned to your sales objectives. According to the Aberdeen Group, companies that highly align their sales and marketing efforts have a 31.6 percent increase in revenue while those that don’t see a nearly six percent decrease.

You can start by ensuring that sales objectives are properly aligned with your startup by evaluating each department, process, and product and identifying how it supports your sales objectives. You may need to alter your sales objectives as you study your startup. This is ok and can serve to hone in your sales objectives to properly fit your startup.

Sales objectives can change over time as your business grows, customers change, and the business climate evolves. It’s important that your startup revisits how the different departments, process and products support your sales objectives.

Step 2: Utilize a CRM

As your business begins, there will be a tremendous amount of business information and one of the most important things when it comes to sales is your customer information. It’s important to make sure that you have a system in place to capture and store your customer relationship information.

According to Gleanster Research, half of all leads are qualified but aren’t ready to buy. This is a where a CRM system becomes very helpful in any sized startup. You can capture the information about your potential customers and revisit their needs in the future. It’s very important piece of the sales funnel that every business needs to have since very few customers are ready to buy on their first interaction with your sales force.

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Step 3: Build a Funnel

The sales funnel is your effective sales process. Everything your business does to build an effective sales process is to support your sales funnel. Every business will utilize a slightly different sales funnel but most have the same basic structure and objectives. Their goal is to turn awareness into sales.

The most basic funnel consists of four levels: awareness, interest, prospect, and customer. The top level is the Awareness level. Your marketing efforts are about creating this awareness. Sales and marketing work together to turn this awareness to the next level, interest. CRMs are very helpful into capturing leads that have awareness and may have interest.

Your sales force works to turn those with an interest into a qualified prospect. Your sales force is responsible for turning these prospects into customers. As we already know, not all prospects are ready to be customers now so your CRM can keep track of prospects, or any other lead in the funnel, and revisit them on a regular basis to see if they are ready to be customers.

The sales funnel is great as a process but it also is very effective at dividing the sales process work. It clearly defines what areas marketing should take the lead on and which areas the sales force needs take the lead on. It also clearly shows why marketing and sales objectives need to be properly aligned at all times.

Step 4: Manage the Workflow

CRMs are great at managing customer information but they are not good at managing workflow. A workflow management software is imperative when it comes to building a solid startup and ensuring that all processes, including the sales process, are as efficient as possible.

Workflow systems manage the workflow in several different ways. First, it can automate some of the workflows. In sales, this means that processes involving when to contact or follow-up with customers can be automated.

They can monitor the workflow to make sure that it is following the prescribed method, such as the sales funnel. They can even work to set up new workflows that mesh with company needs. Finally, they can look for bottlenecks in a process and work to improve sales flow.

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Step 5: Improve the Process

Any process that doesn’t include a step to improve the process is a stagnant process. All processes, no matter how good they are at the beginning, need to be improved upon in a real world situation. You can think of your sales process as a minimum viable process. You need the process to help your startup get going in the right direction but it isn’t the endgame.

As your startup grows, it important to work out ways to make your sales process more efficient. You also need a way to measure your sales process effectiveness. This is something that should be decided as an organization. By measuring, you can then know what an improvement is.

One way to improve the sales process is to meet with sales staff and other stakeholders to define one part of the process that can be improved. Making one change is easier for effectiveness measurement. According to Eli Goldratt in his Theory of Constraints Handbook, up to 99.9 percent of the results are dictated by just 0.1 percent of the system elements.

This means that only one constraint in your sales process may be holding it back from fantastic results. Finding that one constraint will help you improve your process.

After finishing with step five, you might find that you are back at Step 1 defining different sales objectives, working to better your CRM, improving your sales funnel, improving your workflow, and then back to looking for an improvement to make. The result is a sales process that is effective and continually improving its efficiency.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Carol Evenson
Carol Evenson Member
Carol Evenson is a business consultant specializing in corporate growth and development. She assists companies across North and South America with their expansion needs.