Small business series: Why you should have a sales process

In the first of our small business blog series, Anderson Hirst of Kojo Academy discusses the importance of having a sales process in place.

Written by Anderson Hirst
Published 21 March 2022
Small business series: Why you should have a sales process

Don’t have a sales process? You’re missing out on growth… 

Acquiring and retaining customers is expensive and time-consuming. Having a robust sales process in place can help organizations to do both more efficiently and effectively. But you’d be surprised how many SMEs either don’t have a sales process, or do have one but don’t apply it. In this blog, Anderson Hirst of Kojo Academy explains why having a sales process matters, and what it should include. 

Why is it a problem not to have a sales process? 

In 2021, I had a conversation with a founder of a business of 12 people that had flatlined in terms of growth. I asked her to walk me through the way she sells. This is what she told me: 

“I meet with a potential customer, tell them what we do and then send them a quote after the meeting for the services that could be relevant to them. Then I will try to follow up with them.” 

Unfortunately, this is a pattern repeated in many small businesses. 

Let’s dig into the problems with her approach: 

  1. No needs discovery. This is a basic selling error that you probably spotted straight away. She was not understanding customer needs before presenting solutions. 
  2. No time to build a customized offer. Because she was presenting the solution in the initial meeting, there was not enough time to think thoroughly about the best solution for her customers.
  3. No follow-up meeting to present the proposal and pricing. This is a serious error. If you are not there (virtually or face-to-face) to present an offer, customers may well skim-read your quote and go straight to the price. 

Clearly, the founder was not using an effective sales process to guide her approach to customers. 

Why does consistency matter? 

The real problem lies in the fact that others in the business were selling services too. How were they selling? Was it consistent? Would a customer recognize the approach from different staff members? 

Without a shared sales process, it’s impossible to be consistent, and it’s even harder to scale! How do you recruit and train for new sales roles, if you can’t explain to them what good selling looks like? It would be unthinkable to have a factory producing high quality goods without “standard operating procedures”, so why is it acceptable in sales? 

The Sandler Sales Institute reported that 88% of salespeople using their training said their sales strategy improved. And yet many small & medium sized businesses don’t have a sales process OR sales methodology. 

This is fully understandable. There is a lot to get done in a start-up. There are no specialist roles to figure this kind of stuff out. And the founding team are often technical specialists / experts in their field, NOT salespeople. 

What does a good sales process look like? 

A good sales process outlines the stages you will lead a potential customer through to give them a great experience, and to maximize your chances of winning their business. It should be based on the type of product / service you sell and the industry you focus on.  

This means there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to building a sales process. Yes, there are plenty of known best practices to help you, but it depends on your business model how you best bring customers to you. A typical B2B sales process will likely include phases such as: 

  • Needs discovery. 
  • Stakeholder alignment. 
  • Present offer / demonstration.
  • Negotiate contract.
  • Onboard customer. 
  • Drive customer satisfaction. 

The authors of “From Impossible to Inevitable”, Aaron Ross & Jason Lemkin promote the mantra “Everything as a process” in sales organizations. As experts in building fast-growing sales organizations, they argue that organizations can only be scaled if the processes can be described clearly. 

Because the sales process is such a fundamental part of a great sales organization, you will find many supporting resources in the MindTools Small Business Toolkit. 

It will lead you through the steps to build your own sales process, and importantly, implement it. 

Click here to find out more  

About the author

Anderson Hirst

Anderson Hirst

Kojo Academy

Anderson started out in front line technical sales in 1991 and ‘carried the bag’ for 7 years, before entering the field of sales training and consulting. Working for 10 years at an international training consultancy, Anderson sold, designed and delivered multiple international sales improvement projects. 

Then in 2006, he studied an MBA at Warwick Business School and used his research into sales processes to start up Selling Interactions, an organization focused on sales improvement projects. In 2018, with 3 other directors, he started up the Kojo Academy, which created the on-line sales management content for the MindTools Small Business Toolkit. 

He has extensive experience of helping a wide range of businesses build highly effective sales organizations, and is a regular researcher of sales best practice.  

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