5-step sales process: How to build a sales process that closes deals faster
Use these sales process steps to help your sales reps stay organized and effectively move prospects through the sales process to a deal.
Published October 5, 2020
Last updated March 17, 2021
When you set off on a road trip, you have a vehicle and a road map. On this road map, you mark stops to take along the way.
Think of your sales process in the same way: The vehicle is your CRM, and the road map is your sales process. The steps along the way are the sales stages within your pipeline and CRM. Your final destination? Converting a deal into a customer.
Your sales team should receive this standardized road map on day one to keep sales reps from jumping haphazardly from one step to another. With a road map, your reps will know the specific route to their destination and how they're each expected to get there. A step-by-step sales cycle helps sales managers more effectively track rep performance and determine which areas need support.
What are the 5 steps of the sales process?
Step 1: Prospecting
Prospecting is the first stage of your selling process. You’re finding potential deals and entering them into your B2B sales funnel. The goal here is to engage with qualified leads who would most enjoy the benefits of your product or service.
Think of this first step as a vetting process on your end. You need to determine whether the potential client is the right match for your product, whether they have the budget, whether you can provide the value they need, and more.
Seek to answer this question: Is this deal worth it?
You can answer this question with customer-centric lead generation strategies:
- Offer answers to specific problems on Quora. Quora queries can help you identify companies or individuals who struggle with specific pain points that your product can solve.
- Interact with potential customers in LinkedIn Groups. Similar to interacting on Quora, LinkedIn Groups make it easy to make contact with ideal customers who struggle with key problems common to your target market.
- Create videos with a built-in lead-generation form. Video content helps attract interested inbound potential leads. Include an optional lead-generation form following the video to capture leads with a baseline level of engagement.
- Source leads from support-ticket conversations. Conversations with your support team offer information you can use to upsell existing customers. Repeat business from your customer base is an easier climb than converting brand new customers.
- Offer a helpful email course. Educational email courses are a great way to nurture interested top-of-funnel leads until they become qualified enough to enter your sales pipeline and move on to Step 2.
This first step has an outsized impact on the success of the rest of your sales strategy. Build clear customer profiles for your reps so they know how to assess leads and determine whether they’re interested in what you're selling.
Step 2: Qualified
The next stage is all about pulling in information about the potential customer. A sales rep should use this information to personalize their sales pitch and present a tailored case for buying your product or service.
In this stage, you gather more details about the specific requirements the potential customer needs in a solution. You identify key decision-makers, confirm whether they can actually purchase or not, and then present the value of your product or service.
Set up an initial appointment or sales meeting. Find out whether the point of contact in the passenger seat is the one who is able to actually make the purchase. If they're not, find out who is, and ask to meet with them as well.
After that initial meeting (or during, depending on what makes sense), present a demo of your product/service to the key decision-makers. Sell the potential customer on what you're offering:
- What are you doing better than competitors? Explain in detail how your product is better suited to the customer’s needs than anyone else’s is.
- How does your product/service add specific value to this particular customer? Show how and where your product will save them money or time. Explain how it will help them bring in more revenue. Wherever possible, include specific dollar or time measurements to help with handling objections.
- What features of your product/service match customer needs? Connect each feature to the specific problem it solves for the customer.
The final key, once you’ve finished presenting your case, is to give the potential customer a clear next step. Conclude with a compelling call to action (like signing up for a free trial or getting a time-limited discount). A good CTA gives leads a concrete way to move along in the buying process.
Step 3: Quote
At this step in a good sales process, your customer relationship is ready to seriously discuss terms and prices.
In your discussions, be sure to clearly outline what features the potential customer will receive at what price. Your quote will be based on these discussions and should include the following terms, among other details:
- Contract length: How long will the potential customer be locked into your product or service?
- Payment terms: How often will the customer pay you, and how much? What payment methods can they use?
- Access: Which features, support, and other details will the customer gain access to?
Send a quote to the potential customer, and then wait for a confirmation. Remember, the quote serves as a starting point for negotiations. Nothing is set in stone until the next step, when you furnish a contract and close the deal.
If the client agrees to the terms of your quote, you can move to “Closure” and draw up the contract. If they say no, the sales journey is over—for now.
This step along your sales process also helps sales managers gauge rep performance. Are reps actually sending quotes? Are quote opportunities being missed? Do sales reps follow up with potential customers often enough?
Step 4: Closure
Once a potential customer agrees to the terms of your quote, it’s time to negotiate final terms and officially close the deal with a contract.
This is the step where success (or failure) most directly affects revenue. If you don't close deals, you don't make money for your company.
Present an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both you and the customer. This contract should outline the terms of the deal (pricing and payment terms, features, and access) and reiterate the value of your product and the problem it will solve for the lead.
During this step, push comes to shove, and you’ll find out whether:
- You’ve reached the true decision-maker(s)
- Reps have adequately communicated value
- The customer will move forward with closure and a deal
It’s important for sales professionals to view this step as being as much a part of the sales process as the first three. Until you have a signed agreement in hand, you’re still selling and communicating value to the potential customer.
Step 5: Won/Lost
Ideally, reaching Step 5 means you’ve won the deal, and the lead is now a bonafide customer. If that’s the case, this is the time for sales management and reps to identify what went right throughout each previous step. From there, you can extrapolate learnings to help make every sales process go as smoothly.
At this stage, you also want to communicate the deal terms to customer support so they can smoothly continue the buyer’s journey.
If the deal is lost, Step 5 is still important. Losing deals is a major opportunity to review your sales process steps. Determine where a step was missed or poorly executed, and plan how you’ll make improvements for the next deal.
Keep in mind that a lost deal doesn’t have to be lost forever: you can always restart or continue the sales process down the line.
Maybe you just need to take a detour. If a key factor changes—like the lead’s budget expanding—you may move the deal back to either Qualified or Quote and continue working on winning this project. Don't abandon the journey until you're absolutely certain that you can't make it to the final destination.
Tailor your sales process steps for your customers
The next step for your sales process is to monitor how it works for your team and your customers. If needed, you can tinker with each step or the process as a whole from there.
To do that, review data regularly to find at which sales steps deals get stuck or where you lose potential customers. Choosing a CRM that allows you to customize your sales pipeline stages is also beneficial. For example, you may need a stop/stage to move “unqualified” deals. Or you may need to reorder stages, depending on your business.
A good CRM will give you the flexibility to reorder, rename, and add or delete stages. That way, you can review your defined sales process or road map every few months and make changes as needed.