Millie Meldrum sat down with CEO and Co-founder of SalesGRID, David Marshall, to discuss the future of Sales Process and how it supports salespeople to create a winning pipeline.
Watch the podcast below or read an edited transcript.
Welcome back to the SalesGRID podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about sales process. So David, to what extent is sales process still relevant in today’s digital economy?
Yes, this issue that salespeople are facing is that the buyer is a lot more in control these days now that they can research, not only your company and your products and services, they can even research you as the salesperson and research your competitors in ways that were barely possible, not that long ago.
So the buyer is much more in control. The salesperson has probably been brought into the buying process a lot later than they normally would have in the past. So, these factors potentially put the seller on the back foot, I guess is one way of looking at it. And so yeah, and today, we talk a lot more, what’s the buyer’s process? What’s the buyer journey, and to be more customer-centric in the way we think about the sales process.
Having said all that, I believe that the sales process is more relevant than ever.
In the good old days, when the salesperson was sort of in control, you know, you had the brochure, you had a very definitive process that you would guide or almost force the customer through. It was very prescriptive, to take it to an extreme, robotic almost. But yeah, these days, the selling environment is more, let’s say, chaotic in a way.
So, you actually need to understand what the potential moves that can happen, all the different types of questions, the different types of stakeholders that are going to get involved in the sale and how to work with that.
So you definitely need a process, you need a framework in which to actually run your sales process. So in fact, one thing I just mentioned before, I guess the other key thing is that in today’s environment, there are a lot more stakeholders involved, that’s also really disrupted the sales process, it’s really stretching out sales cycles.
So, my final response to that question would be that it’s totally relevant. Because if you’re in a situation that feels more chaotic, then the only way to deal with that is to actually put some process in to deal with it. If you don’t have any process at all, you are totally at the mercy of the buying process.
And how do you define the Sales Process?
So, yeah, like I was saying, the sales process is traditionally described as the certain stages and steps that you need to go through with your buyer to get to an endpoint?. So when we think about sales process, we’re thinking about what are all the key milestones we need to progress through to bring a customer to a positive decision. And the important thing here is key milestones in terms of the things the milestones we need to achieve and the steps we need to go through to maximise our chance of a successful outcome. And that’s a successful outcome for you as a seller. It’s also a successful outcome for the customer.
So for example, your sales process might include a stage which is, you know, presenting a proposal. So, in the sales process, presenting a proposal is important because you’ve decided that you can’t really win the deal unless you’ve actually put forward your offering in a proposal format.
Let’s say it’s a fairly traditional thing to do. It’s also important to the buyer. They can’t make an educated decision unless they’ve got that information. So that’s a fairly simple example of a key stage in a sales process. Without a proposal, your chances of getting to a yes are going to be a lot, a lot lower.
But you want to think about other things, you know, what are the other things that are really crucial to achieving a yes. So, for example, one of the things I’ve dealt with in selling enterprise software, information security has become more and more important to companies, for example, how safe is their data? Now, a few years ago, I think there was an approach by vendors where you’d sort of skip that process or hope to because it was painful, and it took time, and it was potentially risky to the deal.
I would suggest now, though, that most if not all, software vendors, enterprise software vendors, would put the info security review as a key step in their process, in the sense that there’s no point trying to avoid or there’s no point hoping you can skim over. If you don’t tick that box, you’re not going to get to a yes. And so it’s thinking about, you know, the short answer to your question is your sales process is a combination of all the crucial steps and stages in the sale that you need to take to get to a yes.
Awesome. Can you discuss a little bit about what an Agile sales process is?
Yeah, so Agile is a bit of a buzzword. You know, there’s the Lean movement. Now there’s Agile software development, and we are seeing Agile as a concept used across different areas of the business. Now, it’s really taking off as a management practice. And, yeah, we believe here at SalesGRID, it has a lot of application, within sales, in terms of the sales motions we go through, to execute activity, manage opportunities, and ultimately win sales.
And we’ve talked about this and on other podcasts and material on our website. But for today, I think the key point about Agile goes back to the first point, which is, in a sales process in today’s environment, you’ve got this situation where the buyers got a lot more power, perhaps more control over their buying process.
And so for me Agile means, having a sales process being really clear on what your ideal sales process is, but having the agility to be able to adapt. Because the other reality is that multiple stakeholders, long sales cycles, lots of touchpoints. There are so many different twists and turns that may or may not need to be taken during the process when you’re selling these big deals, that you need the agility to be able to, you know, adapt in meeting throughout the process based on what’s actually happening in real-time.
So Agile Sales Process, I think in a simple way it means that it’s no longer just a purely sequential sales process. Sure, you might map out your process and go right to steps 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 etc and there are 15 steps in your process. But the reality is, it’s not always going to go that way. You need to really understand how to adjust through the process. And the fact that you may actually have to come back, you might have to go take one step back to take two steps forward in your process, you know, because there are so many stakeholders, you might have to go back to stages in your process to deal with a new set of stakeholders that have reared their head or whatever.
So yeah, that literally means being agile, as opposed to being totally prescriptive about what you do.
Yeah, you’ve touched on this a little bit there, but how is it different to other sales methodologies?
Yeah, how does sales process differ from sales methodology? Yeah, so the way I think about sales process versus sales methodology is that every B2B sales team should have a well-defined sales process and each sales process is different. Even within an organisation, you might have the enterprise sales team in the mid-market sales team. They’re selling the same products and solutions largely but they might have slightly different sales processes that will look similar, but there will definitely be nuances and differences in their process.
And, in fact, someone described this role the other day where they said, you know, when you look at it typically the stages in a sales process a pretty kind of generic but it’s actually all the intricate steps within each stage where you get variation across teams across companies, definitely across industries.
So how’s it different? Where sales methodology for me is things like Challenger Sale and Miller Heiman blue sheets, MEDDPIC which is a very strong methodology around how to qualify large enterprise deals and really how to navigate through the deal. So a methodology is something that, I guess in principle, doesn’t change across companies, but you apply that methodology to your sales process in a way that suits you.
So, if you’re really big into challenger sales as a methodology, you can use that across any number of industries. But you still need to have your sales process which is really a combination of those milestones, those stages and the steps you need to take through the sales process. Sales methodology is ultimately about the “how” you sell whereas Sales process is the “what you need to do”.
What advice would you give to sales organisations to develop their sales process?
Yeah, so that’s funny, I think, in my experience, you know, it’s pretty patchy in terms of, a lot of sales organisations, if you actually asked to say, Okay, show me your sales process. Quite often, they’ll struggle. And then they’ll go off, and hire the sales performance or a sales strategy company, which is not a bad thing to do. And that can take a fair bit of time, but I’ll try and give you some advice. On what is a really quick and fast way of building your sales process.
So the first piece of advice is to really take a step back, get your key salespeople in a room who are your most experienced and most successful people as well as key execs. Run a workshop first to start with the basics on really what does our ideal customer look like? That’s the first starting point. To develop an effective sales process, you’ve got to start with some basics around your sales strategy. We used to talk about market positioning and segmentation back in the day, but today the buzzword is ICP, ideal customer profile.
Yeah, what does our ideal customer look like if we’re going to build a really solid base of profitable customers? What do those customers look like? You know, what sort of company size? What sort of industries are they in? What are the locations where they are quartered? and so on.
So painting a really clear picture of what your ideal customer profile looks like. This is a whole topic in itself and typically, there’s only half a dozen sort of key criteria that define your ideal customer profile and so that’s what the organisation looks like that you’re going after, but you need to define what your buyers look like who are the key buyers that you need to actually sell to so you know, is it mainly people in finance, what sort of functional roles that they have but also without getting too fancy about what psychologically drivers people have.
They vary, are you selling to people who are very numbers focused or you’re selling to people that are going to be more emotional buyers. Again, there’s lots of great material on our website about this and on the internet. You can learn about buyer personas but yeah, you need to understand who you’re actually selling to.
And so once you’ve really got those two key things in place you then need to start thinking about what is the actual buyer’s journey. So, putting yourself in their shoes. Imagine you are literally that ideal customer profile organisation then put yourself in the shoes of your buyer or one of your buyer personas and each of your buyer personas. But put yourself in their shoes and think okay, what is the buyer journey? You then need to ask yourself, If I was a buyer, how would I go about gathering the information to ultimately make a purchase decision for this product?
So, knowing the scope of your solution and the investment that’s required in your solution. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how they want to go about buying it, but not how you want to sell it, how does the buyer actually want to buy, which is a good way of sort of, from the ground up sort of reengineering, the way you think about, potentially the way you think about your industry and how they act, how customers would actually like to buy your service.
And so that’s really the three key things you want to go through in the workshop:
- what does the ideal customer look like?
- what are the actual buys and sellers look like?
- And then thirdly, how do you think your buyers actually want to buy?
Once you’ve done all that you’re now in a position where you can actually move forward and actually develop the sales process. You might also talk about, obviously sales targets and results and all that sort of stuff. But here, I’m just talking purely about how you go about ultimately developing your sales process.
There’s obviously quite a lot of prep work involved. So how do you go from building the sales process from there?
Yeah, so now that you’ve actually done that exercise, the customer, the buyers, the buyers journey, now you’ve got yourself in that frame of mind, it should be a lot easier then to do a brainstorming session with your team. This is where literally just on a whiteboard, or just spell this out, actually just start thinking, okay, what are all the key steps that we need to go through, given what we know about our buyer, what our company and customer looks like. Given what we think we know about what the buyer journey, the ideal buyer journey looks like? What steps should we be taking that aligns with all of that?
So say, for example, we’ve decided that our buyers now are actually really embracing this hybrid world of, you know, being sold to via zoom or WebEx as opposed to in-person, then we need to adjust our process to that. We may think that, we’d love to actually fly to Atlanta and spend a day in a room with our potential customer. But if our buyers’ journey says that’s actually not what they want, then we need to adjust our process accordingly.
And so I’ve just picked that one example there, but we need to sit down and go, Okay, what are the steps that we need to go through? Now, those steps should align with the buyers’ journey. There are steps that you want to be taking, that actually lead the buyer, and educate the buyer to a position where they can buy your product. So it’s pretty simple, you basically write out all the steps. So those steps might include the initial introduction call, what information ideally should be sent out to the customer for that intro call, steps to take to identify and bring in all the right stakeholders into the next meeting etc.
And there’s a whole bunch of steps that you may or may not need to be spelling out, you know, how do you actually scope out a solution with the customer? So the whole business of gathering data, information, designing, preparing a proposal, delivering the proposal, these are all steps that you might need to take in your process. And so you just literally spell it all out.
And then what you do is you try and categorise those steps into major milestones. And then typically those milestones are, you know, roughly around the first meeting, a discovery phase, a solution development presentation, then a whole contract, negotiation piece, and ultimately, hopefully, a close.
But yeah, the recommendation is to map out those steps, categorise them into stages. And the final thing you should be doing is going, OK, let’s say we’ve got 18 steps, they’re thinking about, Okay, what are the sorts of content or materials or exhibits or whatever we actually need that salespeople are going to need to support themselves during that process?
And finally, how does SalesGRID fit all into all of this and help sales teams?
Well, I’m glad you asked Millie because, of course, we’re pretty passionate about this stuff. And yeah, we built SalesGRID, specifically to help sales teams get better at how they visualise and articulate their sales process, how they help execute that through their sales teams. And so not surprisingly, we really built the product so that it actually really does help teams once they’ve gone through that initial workshopping that I’ve described, you know, sort of listed out what their steps and stages are, they’ve identified the sort of content that they need inside of SalesGRID, it actually aligns all beautifully to that real-world reality.
So in SalesGRID, we have the concept of a playbook. The playbook is literally the combination of the stages, the steps, and thirdly, the actual content behind each of those steps. And so, if you’ve done all that initial work, you can configure up your playbook in SalesGRID. We’ve got guided tours on there, you can set up an account today and go for it, set up your own playbook.
If you’ve already got all your content ready to go, you can upload that content and assign it to the playbook. And SalesGRID really helps you build up your process upfront based on all that work. But the really important thing here, it’s not just the initial effort, it’s the ongoing commitment to continually refining and evolving your process and your content, which is ultimately a playbook.
So I talk a lot about you know, the importance of really developing your capability developing your sales IP to survive and thrive in this digital environment. These days what you need your sales team to be collaborating, to continually develop process, continually develop content because to be agile, you need to be able to adapt to any situation, you’ve got to capture all these situations, capture all the different types of exhibits, all the different types of questions you might get thrown at during a meeting.
At SalesGRID we are all about capturing all of these. All of this content, all of this Q&A or the sales know-how that’s required to actually get to a yes, in the sale. Yeah, so SalesGRID is absolutely designed to help companies develop awesome sales playbooks and amazing sales content databases.
Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing with us today, David.
No worries, it is a pleasure Millie.