I’ll get straight to the point: a lot of businesses are experiencing slower sales and revenue right now due to COVID. Businesses around the world are worried about how they’ll fare by the end of the year and what they can do to make things pick back up in 2021. The reality is, we’ve still got a long road ahead of us. If you’re going to last and see some positive changes, you have to tackle your sales efforts proactively

You may already have a sales process, but it’s time to take a long, hard look at it and adjust based on this “new normal,” as everyone likes to call it. Your sales process isn’t any good if you’re continuing to see sales decline. And even if the reason, like a global pandemic, is out of your control, you have to look at the things you can control.

Having a clear cut set of steps for how things get done helps you navigate your various initiatives and keep your entire team on track. It can also help you streamline your day-to-day for better performance. 

This is key in sales, where even one misstep or inefficiency can mean missing out on a customer. It can take a lot of trial and error to nail down your sales process, especially when you’re just starting out or trying to come back from some very slow months. To save you some time, we’ve put together a couple of recommendations for how to create a seamless sales process and get on the path to a more productive way of doing things so you can be more prepared for what COVID and 2021 throw at you. 

Step One: Establish Your Sales Methodology

There are so many different ways to approach sales, and some of them are going to work better for your purposes than others. It’s important to figure out what will work best for your company and your sales team  — a process in itself, and one that might require some experimentation.

Some of the most common sales methodologies include:

  • ABM (Account-Based Marketing) – A B2B sales strategy where you identify your ideal clients and their decision-makers and then target those decision makers directly with targeted messaging and other types of outreach.
  • Challenger Approach – A competition-driven sales strategy that seeks to amplify your expertise to boost brand authority and separate yourself from those who are offering similar products or services.
  • SPIN Selling – A customer-centric model geared toward solving specific problems. SPIN stands for the four types of questions that a potential customer might have and that you should address: 
    • Situation 
    • Problem
    • Implication
    • Need-Payoff.
  • Value Selling – Illustrating your product or service’s value in relation to a specific problem that a potential customer has to make it an attractive solution.
  • Solution Selling – An approach to sales that starts with identifying a problem and then turns to exactly how your product or service can solve it. It’s similar to value selling; however, the focus is put more prominently on the problem and the required specific improvements.
  • Inbound Selling – Gently nurturing leads with personalized and helpful content and communications instead of seeking to get them to purchase as quickly as possible.
  • Consultative – Working one-on-one with a potential customer to determine their main challenges and how to solve them. This helps establish your company as a partner, instead of just a business trying to score a sale.

Determine which sales methodology works best for your team and provides you with the best outcomes. You may even decide to take a little bit of what works from various methodologies and form something that’s all your own. The key here is to examine your current or previous approaches to determine what is or isn’t working well with your prospects. Use your small business CRM to track previous tactics and interactions that will provide you with a pulse on successful and not-so-successful efforts. 

We’ve found that when you use marketing automation, you’re able to cultivate an inbound selling approach with minimal effort. Doing so will also afford you the time to focus on and incorporate other selling methodologies into your overall strategy. 

With inbound marketing, You can easily create email campaigns and enroll your leads into ones that make the most sense for them based on where they are in the buyer’s journey. Just make sure you’re also creating informative, educational content to fuel those campaigns and offer value to those leads. This will keep them engaged and keep your company top of mind so they’ll think of you when they’re ready to make a buying decision. 

Step Two: Establish Your Sales Pipeline

Sales isn’t always a linear process, but it’s still essential to have a clear idea of the rungs of the ladder that separate strangers from brand loyalists. For many companies, it looks a little bit like this:

  1. Gain a prospect.
  2. Turn that prospect into a lead.
  3. Turn that lead into a qualified lead.
  4. Provide that qualified lead with valuable content to help educate them on their problem.
  5. Present your product or service as a solution.
  6. Consult and assess questions.
  7. Close.
  8. Continue to nurture and educate.

On each rung of the ladder, you should have unique and proven practices in place that help guide a potential customer to the next step. While having a fantastic product or service is obviously helpful, it’s not going to totally sell itself. You need to establish a process that enables you to guide your prospects closer and closer to a sale and in a way that nurtures and empowers them to make the decision

An effective sales process isn’t passive, nor is the end result totally out of your control. The more strategy you put into place as your prospects turn into leads, customers, returning customers, brand loyalists, and brand advocates, the fewer potential sales you’re going to have slipping through the cracks. This can also set you up for some additional revenue when new sales are drying up. 

But maybe you’re trying these efforts and you’re still not seeing a ton of results. That’s when it’s time to dig into a few areas to identify where changes need to be made. 

How to Make Enhancements

Zero in on What You’re Currently Doing and Identify any Missed Opportunities

Have sales and marketing come together to examine what your typical sales process looks like. Maybe your sales team isn’t aware of all the content you have created that is meant to enable them, and therefore they’re missing out on certain opportunities to effectively engage and educate leads. Either way, it will be important for your marketing team to fully understand how your sales team approaches prospects and the various ways they sell to them. 

Perhaps there’s too much time between interactions or emails in a drip campaign. If you don’t find that balance by sending emails just enough (but not too much), you can easily fly off the radar of your leads and lose them before you even had them. 

Re-examine Your Buyer Personas

Who you sell to can change over time, especially when pandemics sweep through and drastically change the landscape. Perhaps your ideal buyer no longer has the budget you once perceived them to have (because, let’s be honest, everyone’s budgets are thin right now). That is something you’ll want to adjust or at least take note of in your documented marketing plan

Download our Buyer Persona Workbook to help you establish who you should be selling to. 

Knowing exactly who you want to be selling to helps you understand how to speak to them. When you identify their pain points, you’re able to think of more creative ways to appeal to them and who them that your product is what they need. 

Re-examine the Funnel

Maybe your funnel and the way you have your nurture campaigns set up needs a little work. Is any content dated? Could you make improvements to your email copy that could motivate buyers to take more action? Or maybe there’s a step or area that customers traditionally fall off at. Identify these crucial areas to see where you can make adjustments. 

Measure and Refine Over Time

You may not have it all figured out by the time 2021 comes along. But, if you measure your results consistently, you’ll be able to determine trends that will make forecasting sales in 2021 more realistic. Don’t neglect to track your open rates, click-through rates, and your conversions, as well as your monthly sales revenue from other efforts. See what methods are continuously bringing in results, and double down on those. It’s vital that you make changes and don’t get complacent because what is working now (or isn’t) could change instantly.

The secret to sales success is that there is no secret. There is no single way to navigate the sales process that will work for all companies and all consumers every single time. Instead, your chances of success lie in your ability to plan, measure, and adapt.