Are you ready to stop talking and start getting to work to achieve all of your sales goals? If so, then you need to establish a solid B2B sales process.
A sales process outlines your plan of action to get customers through the door. From the initial outreach to getting signatures on dotted lines, it's all in the process!
However, while B2B sales processes are quite simple and straightforward to create, many salespeople make it way harder than it should be. As a result, they end up with an unnecessarily complex, and therefore ineffective process.
If you're a regular here on the Business Growth Insider, then you already know that complexity is detrimental to sales success!
That being said, we're sharing a simple and straightforward 5-phase B2B sales process flowchart for you to use as an outline for your own process.
Think of this flowchart as a guideline to follow so that you don't go overboard in terms of unnecessary complexity. Regardless of what kind of B2B company you run, you can use this flowchart as an outline.
Bottom line: If you want to achieve B2B selling success, then you need a killer process. To create a killer process, all you need to do is follow this flowchart!
You've got everything you need to achieve all of your sales goals, now it's just a matter of stepping up to the plate to get it done!
What Is a B2B Sales Process (AKA B2B Sales Cycle or Sales Pipeline)?
When people think about sales, the first thing they usually think about is the process, because the process includes all the actions taken to convert potential customers into paying ones.
Moreover, a sales process is a series of steps sales teams take to generate new customers.
An organized, multi-step sales process should include:
- Which sales rep will manage which step of the process
- Which sales tactics will be used at each step of the process
Depending on the size of the sales team, team members usually divide up the steps of the process amongst one another.
More often than not, certain sales reps have specific selling skills suited for a particular step of the process. Therefore, teams divide up the steps based on who is best at each one.
Also, each step of the sales process outlines which sales tactics to use. For example, early on the process, sales reps use tactics like cold calling, whereas later steps incorporate relationship-building tactics.
And, don't get confused... Sales process is synonymous with sales cycle and sales pipeline. Regardless of which one you hear, they're all the same thing!
Bottom line: Developing the sales process and putting it to use is often the most exciting part of sales!
Sales Process vs. Sales Funnel
While the sales process, cycle, and pipeline are all synonymous with one another, they are not synonymous with the sales funnel. Yet, the sales process and funnel are intricately connected.
Think of the sales process as the backend selling process that sales reps experience, while the sales funnel is the user interface buying process that potential customers experience.
The backend sales process defines what the prospect's experience will be like. The process is more technical while the funnel is experiential. And, your goal should be to create the best experience for potential customers!
So, while they are not the same thing, the sales process sets the stage for the sales funnel. Therefore, you must put together a process that makes for a simple and exciting funnel for the prospects to experience.
Establish a Sales Strategy Before Diving Into the Process
Do you have a thorough B2B sales strategy put together?
If not, then stop right here!
Before you put this process flowchart to use, go back and use our Sales Strategy Framework to develop your strategy.
The strategy lays the foundation for the process. Therefore, you need to have a solid strategy before even thinking about the process.
What makes the strategy so foundational for the process?
Your strategy is the 'why' behind everything you do in sales, while the process is the 'what'. Without a 'why' or purpose for selling, there is no reason to have a 'what'.
Therefore, if you haven't solidified that purpose yet within your strategy, then make that the first thing you do! Thankfully to develop your strategy, all you need is our can't-fail B2B Sales Strategy Framework.
B2B Sales Process Keys to Success
Before jumping into the flowchart, keep these key success factors in mind:
- Complex processes are bad processes
- Keep the customer experience in mind
- Each step should serve a purpose
First off, like we mentioned above, complex processes are bad processes. Because, the more complex they are, the more opportunities there are for problems to arise. And, we know you don't need anymore problems to deal with!
Second, think about your customer's experience when creating your process. Like we said, the process is the backend framework for the customer experience. So, the smoother and cleaner the process is, the better experience the customers will have.
Lastly, each step of your process should serve a purpose. If you don't have a reason to throw a step into the process, then don't put it in there! The last thing you want is to have a process filled with steps that simply waste your and the customer's time. Keep it short and sweet.
Now, you're ready to put the 5-phase process flowchart to work!
1. Prospecting Target Audience: Lead Generation
The first step of the sales process is generating new leads that fit within your target audience. Your sales strategy should tell you who your target audience is.
More specifically, you should already have an ideal prospect profile (IPP) and ideal buyer persona (IBP). Having those two things gives you a clear idea of what a lead in your target audience looks like.
There are three key ways to generate leads, including:
- Reaching out to leads
- Getting leads to come to you
- Referrals from your current customer base
Ready to find your future B2B buyers? Start here!
The first way to generate leads is by reaching out to them yourself.
There are a few different types of leads you can generate through outbound tactics, including:
- Cold leads
- Warm leads
- Hot leads
Cold leads are those who you have never worked with before and don't have a relationship with, but believe that they fit your IPP and IBP. Cold leads generally make up the most of one's leads, and they usually take the longest to get a response from.
Warm and hot leads are people who you already know and have at least somewhat of a relationship with. The hotter the lead, the more closely you know them. The great thing about warm and hot leads is that they usually take less time to get initial responses from.
Think you don't have any warm or hot leads under your belt? Try going through your CRM to dig up any potential prospects.
When it comes cold lead outreach tactics, some of the most popular ones include:
- Cold calling
- Cold emailing
- Cold messaging over social media
When it comes to warm and hot leads, outreach tends to be more casual. You can still call, email, and message, but you can also consider texting.
Is there anything better in business-to-business sales than getting leads to come to you?
That being said, it is possible to get leads to hit you up first if you have a solid B2B marketing strategy that portrays your brand identity.
If you're the CEO or sales manager at your company, get together with your marketing team to coordinate an amazing marketing campaign! Take advantage of content marketing, SEO, and all the other marketing tactics at your disposal.
Also, get your sales team in on the game by having them share marketing content on their social media pages, particularly LinkedIn profiles. Have them share things like case studies to help get leads in the door.
Get Referrals From Your Customer Base
Far too many sales teams don't take advantage of what is perhaps the most simple tactic to generate leads... And that is reaching out to their current customers for referrals!
The great thing about getting a referral is that the B2B company being referred to you has direct proof from your current customer that you are a great person to work with.
Moreover, consider customers being referred to you as warm leads right off the bat!
Be Diligent With Follow-Up
Did you know that it takes an average of 5 rounds of outreach before a lead responds to a call or email?
While outbound outreach can feel pointless at times, success is usually a matter of consistency. Just because you didn't get a response the first time around doesn't mean you will never get one!
Always keep in mind that prospects are people too. Therefore, like you, they're busy with many things outside of checking their inbox and answering machine. So if they don't get back to you right away, don't sweat it! Odds are they are simply busy.
However, that doesn't mean you should give up.
If you don't get a response from your cold leads after the initial attempt, reach out again within 24 hours. If you still don’t hear back, reach out again in under 24 hours!
For warm leads, give them two days before following-up. And for hot leads, give them three days before following-up.
When it comes to sales success, persistence is the name of the game.
2. Lead Qualification
So, you got a lead to respond to your initial outreach? Or, a lead slid into your inbox?
Now, it's time to vet them.
You might be saying to yourself… ‘But didn’t I vet the lead before making the initial outreach?’.
Just because a lead fits your IPP and IBP doesn't automatically mean that they are a qualified lead. While the IPP and IBP are great starting points, they don't tell the whole story.
Moreover, you might have a lead who looks totally qualified on the surface, but turns out to be a terrible fit. And, the only way to know for sure is by doing lead qualification.
Also, if a lead comes to you via an inbound pathway, then it's even more important to vet them because you never considered before whether or not they fit your IPP and IBP.
Now, how do you know whether or not a lead is qualified for you?
A lead is qualified if they check a few boxes, including:
- They have a problem you believe you are capable of solving
- You believe that you and this prospect would have a good relationship together
Bottom line: A lead is qualified if they fit your IPP and IBP, and check these additional two criteria boxes. The way to determine whether or not they fit the additional criteria is by conducting an initial sales meeting and doing in-depth company research.
Initial Sales Meeting
After a prospect responds to your initial call or email, or comes to you via an inbound pathway, the first thing you need to do is set up an initial sales meeting.
During that sales meeting, your goal is to gather as much information about the prospect as possible. More specifically, you need to gather information about the company's needs, including their tactical needs (AKA pain points) and emotional needs.
How do you uncover as much information as possible?
It's simple... Just ask more questions!
If you want more information about your prospects, all you need to do is stop talking and start listening to them. Ask direct questions, and then sit back and soak in their answers.
By doing so, you get more information out of them AND begin to establish a sense of trust. Because, the more questions you ask and the more attentively you listen, the more the prospect feels you genuinely care about them.
As the lead continues to answer your questions, you get a better sense of whether or not you are capable of fulfilling their needs and establishing a solid relationship with them!
If at the end of the meeting you believe that the lead is qualified… then proceed!
Perform In-Depth Company Research
After the initial sales meeting, you should have a much better sense as to whether or not the lead is qualified or not.
But, don't just stop there!
If after the meeting you believe that the lead is a qualified one, go one step further to perform in-depth company research.
Dive into the company's history, culture, and values to get a better idea of their identity. Moreover, research information about the company that wasn't specifically revealed during the initial sales meeting.
If after doing your research you still believe that the lead is highly qualified, then proceed with them into phase 3 of the 5-phase process!
3. Sales Meetings
So, you got a qualified lead on your hands? Great!
Now, it's time to start digging beneath the surface.
By that, we mean it's time to get into the nitty gritty of your prospect's pain point.
While your prospect may have revealed their pain point or tactical problem during the initial sales meeting, that doesn't mean that they're telling the whole story.
Moreover, while the prospect might understand that they have a problem, they might not fully understand or have revealed core issues related to it, such as:
- What is causing the problem
- How they want the problem solved
- What their emotional needs are
Therefore, your job during the sales meetings is to do three things:
- Get to the core of their pain point
- Keep the relationship-building momentum going
- Get into the specs of your deliverable and answer all necessary questions about it
If you can do these three things, then your odds of closing a deal are strongly in your favor.
Get to the Core of Pain Points
Customer success in sales comes down to two things:
- The customer having their tactical pain point solved - the 'what'
- Having their emotional needs satisfied - the 'how'
Every sales rep knows that it is their job to solve their customer's tactical problem. But, many of them don't realize that it is also their job to fulfill the customer's emotional needs.
Believe it or not, but managing what the prospect’s emotional needs is just as important as the tactical.
What makes emotions so important in sales?
Emotions are crucial in sales because they describe how prospects want their pain point solved.
Think of it like this: There are dozens of bottled water brands in the world and they all sell the same thing: water in a bottle. Yet, certain people will only drink specific bottled water brands because they fulfill their specific emotional needs. For example, one person might be emotionally attached to saving money, so they opt for the most basic water out there. On the other hand, another person desires to feel trendy, so they opt for the most luxurious looking bottled water they can find.
And, again... It's the exact same water, yet the difference in how it's delivered satisfies different emotional needs!
Potential customers usually don't clearly state what their emotional needs are, so it's your job to dig for them by asking in-depth questions.
Lay the Groundwork for Customer Relationships
Along with diving into the customer’s needs, you also need to move forward building a solid relationship with them.
The best ways to do that during sales meetings include:
- Asking more questions
- Establishing multiple touchpoints of contact
- Establishing relationships with the top stakeholders
First off, the best way to sustain the relationship momentum is to keep asking questions. By doing so, you let the prospect know that you genuinely care about helping them. Conveniently, if you are simultaneously digging to the core of the prospect's pain point, then you will already be asking a lot of questions!
Second, it's not enough to have just one person on your sales team in contact with the prospect. Instead, there should be several touchpoints of communication on both sides. While you should have a single account manager or lead sales manager, it should be a matter of two entire companies coming together.
Lastly, the sales manager should establish a solid relationship with the top stakeholders at the prospect company. By stakeholders, we mean the people who have the authority to make purchasing decisions. Getting those top decision-makers on your side will score you major brownie points.
4. The Final Sales Pitch
Once you've gotten to the core of the prospect's problems and set the stage for a thriving long-term relationship, you're ready to make the final sales pitch.
This is where it all comes to a head!
One fatal mistake that far too many sales teams make is turning this single step into a mini process on it's own. What is supposed to be a short and sweet event to outline the solution turns into several additional meetings.
This is a fatal mistake because, once you put the deal on the table, the goal is to get the prospects to say 'yes' ASAP!
The more time in between you laying the deal down and the prospect giving you an answer... the greater the odds that they will walk away from you.
Therefore, before jumping into the final sales pitch, be sure that you've paved the way during sales meetings to make this step a simple one and done!
Solidify Trust & Expertise
During your sales meetings, you should have already gone in depth with your prospects about the specs of your product or service.
Now what you need to do is demonstrate to them exactly how your deliverable will solve their issues in the most effective way possible.
When doing so, be definitive and use numbers to demonstrate your expertise on the subject. Show complete confidence that you know exactly how to solve their problems!
Remember... You're the one with the solution, but your prospects won't have confidence in you if you don't show them that you've got the right plan! Be the expert you know you are by showing them what's up.
Tell a Story
When making the pitch, put the prospect's pain point into perspective by taking advantage of B2B sales storytelling.
The purpose of storytelling is to amp up the prospect's emotions. It puts the importance of them getting their problem solved into perspective so that they’re more likely to pick you for their solution.
While storytelling is one of the most effective sales tactics you could ever use, most salespeople never take advantage of it. Therefore, if done appropriately, you have a major leg up by telling a story.
Handle Objections & Manage Terms (No Negotiating)
Here's the thing: While you can be flexible with the terms of your offer, never negotiate price! If you do, you automatically cheapen your product or service.
When you give one number and then immediately drop to a lower one, it makes the customer think to themself, 'Is what they're offering me really worth what they're saying?'.
Before you know it, they will be questioning your value and losing confidence in you.
It's like when you go to buy a new car and the dealer automatically drops their number the second you decide to reconsider. Instead of making you feel better, it makes you feel like they were inflating their value with their initial number.
Therefore, simply don't negotiate price! As long as your price tag matches the value of your deliverable, you're golden.
If your prospects will truly have a difficult time meeting your price, then instead of negotiating, offer some flexibility. For example, offering a payment plan is a practical way to ease the strain on them while ensuring that you still get what you deserve.
At the end of the day, you may feel like you're doing a good thing by negotiating, but you're really just cheapening yourself and making the prospect lose confidence in you!
5. Close Deals & Secure Long-Term Loyalty
Right as the prospect's emotions reach their positive peak during the final pitch, lay the paper down on the table (or at least ask them for a 'yes' or 'no'!).
If you truly believe in the value of your product or service (which you always should), then this is the easy part!
However, just because you've got a closed deal doesn't mean that the party is over. In fact, in B2B sales, closing a deal is only the first part of the game.
The next part is not only working hard to fulfill all the prospect's needs, but keeping the relationship going to secure long-term loyalty.
Secure Long-Term Loyalty
If you're new to B2B sales but have experience in B2C, then this part may come as a bit of a surprise to you.
Because, unlike in B2C sales, B2B sales success is also dependent on what comes after the deal is signed. It's not a matter of simply signing the papers and then walking away. Instead, it's about how well you help your customers implement their solution.
Helping with implementation means staying in regular contact with the customer to answer all of their questions to keep the relationship going.
While this can come as a challenge to some, securing long-term loyalty from your customer base can be the greatest asset to your sales career.
Final Thoughts on the B2B Sales Process Flowchart
This 5-phase sales process flowchart is all you need to outline your own B2B sales process.
The simple methodology of the flowchart checks all the boxes that every process needs with the least amount of fluff. Moreover, this flowchart has everything you need and nothing of what you don't!
Use this as your template, and then get going!
Whether you are starting from scratch or going back to the drawing board, it's time to put this flowchart to use. It'll only work it's magic if you put it to practice.