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  • Aaron Beashel

7 Ways to optimize your sales process

Optimizing your sales process not only results in more closed-won deals, but can reduce the length of your sales cycle, improve efficiency, increase team morale, and be the difference between a good year and a banner sales year.

Is your organization closing as many sales deals as you’d like?

Many organizations have teams of marketers who optimize everything they can, from Facebook ads to landing pages, email campaigns, and more, all in an attempt to generate more leads.

But then what happens?

Once a lead is generated and handed over to sales, the process isn’t always as efficient. Perhaps you can relate: sales reps using their own pitch decks, creating new CRM processes, proposal templates, and more. This lack of sales optimization not only costs your reps time, but it’s likely costing you closed deals, too.

In this article, we look at the sales cycle and outline what to look for, plus tools that can help you optimize each stage of the sales process.

Benefits of sales process optimization

There are many benefits to optimizing your sales process, some obvious, some not. These include:

  • More won deals – By optimizing the sales process, you’ll increase the conversion rate between each stage, and ultimately improve your closed/won ratio.
  • Shorter sales cycle – Research by the TAS group shows that it takes twice as long to lose a deal than to win one. Or put another way, the longer a deal is in the sales cycle, the more likely you are to lose it. Conversely, if you can optimize your sales process and accelerate your sales cycle, you’ll likely also increase your win rate.
  • More capacity per rep – Optimize your sales process to remove unnecessary manual steps, and you’ll increase capacity per rep. Imagine…more time for prospecting, pipeline management, or for more focused and personal attention to each account.
  • Better team morale – Sales reps love closing deals. Ringing the sales bell and earning commission is a great feeling. However, they don’t love negotiating clauses in sales contracts with legal teams. If you can optimize the sales process, not only will you generate more revenue, but you’ll have a happier sales team that sticks around longer. (Very important, given it can often take a new rep 6 months to reach full productivity!)
  • Faster feedback to marketing – If you can optimize your sales process and get a better win rate plus shorter sales cycle time, then you’re going to get faster and better feedback on your marketing initiatives. For instance, if you spend $10,000 to generate 100 leads from Google Ads per month, have a 20% win rate and a 3 month sales cycle, then it’s going to take 6 months to get proper, statistically-significant feedback on the effectiveness of that channel. However, if you have a 30% win rate on a 1.5 month sales cycle, then it’s going to take approximately 3 months to get statistically significant feedback. If it turns out that channel isn’t returning ROI, then you save $30,000 of your marketing budget (3 months at $10k per month).

How to optimize your sales process

There are many ways in which you can optimize your sales process. We’ve broken them down by each stage of the process.

Outreach and qualification stage

In this stage, reps are reaching out to leads that have come through from marketing initiatives, trying to get them on the phone to qualify them and schedule a demo.

The process generally goes something like this:

  • Lead fills out a form on the company’s website and is then shown a ‘Thanks for contacting us’ message
  • Leads details go into the CRM and are assigned to a rep
  • Rep reaches out via email and/or phone and tries to connect with the lead to qualify them and setup a time to do the demo

Not only can this process be time-consuming for reps, but it’s not uncommon for 50% or more of the people who completed a form and requested a demo to not actually complete the demo.

To help you improve your demo attendance, here are a few tools you can use to optimize the outreach and qualification stage of your sales process:

Instant demo booking

Instead of leads filling out a form, going into a CRM, and being contacted by a sales rep a few hours later, you can use scheduling tools to allow leads to book a time for the demo automatically.

The optimized lead flow would look something like this: 

  • Lead fills out a form on the company’s website and answers some basic qualification questions (usually company size, industry, etc)
  • Assuming they meet the qualification criteria, they’re redirected to a page with a booking form that allows them to select a time to do the demo
  • Once they’ve selected a time, they are redirected to a confirmation page.

From here, the lead then goes into your CRM and is passed over to the rep. However, instead of the rep now needing to email and call the lead to try to find a time to do the demo, it’s already booked.

Not only will this save your reps time, but it can also significantly reduce the number of leads that drop off between completing the form and doing the demo, which in turn, increases your sales.

Reduce initial response time

Statistics show that 78% of customers buy from the company that responds to their inquiry first and that sales conversions are 391% higher when leads are contacted in the first minute.

Reducing your initial response time (i.e. the time between when the lead submits the form and when you contact them) can significantly increase the number of deals you end up closing.

The challenge is, reducing your initial response time can be complex. Human resources, team structure and incentives, your website, and CRM processes all impact your sales response time.

The key is to delve into your existing sales process and identify the bottlenecks. Submit a new lead on your website and see how long it takes to get into your CRM and assigned to a rep, and then how long it takes that rep to reach out to you. 

The tactics you deploy to reduce initial response time will depend on what you find, but could include:

  • Updating sales team process – If your reps are responsible for both the initial outreach and qualification stage as well as the demo and closing stage, then it may be that they are prioritizing demos and follow-up on existing deals rather than prioritizing outreach to new leads. If that’s the case, your sales team processes need to be reviewed and adjusted. It may even make sense to tie compensation and bonuses to initial response time, to incentivize the right behavior.
  • Update CRM processes – Are all leads being assigned to reps correctly and in a timely manner? Do reps get notified as soon as a new lead is assigned to them? Do they have one spot to see all the new leads they need to action? If you can’t answer Yes to all of these questions, then it’s likely you need to look at the setup of your CRM, to ensure your technology is enabling your reps to respond to new leads as soon as possible.

Follow up with leads multiple times

Research reveals that reps often give up too quickly. In fact, 1.3 is the average number of call attempts made by a sales rep before giving up. 

When I was at Campaign Monitor however, we used to send 7 emails to new leads over the course of 2 weeks after they requested a demo. We found that 80% of sales conversations came from emails 2-7, with the 7th email actually converting the best. The moral of the story: it pays to attempt to contact leads more than just once or twice.

Fortunately, sales follow-up can be automated with sales engagement tools, like Mixmax, Apollo or Salesloft. These tools connect to your Hubspot or Salesforce CRM to route new leads into workflows or cadences, (the name varies depending on what tool you use) which are essentially a series of touchpoints like emails, calls, and social connections. In other words, you can automate the process of sending emails, call reminders, and create other tasks for reps to ensure leads are being appropriately prospected.

Demo stage

In the demo stage, your sales reps are demonstrating how your product works and how it can solve their problems.

All demos are slightly different, depending on the rep’s style and the prospect’s interest and needs. So how do you know what’s working and what isn’t? 

Your CRM can tell you which reps are booking more meetings and closing more deals, but what is it that they are doing or saying that is making them more successful?

If you knew that, you could uplevel your whole sales team and close more deals, which is where sales coaching and reviews come in.

“The single most underutilized resource in any company is the sales leader.”

Suze Andres, CEO at Stark Associates

Call reviews

There are many different sales methodologies and tools that can provide frameworks for your reps when it comes to rapport building, proving product value, negotiation, etc. While these are great, they’re more about improving rep effectiveness but not necessarily about improving your sales process.

So what can you do to improve your sales process in the demo stage?

AI platforms like Chorus help you to understand the impact of your calls, including the questions asked, value propositions discussed, competitors mentioned. Chorus then combines that data with win/loss data to determine what’s working best. Once you have this information, then you can coach your reps making adjustments to how they handle calls, the words they use, and improving responses to common objections.

Proposal stage

In the proposal stage, your reps are preparing and sending sales proposals, outlining pricing and other details pertinent to winning the deal. 

Depending on factors like your product or service, size of the deal, RFP process, etc. these proposals could be anything from a simple pricing quote to a lengthy document that outlines implementation processes, security practices, etc.

One thing that most proposals have in common though is the medium: they’re almost all delivered as PDF’s, which is a huge miss.

A PDF is a 30-year-old technology, difficult to view on mobile devices, and unable to accommodate buyer conveniences like e-signatures or interactivity like video and an ROI calculator.

So what should you do instead?

Send your proposals as web pages

Instead of sending proposals as boring PDF’s, you should be sending them as mobile-responsive, interactive web pages instead. There are numerous benefits to this, including:

  • Responsive — Research by Litmus suggests over 50% of emails are opened on mobile. Web pages are responsive, meaning they look great on all desktop, tablet, AND mobile devices.
  • Secure — Web pages can be password protected. You can even require prospects to log in using their work email address before viewing the page to ensure that only the right people see it.
  • Interactive — Web pages can have interactive content like video, audio, maps, forms, spreadsheets, and more embedded in them. You can even add things like pricing calculators that allow prospects to see what the pricing would look like when they add that extra upsell.
  • Trackable — Every interaction your leads have with a web page can be tracked, so you can see when they view your proposal, for how long, what content they view, where they’re viewing from, and more.
  • Signable – Unless you’re using a third party tool, PDFs need to be printed, signed, scanned and sent back. Webpages can have built-in accept and eSignature tools. Research shows that digital signatures can reduce contract turnaround time by 80%.
  • Accessible — Stats by Interactive Accessibility shows that 57 million Americans have some form of disability that could impact their ability to read and interact with content on a computer. Screen readers cannot read a PDF without you adding an extra layer of XML, but they can read webpages without a problem.
  • Editable — Unlike a PDF, web pages can be edited at any time, even after you’ve sent it to the prospect. This is extremely helpful, as if you’ve made a typo, you can quickly go in and change it before anyone notices.

Best of all, creating your proposals as web pages isn’t all that difficult. With Qwilr, you can use the drag and drop builder to add elements like text, images, videos, tables, and more to your proposal. Once your sales proposal is finished, simply share the link by clicking the ‘Share’ button, and you’ll automatically get notifications via email or Slack when the lead views the proposal, allowing you to time your follow-up perfectly. Let us show you more…book a demo now.

Contract stage

In the contract stage, your sales reps are preparing and negotiating the sales contract, likely with the buyer and possibly even with the buyer’s in-house or external counsel.

Pricing and term negotiations can often be the most time-consuming part of the sales process, especially when multiple people are involved and are sending revisions back and forth via email. The contract stage is also one of the riskiest parts of the entire sales process, as the longer a deal is in negotiation, the more likely you are to lose it.

The key is to automate as much of the contract stage as possible, including:

Automating contract drafting

Most sales contracts start with a rep taking the default sales contract template and filling in the customer details, like the name of the company, address, products being purchased, pricing, etc. It’s time-consuming and prone to error.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help automate contract drafting. Instead of the rep manually going through every page of the contract looking for the places they need to add customer details, tools like Woodpecker automatically detect the placeholders in the contract (I.e. [Company Name]) and present the user with a simple form instead. Once the customer’s details are entered, Woodpecker automatically updates the contract with the information, saving time and mitigating errors (and potentially invalid contracts).

Automate contract approval

Once the contract is drafted, it often needs approval from sales leadership or the legal team before being sent to the customer. This extra step can be frustrating for sales reps, particularly if the legal team takes a day or two to review it only to approve it without changes. It basically means the deal has been held up for 2 days for no reason.

That’s where automated contract approval tools, such as Lawgeex come in. Legal teams set parameters on contracts (I.e. discount cannot be more than X%, customer address must be completed, etc) and reps submit the contracts to the system for approval. If the details of the contract are within the set parameters (I.e. price is correct, no excessive discounting, etc) then the contract can be automatically approved. If there’s an issue, the tool notifies the legal team and highlights the issue, saving them from having to read the whole contract to find it.

It’s a great way to speed up the legal review part of the contract process and helps close more deals.

Sales process wins

Optimizing your sales process not only results in more closed-won deals, but can reduce the length of your sales cycle, improve efficiency, increase team morale, and be the difference between a good year and a banner sales year.

For more on how Qwilr can help you improve your sales process, streamline your sales cycle and more effectively convert buyers, we invite you to book a 15-minute demo.

This post was originally published on August 11, 2020 and was updated for relevancy and accuracy on November 4, 2021.

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