7 ways to optimize your sales process
Is your organization closing as many sales deals as you’d like?
Many organizations have teams of marketers who optimize everything they can, including Facebook Ads, landing pages and email campaigns and more to try to generate more leads.
But once a lead is generated and handed over to sales, the process often gets a lot less optimized and reps are often using their own pitch decks, CRM processes, proposal templates and more. This lack of optimization not only costs your reps time, but it’s likely costing you closed deals too.
In this article, we look at common stages of the sales cycle and outline some tools that can help you optimize each stage of the process and close more deals.
Benefits of optimizing sales process
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 increase the amount of deals you win even if you don’t ever increase the amount of new leads you’re receiving.
- 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 process the more like you are to lose it. So if you can optimize your sales process and reduce your sales cycle time, you’ll likely also increase your win rate.
- More capacity per rep – If you can optimize your sales process to remove unnecessary manual steps, you’ll increase capacity per rep. This could mean you can scale lead generation without having to scale reps, or give them more time to give each deal more personalized attention.
- 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 win more deals, 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).
Ways 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 and trying to get them on the phone to qualify them and set up a time to do 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 in my experience it’s not uncommon for 50% or more of the people who completed a form and requested a demo to not actually go on to complete the demo.
So, to help you improve this, 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 are 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 Thank you 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 in.
Not only will this save your reps time, but it can also significantly reduce the amount of leads that drop off between completing the form and doing the demo, and increase 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. The factors that determine your response time are a combination of human resources, team structure and incentives, website and CRM system process and more.
The key is to delve into your existing sales process and identify what the hold ups are. 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 the case that they are prioritizing demos and follows up on existing deals rather than prioritizing outreach to new leads. If that’s the case, it may be the case that sales team processes need to be updated. 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 go 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 system to ensure your technology is enabling your reps to respond to new leads as soon as possible.
Follow up with leads multiple times
Research suggests that 1.3 times is the average number of times a rep tries to reach a lead 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 being the highest converting. Moral of the story, it pays to attempt to contact leads more than just once or twice.
Fortunately, this can largely be automated by using sales engagement tools. These tools connect to CRM tools like Salesforce to fetch your new leads and then route them into workflows or cadences (name varies depending on what tool you use), which are essentially a series of touchpoints like emails, calls or social connections.
These tools essentially automate the process of sending those emails or doing those calls. You can set it to automatically send a personalized email, or create tasks in your CRM for reps to do things like calls.
They’re a great way to establish a process for lead follow up and ensure that all your reps follow it.
In the demo stage, your sales reps are jumping on calls with leads and demonstrating how your product works and how it can solve their problems.
All demos are different, and all reps likely demo your product in a slightly different manner as well, so how do you know what is 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 coaching and reviews come in.
Review calls and coach reps
There are a lot of different sales methodologies out there that can provide frameworks for your reps to follow when it comes to rapport building, proving value, negotiation, etc. While these are great, they’re more about improving rep performance and not necessarily about improving your sales process.
So what can you do to improve your sales process in the demo stage?
You can use AI platforms like Chorus to understand what works best when demo’ing your specific product, and then coach your reps and provide materials to do exactly that.
Chorus is an AI platform that connects to your company’s video calling solution (like Zoom, GoTo Meeting, RingCentral, etc) and analyses each of your rep’s calls. It’s AI technology identifies things like what questions are asked, what value propositions are discussed, what competitors are mentioned, etc and then combines that with Win/Loss data to identify what works and what doesn’t.
You can use this data to understand things like what messages are resonating most, what competitors are coming up in conversations and how best to position against them, what common objections are how best they are overcome, and you can feed this information back to your reps to improve their win rates.
In the proposal stage, your sales reps are preparing and sending proposals to leads that outline pricing and a variety of other factors about 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 right through to a 100 page 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.
The PDF however, was invented in the 80’s and is a seriously outdated format in modern business. They’re difficult to view on mobile devices, can’t have interactive content like video or pricing calculators, don’t provide any insight into when they’re viewed or how long for, and require separate software to be digitally signed.
So what should you do instead?
Send your proposals as webpages
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 not only be password protected but you can also add time limits that ensure your proposals can’t be viewed after a certain date – as well as view limits so they can only be viewed a certain number of times. 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 — Research shows that over 50 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 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. So if you discover 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. If you’re a Qwilr customer, you can use the drag and drop builder to add elements like text, images, videos, tables and more to your proposal.
You can then share the proposal as a 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.
If you’re not using Qwilr, you can build them as part of your website. Most CMS systems these days (like WordPress, SquareSpace, etc) have drag and drop builders that make it fairly easy to drag and drop text and images around to create a proposal, but it’s much more difficult to add things like pricing calculators, digital signatures, etc to your proposal. You also won’t get notified when people view it, which makes it harder to know when to follow up.
In the contract stage, your sales reps are preparing and negotiating the sales contract, likely with the lead and possibly even with in-house or external counsel.
This can often be the most time consuming part of the sales process, with multiple people involved sending documents back and forth via email. It’s also one of the most risky parts, with research from the TAS group showing that the longer a deal is in the sales process 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 this. 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 to complete.
Once the customer’s details are entered, Woodpecker automatically updates the contract with the information, saving your reps time and helping ensure fewer 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 can be frustrating for sales reps, particularly if the legal team takes a day or two to review it and then approves 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 (like AuthorAPPROVE or 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.
Optimizing your sales process not only results in more closed won deals, but can reduce sales cycle time, improve efficiency and increase your sales team morale. It’s win-win!
So take the time to review your current sales process and identify where any issues lie, and use the tactics and tools mentioned in this post to improve it!
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