#4 – The Four Level Sales Process (STSF Core Components)

By David Masover

Hi, welcome to episode four of The Sales Team Success Formula™

The first 10 episodes of the podcast are designed to be like an audiobook version of The Sales Team Success Formula™, but I didn’t actually write the book – I did these podcasts instead!

In other words, if you really want to take a deep dive into exactly what The Sales Team Success Formula™ is, how it works, what the pieces are, and what it’s going to do for you and your team, listen to episodes one through ten.

It’ll take you a couple of hours to get through all ten core content episodes just like an audiobook would, but by the time you’re done, you’re going to have all the details.

You can start with episode one that’s going to give you an overview of the formula and then decide if you want to listen to the rest. 

Here in episode four, we’ll cover The Four Level Sales Process™, a systematic and highly effective way I’ve developed to embrace this concept that can be so powerful when you set it up right! What salespeople do as they work through an opportunity is HUGE – why not dial that in across your team and set yourself up for the kind of sales team management that can help your team and each rep in it excel!

And here is what you will find in the other episodes:

EPISODE 1:  Introducing The Sales Team Success Formula™

EPISODE 2:  Target Client Profiling

EPISODE 3:  Effective Sales Messaging

EPISODE 4:  The Four Level Sales Process™

EPISODE 5:  Personal Sales Plans

EPISODE 6:  KPIs & Metrics

EPISODE 7:  Sales Tools & Tech

EPISODE 8:  Call Reviews

EPISODE 9:  Deal Reviews & Pipeline Reviews

EPISODE 10:  Putting the Formula Into Action

Thanks for your interest in The Sales Team success Formula™ – and here’s to your success!

Transcription

Hi, and thanks for joining me for this episode of The Sales Team Success Formula podcast, I’m David Masover, host of the podcast and creator of the formula and I’m really glad you are here for this episode.

This episode of the podcast is about sales process, which is an absolutely critical element of The Sales Team Success Formula, so we’re just going to jump right in and get started.

Now as some of you may know if you’ve seen or heard some of my content elsewhere, I consider myself a “process geek” when it comes to sales.

This is not because I woke up one day and thought this would be smart or clever or strategic, I think I’m just kind of wired that way, but this process orientation and the ongoing exploration and application of process to sales and sales management challenges has served me well during my career, and in this episode I’m going to share with you what I consider to be the culmination of all of that – something I call The Four Level Sales Process.

But before we get to that, we need to take on the elephant in the room.

Sales process gets a pretty bad rap from a lot of folks, and in many cases for a lot of good reasons – so I’d like to explore that for just a few minutes and then get into how I’ve been able to use a well developed and deployed sales process as a big supporting element of overall B2B sales team success, and how you can do that too.

So why does sales process get such a bad rap from so many folks in sales – maybe even from you?

Let me approach that question by sharing what typically happens when I ask someone in sales management or leadership to describe their sales process to me – which is something I’ve done more than a few times as a sales consultant in the last two decades:

When I ask sales and company leaders to tell me about their sales process, I almost always get one of three kinds of answers.

  • Some of them proudly show me their CRM, with high level categories across a Kanban style pipeline function, which is a fancy way of describing the kinds of column headers you see in the pipeline or deals section of a lot of simple CRMs. These simple process maps typically have customizable categories like leads, qualified leads, demo, discovery, etc., and many of the CRM makers seem more proud than they should be that reps can simply drag an opportunity from one column to another using their mouse as if that’s something huge, but, when I ask sales leaders and managers how reps decide to move an opportunity from one stage to another, I almost always get nothing but a blank stare – which is a very significant problem, and one that we’ll get to in a few minutes.
  • Other sales and company leaders will proudly show me a box and arrow style flow chart that is either too complex for them to follow as they try to walk me through it or too simple to have much value.
  • The third common response I tend to get to the “show me your sales process” question is that the sales process was mapped out some time ago, and they did a really good job – but it will take some time for them to remember where they filed it away. So obviously this is not something that is being used in a consistent way within the organization.

Others still are at least honest enough to admit that sales process is something that they never worked on or something that needs work in their sales organization.

Needless to say, none of these approaches to sales process does a sales team much good. No help to the reps, no help to management. No real value at all.

And along the way, the baby often gets thrown out with the bath water, and many folks in the sales world have become pretty sour on the idea of sales process.

It’s a shame, because at the core, a sales process is nothing more than a map of how things are supposed to get done when taking a prospect through an opportunity, and having clarity and agreement about that within an organization can have HUGE benefits when the process is created collaboratively, completely, correctly, and is used as a living part of the work that reps do in the field to get new business.

Properly made, an effective sales process should represent a well thought through plan for how a rep should manage each opportunity.

What I have found after decades of embracing sales process, first as a rep, then as a manager, then an executive, and currently as a consultant, is that the best processes are reflections of real work, not some abstract construct dreamt up in a conference room or derived from something someone once read.

We talked in the last few episodes about the importance of what I call Co-Created Clarity, and nowhere is this more important than with the development of a properly constructed sales process.

The truth is, your salespeople all follow a process now, whether or not it is written down or even recognized. Maybe each of them has their own way of doing things, but they all follow some kind of a process to some extent just like we all follow a process when we get into our car to start driving or brush our teeth before going to bed. It’s just the way most humans seem approach the things that we do on a regular basis – with a sequence of steps – so why not be deliberate about that with respect to something as important as how your company goes after new business and revenue?

Now as for the default and often random processes that your reps are going through now, some of the stuff they do probably works pretty well at least some of the time, some of it not as well. Consistency may be a problem for each rep, almost certain across all of your reps, and at either level it’s safe to assume that it probably isn’t optimized.

So how do we fix that?

Going through an archeology like process of uncovering the current collective sales process is a solid starting point for proper and effective sales process development. By taking this approach, you will get buy in from the team and reflect reality when you bring everyone to the table and construct what is happening in the field in this format.

So this is absolutely doable, but the work needs to get done, done right, and done deliberately.

And like other elements of the Sales Team Success Formula, we’re not necessarily going for perfect in the first pass, but we’re going for something solid, agreed on, clear and bought into – something everyone can work with, and something that everyone together can build on and make better from there.

One of the other big learnings about sales process from my three decades in sales is that it’s important to find a balance between too much and not enough detail. This is where the idea of The Four-Level Sales Process comes in.

Let me take a few minutes now to explain to you what The Four-Level Sales Process is and why it makes sense as a model for building out your sales process, then I’ll show you how to construct one for your company with your team, and how it can have a huge positive impact on many of the critical elements of The Sales Team Success Formula and the overall successful operation, management, growth and improvement efforts of your B2B sales team.

As you might have guessed, there are four levels in The Four-Level Sales Process – here they are:

Level One of The Four Level Sales Process is about the category headers, much like what I described earlier that many CRMs have as a default pipeline, often called a Kanban board. 

In the first level of The Four Level Sales Process you’ll see common, generic categories of the sales process like leads, prospects, discovery, demo, negotiation, proposal, etc. 

Level One is important as a way to map out the big steps, but where most organizations miss the mark on sales process is that they stop here, and they don’t foster agreement among the team about what exactly needs to happen in any one stage before a prospect or opportunity is ready to be moved onto the next stage.

This is a big problem because it reflects the random nature of sales efforts across an organization and this random approach makes it nearly impossible to effectively and consistently manage collective sale efforts or to get any kind of consistent and meaningful analytics about what’s happening in the field across the team. Solving for that is where Level Two of our Four Level Sales Process comes in.

Level Two of The Four Level Sales Process is where we list the things that have to happen, the things we need to learn, the things we need to have a prospect acknowledge, etc. in any given Level One stage before we are ready to move the prospect or opportunity to the next Level One stage.

In other words, if someone is a lead, what do we need to know or do or learn or say or check before we move them to the next stage in the process, like maybe qualified lead or to schedule them for a call.

Having agreement across your team about what has to happen in one stage before moving to the next and tracking that those things are getting done with each deal is a huge step forward for almost every sales team, and fosters the kind of disciplined execution, meaningful analytics, and effective execution that can take your sales team to the next level VERY quickly once you build this out and put some management support and accountability behind it – which we’ll get to soon within the context of this discussion we’re having in these first episodes about The Sales Team Success Formula.

I just can’t overemphasize the value here – this is a big deal when you do this work, do it the right way, and incorporate it into your ongoing sales and sales management efforts on a regular basis.

Now just to get some clarity about what we’re talking about here, here are some random examples of the kinds of things you might see in level two of your Four Level Sales Process – you might see things in Level Two like:

  • Identify the decision making process and players
  • Confirm our understanding of the problem to be solved
  • Hear from the prospect what it means if the problem is not resolved
  • Confirm that the prospects wants our help resolving the problem
  • Why now is the right time for the prospect to be addressing the problem
  • Learn what other solutions the prospect is considering
  • Understand the budgetary limitations and whether our solution fits
  • When will the opportunity close?
  • Why will it close then and what does it mean to the prospect if it doesn’t?
  • Etc.

The key thing to understand about the Level Two of The Four-Level Sales Process is that by reaching agreement with your reps, by seeking Co-Created Clarity at this level, and establishing consistent execution around these requirements you are building a sales process that can be followed by all without limiting the personal style of any given salesperson.

Level Three will be all about best practices for executing each Level Two element, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but what we’ve created here is a framework for consistency that is not a constraint.

What this also does for us is it gives us the opportunity to measure execution and effectiveness of the process and the people executing it in a consistent way.

Once we have mapped our Four Level Sales Process properly, we can – for example, consider conversation rates between stages of the pipeline – which is, in my opinion – the single most powerful KPI your sales organization could ever track and more importantly work to optimize for maximum revenue impact – but not if it is based on random definitions of when each individual rep chooses by their own criteria to move between pipeline stages, but rather based on Co-Created Clarity. 

Get this right and in most cases you can quickly at least double the conversation rate from leads to closed deals in a pretty short amount not time. We’ll discuss that in more detail when we get to the management section on KPIs and metrics and I’ll show you just how powerful this can be – but for now, let’s finish out our discussion of The Four Level Sales Process.

Level Three of The Four Level Sales Process is about looking at each Level Two item and asking “how can we do that as effectively as possible.”

When the front line sales manager is having call reviews and deal reviews, it’s important to look for things that are working at specific points in the process from among the many reps in the field and the variety of ways they find to accomplish the steps required to successfully move an opportunity forward. Level Three of your Four Level Sales Process is the place to capture these effective methodologies, tactics, and strategies so that you can share them with the team, and in a structured context that everyone is already familiar with and working with.

In what I would consider a well-managed sales organization, salespeople who are crushing their numbers can get through Level Two however they like – within reason – but those who are struggling will be well served to know not only exactly what they need to do at each stage of the process which is mapped out in Level Two, but also how others who are doing the same work are doing it most effectively which is what we work to capture in Level Three.

Level Four of The Four Level Sales Process is about time.

You won’t be able to do anything with this when you first map your four level sales process, but as we’ll discuss in the section on KPIs and metrics, one of the most powerful KPIs you can track is the conversation rate between well-defined and consistently executed stages of a pipeline AND the velocity of that movement.

By doing the work with your team to map the first three levels of the Four Level Sales Process you will set yourself up to track those conversation ratios, and by measuring the time it takes to work through these stages over time you will learn how long it realistically takes to get from one stage to another and all of the way through the process.

This will not only let you validate the relative health of any specific opportunity, but will be a huge factor in your ability to more accurately predict revenue. For example, if an opportunity is checking all of the boxes in Level Two by a rep with a reputation for executing those elements well, and the timing seems to be on track, that gives you a much better likelihood to predict success than the typical finger in the wind approach that most reps and their bosses take to assessing the likelihood of any given deal closing successfully or not.

As far as mapping this for yourself and your team, now that you know the structure it’s really just a question of co-creating it with your team. When I do this with clients as part of the Sales Team Success Formula program, that’s exactly what we do. I ask what’s the first stage and what needs to happen (Levels One and Two), then what happens next. You’ll need to be disciplined and diligent here, but make your first pass as well as you can and refine over time – remember, this is a living document, and if you keep breathing life into it, it will keep serving you better and better over time.

What’s really important to take away here is that when you create and use process properly within your organization, it can have a huge positive impact on all kinds of elements of front line execution and management.

Things like:

  • Consistent and measurable execution of sales efforts across your team
  • Captured best practices within a well defined and sharable framework
  • Consistent application to the tools and tech you decide to deploy
  • A framework for call reviews, deal reviews and pipeline reviews
  • A basis for consistent, meaningful, and actionable KPIs and metrics

This can be a huge game changer for you when you do it right and apply it well – which is why it’s such a shame that process gets a bad name.

Mapping out how you will execute makes a ton of sense and has a ton of benefits. Don’t ignore this just because you’ve never experienced it done well – there is too much potential upside for that.

Instead, embrace the idea that it can be done well, that there is a formula for that, and that you can reap huge benefits if you make the effort to get this right.

OK – I’ll get off of my “sales process rocks” soap box here, but I hope this has been not only useful but maybe even inspirational for you.

Process as a strategic secret weapon for your sales team success is some seriously good stuff when you get it right!

So we’ve come a long way, and we’re almost done with focusing on the work reps do in the field as part of The Sales Team Success Formula.

Through these first podcast episodes we’ve looked at who your reps should be talking to, what they should be saying, and in this episode how they should navigate the towards a win once an initial conversation becomes an opportunity.

In the next episode we’ll get into Personal Sales Plans for salespeople not only as a vehicle for reps who are managing multiple opportunities – which we hope they have, right – but also as a segue to management and the things that the front line sales manager can do to support and the things they can hold reps accountable for as a part of the management part of our Sales Team Success Formula.

So come back next time to check that out, and keep working through these first episodes to see how the entire Sales Team Success Formula works to supercharge your sales efforts across the team and at the same time give you the insights and management controls that sales and company leaders crave but often find so illusive.

If you’d like to find out what the formula can do specifically for you and your team, head over to my website at www dot sales team success formula dot com and sign up for a one-on-one consultation and assessment with me and let’s find out if this program is your best next move for B2B sales growth and scalability.

In the meantime, here’s to your continued success, and see you next time.