When you start your first company, one of the most critical but often overlooked roles you take on is that of a chief salesperson.

If you want to hire your first sales rep and close more deals, you need to understand how the sales process works, what tools your team needs to be successful, and learn to speak sales.

Sales definitions you should know

Sales terminology might feel unfamiliar, but the beautiful thing about using sales customer relationship management (CRM) software is that it provides a common structure for a sales process.

Sales CRM — Software used to streamline pipeline management and safely store customer information, communicate with prospects, and drive more sales.

CRM objects — Represent the sales relationship you have with a specific person or company. There are four CRM objects:

  • Leads — Unvetted sales prospects generated through marketing, research, or outreach.
  • Accounts — A group containing multiple contacts or potential deals.
  • Contacts — People within a group who you communicate with, which includes personal information such as phone number and email.
  • Deals — Potential sales opportunities.

Lead qualification process — The vetting process to determine whether a lead is likely to be converted and become a customer.

  • Qualified lead — A prospect who is likely to be a potential customer.
  • Unqualified lead — A prospect who is not likely to be a potential customer.

The importance of qualifying your leads

You might be eager to reach out to any and every lead that comes, but the lead qualification process serves two purposes:

  • Evaluating marketing efforts: You can determine whether your marketing efforts are attracting ideal prospects, so you can start spending more wisely.
  • Setting sales team priorities: Properly tracking leads allows you to divide and conquer; some can work on qualifying leads while others focus on converting leads.

Benefits of a sales process

Implementing a formal sales process with defined stages has key benefits:

  • Pipeline snapshot: Stages help you know how many potential sales you have, how far along they are in your pipeline, and how close they are to closing.
  • Process coordination: Stages allow you to organize the tasks and assign responsibilities as deals progress through a pipeline.
  • Sales forecasting: Over time, you should be able to determine a percentage likelihood of deals closing at each stage.

That said, CRMs can help by providing a default structure that varies from simple to complex.

Sales pipeline step-by-step process

Sales pipeline management is the process of predicting how many upcoming deals you have and how likely they are to close. These forecasts are an important budgeting tool and can help you identify gaps in your pipeline.

  1. Prospecting
    Create targeted lists of potential customers. CRMs help streamline the research process and fill in key contact information.
  2. Qualifying
    Identify whether leads are likely to become customers, what their needs are, and who their key decision-makers are.
  3. Quoting
    Craft a proposal to share with decision-makers, which typically includes the value proposition, price information, terms, and conditions.
  4. Contracting
    Prospect reviews the proposal internally, and if desired, terms can be negotiated.
  5. Won/Lost
    If the prospect accepts, they sign a contract and the deal is won. If they choose not to accept the deal, then it’s lost.

5 tips for developing a sales process for your startup

Now is the time to apply what you’ve learned and design a sales process:

1. Know what metrics you want to track
Design your sales process so you can report on key metrics. Consider what investors will want to see from you and what will motivate your employees to stick around.

2. Collect the right information without slowing down the team
Automate data collection as much as you can and try to minimize clicks.

3. Be thoughtful about how you organize your lead sources
You may only have one or two lead sources today, but that number will grow. You don’t want to be in the habit of changing lead source data retroactively to fit your reporting.

4. Evaluate your sales process regularly
Ensure that your sales process and stages are suited to how your sales team operates and what your needs are for tracking your business.

5. Look to the future
It’s important to regularly revisit and update your stage probabilities to improve your forecasting.



Sponsored blog post brought to you by Zendesk for Startups.

Welcome to the sales team!

Watching your business grow over time is a rewarding aspect of being an entrepreneur, and you can’t do that without a sales process. Your next step is finding a CRM solution that meets your needs and can adapt and grow with your business.

Are you a startup looking to get started on your sales CRM or overall customer experience? Qualified startups in SaaStr can get Zendesk customer support, engagement, and sales CRM tools free for 6 months. Learn more.

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