<img src="https://ws.zoominfo.com/pixel/4z2e82sWyhmveGlCzuJa" width="1" height="1" style="display: none;">

Sales Process Best Practices Part: 1

Authored by TopOPPS on April 10, 2014

Defining a Sales Process

“It’s time for your pipeline meeting 1:1 with your manager!”

Guess what? Sales managers and sales people hate this equally. It is truly the fingernails on a chalkboard to both parties.

It is still a manual, deal by deal discussion between management and sales teams to get a real number. Managers think sales reps are too conservative and sales people think managers over extend them.

We are constantly surrounded by this new technology that often does make the sales job easier yet the one thing almost everyone still struggles with is forecasting.

The real challenge with forecasting has less to do with the technology and more to do with the fact that many people do not know how to build and execute a good sales process. They merely do what they learned 5-10 years ago and the sales leader mentality is such a strong Type-A that they actually do not believe there is anything better or that the amount of time it will take to recreate something will not work because the team simply will not follow the new process.

So what do they do? They keep doing the same old thing they did 5 or 10 years ago. Now to put this in perspective, ask the same sales manager how they watch TV now. Are they using Netflix, Hulu, On-Demand? Are they with Comcast, Direct-TV?  Now ask them what they used 5 years ago, 10 years ago? I bet you will find they made a switch. Why? Because they were able to quickly see the positive end result from instituting a new process.

In reality redefining the sales and forecasting process is something they would all love to do but because nobody has shown them a better system, they will not go and seek it on their own.

We all know one of the biggest challenges for any company is having confidence in their forecasting. The problem is often blamed on the sales reps but in reality it lies with management’s unrealistic and often myopic understanding of a sales process. So many times we see the sales process defined by the seller’s journey. This is 100% wrong. The sales process should be defined by the buyers’ journey but capturing the information needed from the sellers’ perspective.

The theory is simple. Your CRM should be able to spit out a realistic forecast based on the information put into the system. The problem is that management expects the sales team to put in the information they (management) wants to see rather than the reality of what moves a deal through the pipeline.

Sales Process Advice: In short the sales process has been ill-defined at best and then within each stage of the sales process sales reps are being asked to capture irrelevant information or asked to write diatribes in a way that cannot be realistically measured by the CRM system.

Sales Staging and Criteria

So let’s start at the beginning and define a sales process.

A sales process is the organizational capture of relevant opportunity information gathered by a CRM system designed to understand the buyers’ journey through the selling process from lead to close Let’s start with the number of stages.

How Many Stages?

One of the first mistakes people make is to try and define how many stages their sales process is going to require, 3, 5, 7, etc.  The number of stages is only relevant to the point of measuring your pipeline, nothing more, nothing less. Often time’s sales reps will complain that having more than 5 stages is too hard. This is just sales reps being high-maintenance. The number of stages has absolutely nothing to do with their job.

Now what is important is what information is being captured within each stage.

Capturing the Right Criteria

Best practice is to list all the pieces of information you want to capture in order to close the deal regardless of what stage it will fall.

For example:

• You may need Qual Calls (first call by leadgen)

• You may need Disco Calls (any calls after the lead gen meeting)

• You always need BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeframe) and you need it reconfirmed throughout the process.

• You may need a demo

• You may need a tech / implementation discussion

• You always need to know Decision Influencers. Those who can say “Yes”, and most importantly those who can say “No”

• You always need to know the contracting process

• You always need to know the purchase approval process (often times separate)


In the end the best way to determine the right number of stages in your sales process should be defined by the specific KPI’s you need to capture within the entire sales process to get the opportunity closed. Once you have a list of the KPI’s it’s much easier to determine where things fall and how many stages you will actually have.

Best Practices Advice:

• Work with your sales team and sales managers and have them listed out every single get piece of information that is required to actually get the deal over the goal line.

Have your sales ops team review the top 10 deals in the last 6 months and interview the sales reps to get the specific nuances of each deal. You will find some interesting.

In conclusion your sales forecast is only as good as your sales process. Bad data in = bad data out. The primary focus of any sales process is to capture the data required to move the deal closer to closed. Any other data than that is merely a distraction. Want to know more, CONTACT US.

Subscribe to our newsletter!

Lists by Topic

Leverage these best practices with automation and AI driven by TopOPPS

Learn how our customers are winning with artificial intelligence in their CRM:

  • Predictive Sales Forecasting
  • Automated Pipeline Management
  • Significantly More Updates from Reps

Watch Videos

More Recent Posts:

August 11, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Always Know the Next Step

The most important step in any sales process is the NEXT step.   It is a hurdle that must be cleared to give you the right to move to the “NEXT, NEXT” step.  The next step is not granted, but earned by successful completion of the current step.  The next step has to be set up with the buyer as you finish out the current step.  ...

AI for Sales, Guided Selling, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility, sales opportunity management

August 4, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Guided Selling

Guided selling is the process of prescribing optimal sales execution steps to the sales reps to enforce a consistent and efficient sales process. The tasks and process are based on sales patterns of past close-won, and close-lost opportunities. Dynamic guided selling is the automated collection of prospect interactions and seller activities with the application of artificial intelligence and pattern matching to prescribe optimal buyer role based sales execution steps  and coaching ...

AI for Sales, Guided Selling, sales best practices, sales milestones

July 28, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Account Management

This blog may be a little controversial.  Many blogs and white papers talk about account management as a sales function.  Sales reps target accounts to sell to.  They then flush out sales opportunities within the account and work on closing those opportunities.  At TopOPPS we take a broader approach to account management.  We believe account management starts with marketing.  It includes both marketing and sales. ...

Sales Funnel, Marketing Funnel, sales best practices, sales opportunity management, sales account management

July 13, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Opportunity Management

This next couple of blog posts will focus on Sales Opportunity Management.  This is the third category of blog series Best Practices for B2B Sales Pipeline and Forecast Management based on the original blog post for this best practice series started on January 21st. ...

Sales Pipelines, Guided Selling, guide winning behaviors, best practices, sales best practices, sales opportunity management

June 29, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales-Pipeline Monitoring & Closing Deals

This blog provides more details into the final two of the six tactical best practices outlined in the blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline”.  It focuses on: Monitor the sales pipeline from different perspectives depending on the users role (sales rep, sales management, sales opperations, sales leadership) Focus on closing the best leads, nurturing the new leads and “close loss” opportunities as soon as possible Monitor the pipeline from different perspectives  The sales pipeline is the beating heart of the sales process and the revenue engine. ...

Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility

June 17, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Proactive Follow Up & Content Delivery

This blog provides more details into the next two of the six tactical best practices outlined in the blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline”.  It focuses on: Proactive follow up on opportunities in the sales pipeline Proactive delivery of the right sales content and insights to members of the buying team and guidance to the sales team It may feel like these two best practices could be consolidated into one called proactive selling. Both could be handled via alerting and prompting solutions or optimized with a process we call “Alerts Requiring Action”.    However, there are subtle differences between the two that make a big impact on sales.  ...

AI for Sales, Guided Selling, guide winning behaviors, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility

May 15, 2020

Best Practices For B2B Sales-Sales Pipeline Data & Process Improvement

This blog reviews best practices related to two of the six tactical best practices outlined in the previous blog “Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline”.  It focuses on: The ability to easily update the sales pipeline on a regular basis Sales process review and improvement An accurate sales forecast requires an accurate, timely and always up-to-data sales pipeline.  This data includes up-to-date: sales activity and buyer/seller interactions; buying team members and roles; opportunity descriptors and attributes; and company descriptors and attributes, in the CRM.  It also includes integrated reporting from the CRM to produce the sales pipeline, porting CRM information to Excel is not an option. ...

Pipeline Optimization, Sales Pipeline Management, AI for Sales, sales best practices

April 28, 2020

Best Practices for B2B Sales - Sales Pipeline

In my original blog in this series “Best Practices for B-2-B Sales,  I outlined five categories of best practices: The previous five blogs in this series, reviewed the best practices related to data.  The next three categories, Sales Process, Opportunity Management and Pipeline Analytics all are driven off of the sales pipeline. This blog introduces 6 different best practices related to the sales pipeline.  These best practices cut across all  three areas. ...

Sales Pipelines, Sales Process, Sales Tools, sales best practices, Sales Pipeline Visibility