Sales Process Mapping: What It Is and How to Do It
Plan it or wing it?
Spontaneous or deliberate?
With all due respect to living your life and going with the flow, you don’t want to run your business that way.
Everything works better with a plan. It’s what separates dumb luck from earned success.
Getting from here to there is easier with a map. Whether it’s a physical location or a business goal, a step-by-step guide is going to get you where you want to be faster and more efficiently.
So when it comes to sales and revenue, you need a plan. You need a sales process. And to keep it consistent, you need to map it out and make it available to everyone involved.
Have you done that?
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, let’s highlight what a sales process is not. For example, it is not a sales methodology. There is some overlap, but a sales process and a sales methodology are not interchangeable terms.
A sales process is essentially a series of concrete and repeatable steps. A sales methodology is the larger philosophy or guiding principles that govern a business and its growth.
A sales process is not “putting customers first” or “under-promising and over-delivering.” Those are components of your corporate values or mission statement, and would fall under the purview of sales methodology.
A sales process is the explicit steps taken at each stage of the buyer’s journey to get prospects from one to the next, and to eventually convert them to paying customers.
However, having four different sales processes for four different individuals or departments is a waste of time. You need consistency. You need everyone on the same page.
And that’s where sales process mapping comes in. With it, you lock down the steps. You create a detailed guide that everyone can access and utilize no matter who they are or where the prospect they’re dealing with is in the grand scheme of things.
It might be linear, or more realistically, it’ll be a flowchart that explains what should happen if they do A versus B at every decision point.
Once created, implemented, and used across your business, a sales process map will reduce the time it takes to move a prospect through it. It’ll give your salespeople greater confidence in dealing with customers and their objections.
It will deliver higher conversion rates and revenue. 70% of businesses with a standardized sales process are high performers and see a 28% increase in revenue compared to businesses without one.
Here’s what you need to do.
Mapping Your Sales Process
It’s important to note that your sales process may not look like anyone else’s, and that’s okay. A sales methodology can be used across many companies and industries. A sales process can be incredibly specific and unique to you and your customers.
Start at the End
You need to start with the end in mind – a clear, concrete goal. Don’t get hung up on this part, though. Your goal may be expanding your reach, increasing sales by X%, customer retention, or reaching a specific dollar amount by a certain date. Keep it simple.
Planning any route requires knowing where you want to end up. What’s your goal? Once you know that, it’s easier to identify the steps or turns it takes to get there.
Include All Stakeholders
Pop quiz: Sales involves just the sales department – true or false?
Of course it’s false. Every sale is the result of a genuine team effort, involving various combinations of marketing, customer service, sales, distribution, IT, and so on depending on your product and niche.
From prospecting, nurturing and converting to follow-up, retention, and advocacy, what departments and individuals are involved at each stage?
In order to accurately map your sales process, you need to talk to and involve all stakeholders. Everyone should have a voice. Plan to get everyone together, or schedule meetings with each department individually.
Collect the Steps
Just stating the obvious here, but the point of meeting with everyone is to collect the specific steps they take to get from A to B. What steps do they take to quickly and effectively do whatever needs to be done to slide that prospect further down the funnel?
Additionally, look at the actual steps involved for your last X number of sales.
How did they play out? They might deviate from the typical, but it’s important to examine those outliers. Did everything go according to plan, or were there unexpected bumps in the road? If so, how did you deal with them?
Consider the time between each step and time from start to finish. What do the faster sales have in common? Can you replicate that?
Maintain a help-first, customer-centric mindset, and map the process that is happening, not what you think should happen.
Align Steps With Stages of the Buyer Journey
Prospects need different things at different stages of their journey through your sales funnel. Awareness, consideration, decision, advocacy. Prospect, connect, research, present, close. No matter how you describe or label it, make sure you know what it is.
Who are your prospects (make sure you’ve got detailed customer personas at the ready)? What do they need at each level?
Most importantly, what are the specific triggers that move most from one stage to the next? Look at your historical data. Identify those “Eureka!” moments that compel prospects to advance. Highlight those.
What obstacles or friction caused the biggest exodus? Eliminate or reduce them.
Find those items, moments, features, or offers that motivate people to buy. Get rid of everything that trips them up.
Track, Measure, and Manage
This is good advice no matter what you’re doing. If you’re not tracking it, you really have no idea how well it’s doing.
That which gets measured, gets managed.
Identifying the steps and mapping out the process is good. In fact, it’s crucial. But if you’re not also tracking and measuring performance, you might be on the wrong track and you’ll never know it.
Common ones include sales cycle length, conversion rates, sales eligible lead delivery, first response time, churn, retention, sales revenue, and more.
Build them into your map from the ground up.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
While you’re collaborating with others to draft a sales process map that works for everyone, it’s a good idea to be aware of the common mistakes and pitfalls.
The more you identify, the more you can avoid. For example:
- Steps are too vague and/or ambiguous. You want anyone to be able to look at the map and know exactly what to do at each point. Be specific, write it down, and share with everyone.
- Too many details or steps. While specificity is key, it’s easy to get bogged down in details and minutiae. Don’t. Give enough detail to be clear, but no more. Include steps to be taken for the 1-2 typical outcomes, and that’s it. Details and steps should not take the focus off your goals.
- Not putting the customer first. No matter your business or niche, the customer and their needs should dictate and guide your decisions. Good for you but neutral or bad for them? Get rid of it. You need to provide clear value and benefit to them at every step, even when they say no.
- Steps are not actionable. Like any goal, you need steps you can actually achieve in order to reach them.
- Trying to fit your process to your map instead of mapping your process. You want a map that accurately reflects what’s actually happening ‘in the trenches’. Creating a map for a process you want to see or believe should be playing out and trying to cram your sales process into it is a complete waste of time. It’s counter-productive at best.
To err is human, but you can avoid most of the common mistakes if you keep a keen eye out for them from the get-go. Catch them before they take over.
A sales process may encompass more than one sales methodology. It may have branches going off in different directions. It should include what happens when someone says and means ‘no’, while also appreciating that many consumers (80%, in fact) say ‘no’ several times before ultimately saying ‘yes’.
By working closely with every stakeholder, every department, and every involved individual during the mapping stage, your sales process is going to be exactly that: yours.
No one knows your customers and your products better than the people dealing with them at every stage, from prospect to customer to cheerleader.
A sales process map should be a living, breathing document. It is not carved in stone. Track the metrics and KPIs that matter. Evaluate frequently. Get feedback from those using it out in the real world.
Map, yes. But be prepared for the occasional detour. It can take you to some spectacular places you might’ve otherwise missed.
Do you have a sales process map already? Share in the comments below: