Many people consider sales very unstable. Due to the variety of buyer personalities, salespeople need to be very creative and often change or adjust their sales techniques in order to get the desirable “It’s a deal!” from buyers. Even though it can be challenging, working in sales gives you a certain degree of freedom and flexibility. And it’s never boring.
So how can something so unpredictable work under a structured plan?
Well, we are going to show you how, despite all doubts, it is possible and favorable to have a formal sales process. And how it will make you work more effectively, improve your performance and help you close more sales.
Why Do You Need a Sales Process?
Something that many sales companies lack. What the managers and teams fail to understand is that having a standardized sales process can be very beneficial. Having a good sales process gives salespeople a consistent (and successful) routine they can follow. And by doing so, close deals faster and more often. More importantly, it makes measuring results and forecasting future sales easier and more precise.
Recent studies conducted by TAS Group, Harvard Business Review have also found that the companies which implement a structured sales process are high performers and generate more revenue. And over 70% of their business forecasts were accurate. Moreover, the companies that have a standardized sales process have up to 28% increase in revenue as opposed to those that don’t. And 50% of the high-performers confirm to closely monitoring, strictly enforcing or automating their sales process.
Establishing a Structured Sales Process with Kanban
Many salespeople and their managers won’t admit that most of them use the same or very similar steps in order to get leads and close them. So instead of agreeing on a series of tried-and-tested steps, and standardizing the process, sales reps have to decide on their own which steps to take and when. This is generally due to the fact that most managers do not care how salespeople do it, as long as they close sales and bring in revenue. But you need to have a clear and defined sales process is you want to more accurate predictions and close more sales.
A sales process is a series of predefined repeatable steps a salesperson takes with prospects to move them from early stages of awareness to a closed sale. Most simply put, the sales process is the journey a potential customer is on. From the moment they realize they have a need, to the one they are making the purchase. This customer journey is the roadmap for the salesperson.
The typical buyers’ journey, or sales process, consists of 5-7 steps:
- Preparation and Research
- Needs Assessment
- Sales Pitch/Presentation
- Objections Handling
- Follow Up
Once you agree on the sequence of steps the sales team needs to take, you can put Kanban on top of this process. That way, you will get a better overview of all the work that lays ahead of you. And you’ll be able to more easily identify which steps and tactics are effective, and which aren’t. Therefore make changes and adjustments to the process.
The Added Benefits
Using Kanban to organize and structure your sales process can greatly benefit your team. For one, a simple Kanban board with basic workflow is easy to implement and adhere to for sales team just starting out. Having the whole process visualized shows team members that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals. The team feels empowered and motivated to work smarter and achieve better results.
When you have a structured process, you give the team a roadmap to success. And when you use Kanban, you make that roadmap transparent and available to everyone. Using this ‘roadmap’ can help sales reps stay more focused and organized. And more easily keep track of who they need to contact and with regards to what exactly.
In addition to the process stages and tasks, your process policies should be added to the Kanban board too. That way, everyone on the team will know how to perform a task, even if they are doing it for the first time. But process policies aren’t set in stone. The team can change and adjust them along the way.
In order to ensure fast delivery of value, Kanban requires you to set healthy work in progress limits. So no one has to worry about being over-worked. Instead of new tasks being pushed on them, salespeople pull in new work only when they have the capacity for it.
Kanban also gives team members the means to continuously learn from each other and grow. And using the Kanban cards as communication hubs allows them to collaborate more efficiently without wasting time on phone calls or in meetings.
But most importantly, seeing how workflow through the board makes it easier to spot any problems, obstacles or bottlenecks. And identify and remove waste. But Kanban doesn’t force you to make drastic changes. Instead, when you find a solution or notice that some part of the process needs improvements, you can implement the changes at a pace that suits you best.
Examples of Kanban boards for Sales Teams
If you defined your sales process, it’s very easy to create your first Kanban board. Depending on how much you want to go into details, the board can be very simple with a few columns, or very complex with numerous columns, swim lanes, different colors for different types of tasks, etc.
Also, depending on what you sell – products or services, how you sell – in store, online or both, and who you are selling to – B2B or B2C, your sales process will vary. Remember that the more closely the board resembles your process, the easier it will be for everyone to use it.
Here are a few board examples. Don’t be afraid to take them, change them and make them your own!
#1 Simple 3-column Kanban Board
The basic Kanban board has only three columns – To Do, In Progress, and Done. You can begin with this three-column board where all of your pending work will be placed in the To Do column, ongoing work will be clustered in the In Progress column, and the completed tasks in Done. This is simple yet it lacks visibility. So if you want to keep the board layout simple, but distinguish the type of work, you can color-code the cards to know whether it’s a meeting with a potential lead, making a sales pitch, or a follow-up.
#2 Basic Sales Process Kanban Board
To make things clearer, you can take each process stage and turn it into a column on the board. If we take the most common phases of a sales process, your board should have at least the following columns: Prospecting, Needs Assessment, Sales Pitch/Presentation, Objections Handling, and Closing. With this layout, each card can represent a lead. Also, to make it easier for each sales rep to stop their own tasks you can use different colored cards. But you can be creative and do what works best for your team.
#3 Detailed Sales Kanban Board
As time goes by, and you get more comfortable using Kanban, you will discover the exact phases of your sales process. And you can change the board’s layout to resemble your process more closely. Also, by observing the movement of the cards, you may spot gaps in the process and identify even more ways to improve your process. You may notice that certain phases have their own steps, so you may add or remove columns, refine the swim lanes, etc. Color-coding the cards can be used in different ways here. Here’s another possible board layout.
#4 Online Sales Kanban Board
The online sales process can look quite different than the in-store process. So you can create a board according to those steps. You can even have a cross-functional board with the digital marketing team to communicate which store visitors abandoned their card and mutually decide whether they can be converted after several emails and special offers or not.
Get Started with Kanban for Sales
The first steps might seem the hardest and the scariest ones. They are not as difficult as they seem, I promise. Just begin where you are, with what you have, and go from there. The more you use your Kanban board, the easier it will get. And after a while, you would not trade Kanban for anything else.
Begin with creating your first board. Later on, you can change it and adjust it as many times as you want. In fact, you can use multiple boards if you want. A general board for your general sales efforts, and many smaller ones to track the more complex stages or large-scale customers. There’s no formula to determine the number of columns or board you need. You need to learn from experience and do whatever works best for your team.