Why This Sales Process Works (& Why Others Don’t)


Sales is a Thinking Process®. Easy to say, but what does it truly mean?  Are we talking about the process from the perspective of the client/customer, prospect from the perspective of the business, from the perspective of the sales rep?  

It is common to mix these together.  Show me someone who focuses on the rep – I bet they were a high performing sales rep in their day, or they are a sales trainer.  Show me someone who focuses on the buyer journey – 9 times out of 10 they are a marketer or someone with a marketing background.  If they focus on sales stages and CRM, they likely have a background in sales ops.

The funny thing about all of this is that folks are looking for a quick fix or silver bullet, but they aren’t clear about what they want to fix.

If we are going to solve a problem, let’s first start with defining it.

What is a Sales Process?

Let’s start with Process – a process is a series of steps that someone follows, in a particular order to accomplish something.  This could be as simple as defining the process of going to the grocery store to pick up eggs.  There are a series of steps that you take to do this.  You don’t just magically appear in the checkout line.

Looking at this through the lens of Sales, the process is the series of steps that someone takes, or goes through when making the transition from Problem that is Known to Solution that is Known.  However, when we look through the lens of the buyer, this is commonly referred to as the Buyer Journey or Customer Decision-Making Process. 

For the purpose of this post, let’s focus on the Sales process from the perspective of the business. 

The processes we use for:

  1. Forecasting.
  2. Creating predictability.
  3. Identifying risk.

The most common sales processes used today

There are a number of general approaches that have been used, and continue to be used, by sales organizations. Some common methods include Challenger, Sandler, Miller Hieman, Predictable Revenue, etc.  I know some of you may be thinking these are methods or frameworks, not processes.  That’s one of the challenges with this discussion – we use words out of context.

When thinking about sales process, most folks will start by looking at the challenge from the perspective of the Sales Rep.  At Catalyst Sale, we call this the Sales Rep Approach. 

The Sales Rep Approach

We IDENTIFY (prospect, ideal customer profile), ENGAGE (with the person(s)), establish OBJECTIVES (get a meeting). Then, we clarify NEXT STEPS (identify next actions) and Call the Prospect to ACTION (use this as a way to hold the person(s) accountable).  This process loops until the deal is closed. 

In the context of buying a car – this may happen on a single visit to the dealership, where the customer identifies themselves.  In a complex enterprise sale, where broader consensus is needed across multiple lines of business, this step may take 18 to 24 months, with multiple meetings.

flow chart of the sales rep approach

Sales is a Thinking Process®

What if there was a better way?  What if we pulled together all three of these perspectives, and applied the correct process to the applicable problem?

Here we see the Customer Decision Making Process, Sales Rep Approach (execution), and Catalyst Sale Process (forecasting)

Predictable Growth

Imagine if you had a roadmap, a process, where after you pass through each gate, the likelihood of success increases. You could assess your current state, you could assess how you are progressing, you could assess potential risk. The Catalyst Sale Process that follows will help you do this.

Want to work through this at your own pace in a more visual way?

Claim your sales process worksheet.

If you are unable to answer the questions in a given stage – move back to the previous stage.

  1. Validate

Let’s start with a simple question – “Can we see a scenario where we would conduct business with each other?” 

If you are speaking with someone who is in your ideal customer profile at an individual level (person/role), and they work within an organization that is within your ideal customer profile (company), there is a high likelihood that within the first discussion you will be able to validate an opportunity. Or in other words, validate that you could see a scenario where you would enter into a business relationship.

  1. Qualify

This is one of the most misunderstood and often misused steps.  It is common for folks to look at qualification as a process to qualify folks out of your pipeline. But, this process is more important than that. 

This step is about understanding the story from the perspective of the customer.  You need to identify what problems exist, who cares about those problems, why do they care about those problems, how have they attempted to fix the problems, when do they need to fix the problem? 

If we can answer these questions, we can move to the next step.

  1. Product Fit

Based on our understanding of the problem – can we solve it with our existing solution or product?  This is an internal test – a test that we use to validate that we are working with the right customer and that it makes sense for us to move forward.

  1. Feasibility

Here is where the customer’s perspective is critical – do they think that we can solve the problem?  Can they afford the solution?  Can they implement the technology or service?  This is FIT from the perspective of the client.

  1. Proposal

We have done a fair amount of work to get here.  We understand the customer and can define the problem from their perspective. Plus, we have determined that we can solve the problem and they have agreed that we can do so. 

Now we move forward with listing out the Problem, the Solutions, the Costs, and Next Steps in a single document.

  1. Contract

We’ve negotiated terms and conditions, and agreed to these terms and conditions.  The deal is now moved into a CLOSED WON status.

  1. Confirmation

This is one of the steps that gets missed the most in the sales process from the organizational perspective.

It is important for us, critical in fact, that we go back to the customer, and confirm that we did what we said we would do.  We confirm that we delivered the solution, solved the problem, or are on the right track, and if we have not – take the time to fix things. 

Once solved, or fixed, ask your customer if they know of others who are struggling with solving the same problem. This is where we ask for a referral – either within their business or within their network.

the sales process that works infographic

Follow the guidelines, make the sale

We’ve given you the process, but it’s up to you to execute. The above rep approach & sales stages will work in any business. Your customer’s decision making process is likely unique. Mapping it out is a great exercise for understanding how your customer makes the decision to buy.

Here are five questions you can ask to start mapping this out.

To get help mapping out your unique sales process, book a consultation with Mike.