3 steps to design your first sales process today

by Steli Efti

“Process” is a word that makes a lot of founders freeze. A process feels big. Complex. Overwhelming. It feels like something you document once you’re established. And in the early days, who has time for it?

But if you want your sales team (and your company) to grow, you need to let new reps know how you do things and what works. You need a sales process.

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Designing your first sales process doesn’t have to be complicated. By following a few fundamental steps, you could even have one ready to go this afternoon. Here’s how.

Step 1: Write down everything you currently do to get a sale

If you’ve ever made a sale, talked to a prospect, or sent out a cold email, guess what? You have a sales process.

It might not be complex. Or entirely thought through. But you need to recognize that you’re not starting from scratch. Instead, you need to document what you’re currently doing, what’s working, and what needs improvement.

Sit down for no more than 1 hour and write all this down on a whiteboard or in a doc.

Once that hour is up, I want you to look at what you’ve got and ask three questions:

  1. Is it successful? Does your current process work? Meaning, is it progressing deals down the pipeline and producing conversions and outcomes?
  2. Can it be repeated or replicated? Which steps or strategies work every time you talk to a new prospect? Which don’t?
  3. Is it scalable? Will what you’re doing now be realistic when you have 10 sales reps? What about 100? If the answer is NO, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes doing things you can’t scale is the right thing to do in business. But you should be aware of it.

This document is your MVP—your Minimum Viable Process. It’s the most basic form that works and brings in results. If it seems basic or simple, that’s because it should.

Step 2: Find where your process is breaking down and where you can improve it

You want to think about designing your sales process the same way you would about building software or growing any other part of your business. Start with what works, and then iterate quickly and consistently.

Your MVP is your starting point. But it’s just version 1 of your sales process. The goal isn’t to create the perfect sales process in version 1. But to get to version 50 or 60 or even 100.

So how do you get there? You experiment, learn, and adapt.

Each week, sit down with your sales team and go over the latest version of your sales process, asking these 2 questions:

  1. What’s working and how can we make it better?
  2. What’s not working and how can we fix it or kill it?

That’s it. Identify what’s working and should be kept, and what’s not working and needs to be examined and experimented on.

All you need to do to scale your sales process to hundreds of sales reps and thousands of customers is to go through each part of your process, piece-by-piece, and ask: “What can we do to make this even more successful and improve conversions?”

Step 3: Pick a single metric and experiment on it weekly

When you first start out, you’ll probably have a ton of improvements you can make to your sales process. As you make sales, learn about your customers, and gain more knowledge about your market, you’re going to figure out tons of ways you can improve.

But you need to resist the urge to make all these changes at once.

Instead, the best sales process improvements are the ones that are so small and so focused that it’s easy for your sales team to adopt and execute on them.

Plus, changing too much all at once makes it harder to answer the question of what’s working and what isn’t. You want to treat this like a scientific experiment. Make a small change. Experiment. Learn. And adapt.

One of the best ways to figure out which improvements you should make is to think of your sales process as a funnel.

Specifically, you can use the AQC funnel framework—a simple funnel that tracks the activity (A) you put in at the top of the funnel, the quality of that activity (Q), and then your conversion rate (C).

For example, if you apply this funnel to your sales call process, you’ll be tracking and experimenting on ways to improve:

  • Number of calls (Activity)
  • How many times you actually spoke with the person you were trying to reach (Quality)
  • How many qualified conversations led to sales (Conversions)

Each of these steps is an opportunity to experiment and improve your sales process. But as a general rule, you’re more likely to see more impactful results by focusing on the top of your funnel—your Activity.

Every month, pick a metric you want to improve. Then, choose a different experiment every week you think will improve it. Next month, pick a new metric and start the process over.

Keep it simple. Go one step at a time. And don’t overcomplicate things.

It’s hard to take it slow like this when you see all the ways you could improve your sales process.

But so many founders I talk to try to design a massive, complex sales process before they even go out and see what works. They skip the MVP stage and try to create the “perfect” process right from the start.

But this is guaranteed to only lead to one of two outcomes:

  1. You won’t actually write your sales process down because you’ll feel overwhelmed and won’t think you have enough time to do it
  2. You’ll create something so complex and complicated that your sales reps can’t follow it and will push back on you, creating a lot of friction and frustration

So remember, start simple and improve on your process every single week.

Document what you currently do. Find what’s working and what isn’t. Iterate and improve on it step-by-step and you’ll end up with an agile and powerful sales process that gets better every single day.

The right tools for a winning sales process

As your sales team grows and matures, so will your sales process. If you're a sales rep, our inside sales CRM helps you build the right processes to manage your pipeline—so that you can focus on closing deals (and let our software take care of the busywork). If you're managing a sales team, it's easy to design a sales process in Close.io that helps your reps generate more revenue. And if you need your reps to follow very specific steps, for example in the qualification process, you can integrate our CRM with a tool like Process Street.

What do you think? Have you been struggling to create your first sales process or don’t know where to experiment next? Let us know in the comments.

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