I need to flush out the details of our customer's sales process with their team, how do I get started?
Jack, National Sales Manager
It is great that you are thinking about getting everyone rowing in the same direction. Establishing sales stages and writing out clear definitions of what is expected to happen in each stage provides everyone with a common language for discussing opportunities in the pipeline. It will cut down deals getting lost and account managers “blowing smoke” about closing statuses.
You get started by understanding that there are two processing taking place; your sales process and your customer buying process. Collection details about the thought process and action steps of both is essential. Reach out to existing customers and learn what steps they when through to narrow down their selection to your product and then to you. Also, what is their internal requirements for not only making a buying decision but executing that decision. Far too often I see account managers believing that when a department head says yes the sale is done, only to find out that Purchasing, Risk Management or the CFO has other ideas about what is required to buy from you.
The following graphic provides a starting point. Fully involve your team in the data collection and discussion. Work towards broad sales stages and limit the number of stages to six or less. You are not looking to micro-manage each opportunity but rather guide the process down a known path that works to shorten the sales cycle.