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9 Strategies to Streamline Your Sales Process & Grow Faster than Ever

sales process meeting

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

– Mark Twain

A finely tuned sales process is the heart of growth. It’s the first step that turns leads into loyal customers, and the smoother it runs, the faster your business can scale. With each tweak and refinement, you enhance efficiency without increasing your workload or budget.

In this article, we’ll look into evaluating your current state of the sales activities, identifying areas for improvement, and then dive into 9 powerful strategies for optimizing your sales process so you can propel your business toward accelerated growth.

Consider this article a sequel to my previous article on expediting deals.

Understanding Your Current Sales Process

Taking time to assess your current sales process is like taking a pulse check. It’s about homing in on what’s working efficiently and identifying any gaps. Look at your process and ask:

  • What’s working?
  • What isn’t?
  • What’s taking you a long time to accomplish?
  • What are you good at that other founders may have issues with?

Ideally, you want to eliminate inefficiencies before you bring on a sales manager and sales team. Every hour wasted on repeated tasks gets magnified with each new team member added.

Example Inefficiency: Lead Follow-up Time

Following up with leads might be a challenge. Imagine it’s Monday morning, and on your to-do list are 20 leads from last Thursday’s networking event, as well as some leads who emailed over the weekend. You don’t know where to begin.

As a result, you either feel overwhelmed and procrastinate on taking any action, or you tackle the list at random. In both cases, you risk losing highly qualified leads.

Example Inefficiency: Time Spent Creating Proposals

When answering the questions above, you might have noticed that it takes you a long time to create and submit a sales proposal.

Here’s an opportunity to look more closely at your process and incorporate elements such as templates or a library of proposal components for easy cut-and-paste access.

Example Inefficiency: Too Few Client References

When assessing your sales process, you perhaps realize that you keep using the same two clients as references, and you’re afraid of wearing them out.

To avoid over asking the existing clients, experiment with ways to increase your reference list and make it a part of your process.

But before you make a bunch of changes, take a step back and be more strategic in your approach by identifying and measuring the right metrics.

Key Metrics to Measure Sales Process Effectiveness

Before diving into the strategies to improve your sales pipeline, I need to ask: How will you know your sales processes have improved?

The straightforward answer is more money, but that is hardly the only measurement.

Let’s say you implement all nine strategies flawlessly. You might see some improvements to your calendar, your income statement, and your overall well-being and sanity. But how much have they improved? How do you quantify the benefit? And which change had the greatest overall effect?

The old saying is true: If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.

Here are some key metrics you can begin tracking:

  • Number of incoming leads
  • Number of qualified leads – those leads who are aligned with your level of service, have the budget, and need help soon
  • The results of each networking event/conference or referral partnership (for each event or partnership, track the total number of leads you get and how many are qualified)
  • The results of content marketing (including social media posts), or paid ad campaigns (e.g. track lead capture or sales conversion for each social media channel or campaign)
  • Conversion Rate (CR): the number of closed sales from qualified leads (Number of Closed Sales ÷ Number of Qualified Leads = 3 new customers ÷ 10 qualified leads = 30% CR)
  • Time to close a deal: measure the first contact date to the signed contract date.

Streamlining: Improve Your Sales Process – 9 Proven Strategies

With your sales process defined and set up for metrics, you can implement the following nine strategies. Look at the problem areas you identified within your process, or items that could hamper future growth.

Then, review these strategies and tackle your most pressing issue first. (Remember to measure the results!)

1. Defining Your Unique Value Proposition (UVP) in the Industry

In sales, and especially in the selling of services and consulting, prospects expect you to be the subject expert.

Your industry knowledge, technical expertise, and years of experience, coupled with certifications you’ve acquired, client logos you’ve served, and any awards you’ve won, all add to your credibility and perceived mastery of your domain.

As you continue to leverage your strengths, stay engaged with the broader business community. It’s easy to get too internally focused and myopic. Allocate time to learn about your industry, your clients’ sectors, other providers and competitors, and how you can continue to stand out from the crowd.

The more you know about the market and the clients’ needs, the more you’ll be able to differentiate your special talents and services you offer. These combine into what we call your unique value proposition or UVP.

Having a firm grasp of your UVP is the first step in building a foundation of streamlined processes for future growth. But how does it help? How do your expertise, the certifications you’ve earned, and everything we have covered thus far help in streamlining?

It’s going to make you stand out from the competition, allowing you to maximize the return you receive from spending time with leads and making them less likely to seek help elsewhere.

2. Trust Building

This is the basic foundation of sales: People buy from people. I often ask founders this question, “Would you trust a surgeon if you get a sense they’re not qualified”?

You establish rapport with existing clients and earn your potential customer’s trust by being real. Remember, you’re not just after this one deal; you are cultivating long-term partnerships.

Be extraordinarily professional and responsive during the process. Share and show your know-how – show how you helped others in similar situations.

The better you are at building this trust, the more leads you will convert into clients.

3. Key Decision Maker Engagement

Nothing slows you down like the inability to connect quickly with key players within the prospect’s organization. Engaging with and pitching to those who have either direct authority to make a purchase or who influence the decision is vital. Any time spent pursuing non-decision-makers is usually a waste of time.

This applies to both B2C and B2B markets. The more complex or expensive the service you offer is, the more likely there will be 2 or more people involved in the decision-making process.

If you’re selling language tutoring services for high school students, speaking to and engaging with the students and their parents is more likely to lead to a contract than engaging with the students alone.

Getting to a decision maker in a business can be difficult. Business decision makers are busy, and they’ve delegated tasks like answering the phone to others to keep their time focused on what’s most important. There are books about getting past gatekeepers and gaining access to decision-makers, so I won’t get too deep here. But here are some proven techniques. These tips are part science, part technique. The more you practice them, the better you will get.

  1. Just ask!😊 If you’re speaking with a line manager, ask first if they make the purchasing decision. If it’s their director who will approve the deal, ask if you can meet and present to the director. It might work 25% of the time. Be sure to remain respectful to the person who’s sitting between you and the contract signers. Make sure they’re part of the process, acknowledge the value they add, and don’t treat them like a step to your goal.
  2. Listen attentively to your lead. You’ll pick up valuable clues about the needs and desires of decision makers. Then, craft a compelling connection between their interests and needs and your meeting pitch. For instance, share a relevant success story or a case study. This approach can boost your chances of securing a meeting.
  3. Stalk them (legally). If you determine one of the decision makers and learn that they’re attending an event or a conference, plan to attend. This would be a great opportunity for you or your sales rep to meet them face-to-face in a more informal setting.
  4. Mine your network. If someone you know knows the decision maker well, ask this person to say something good about you. If you can find a good reason to directly connect with the decision maker on LinkedIn, you’ll be able to see mutual connections; this could be a good place to start.

4. Effective Communication

One miscommunication can derail an otherwise perfect deal. Sending a proposal that includes work they planned on doing in-house or adds on services they don’t need is a sure way to irritate the prospect and slow down the process.

Use active listening. Pay attention to what they’re saying, as well as what they’re not saying, and ask probing, open-ended follow-up questions to get to the actual issues and concerns. Listen to your prospects and understand their pain.


Most Salespeople Not Confident in Finding the Pain

According to the Sales Management Association, only 61% of salespeople feel they are good at identifying customers’ pain points. Those who identify pain points are 28% more likely to close the sale and hit the quota.


In all communications, take notes. Record all calls and meetings (with your prospect’s permission) or use a note-taking app. These days, there are fantastic AI note-taking and transcription apps for your phone, computer, or cloud, like Fathom or Otter.ai. They can record calls or integrate directly with meeting apps like Zoom and provide a full call transcription with highlighted notes.

But don’t rely solely on technology. Always keep a pen and pad nearby to write the highlights.

Then follow up! Take your notes, add them to your CRM, and send a quick email with a summary of what you heard and the next actions.

Even the best communicators miss something. Maybe the client misspoke, or you misunderstood. This email gives them a chance to clarify. If they do, respond quickly to your prospect’s questions and clarifications. Clarity speeds up the process, and a lead who feels understood is more likely to make an affirmative purchase decision.

5. Negotiation Skills

To master the techniques of negotiation, read Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It, by Chris Voss. As a former lead FBI negotiator, Voss knows what he’s talking about. Having and showing empathy for those he negotiated with allowed him to build bridges with even the most grievous offenders.

When entering a negotiation, remember the relationship and trust you’ve built to get this far. Negotiate too hard, and you might void that trust and lose a deal. So be flexible, especially if you need the business and/or there’s high strategic value for this specific project or client.

Examples of how you can close faster in the negotiating phase:

  • Offering clients two or three packages/options
  • Negotiating on more favorable payment terms
  • Offering discounts for bigger purchases

Negotiation is about more than money; it’s about each side feeling like they’re receiving a fair value exchange. If price is inflexible, you can offer options that provide additional value:

  • Additional support/coverage
  • Training
  • Faster delivery, etc.

6. Detailed Proposals

If you listened to the lead and all the stakeholders carefully, your proposal should be thorough and cover all of the prospect’s stated needs and how you plan to address those needs.

At a minimum, a proposal should include:

  1. Executive summary of the issue and the solution
  2. Background info
  3. Detailed problem definition
  4. Detailed solution approach
  5. Detailed scope
  6. Delivery timeframe/schedule
  7. Pricing (options)
  8. All the “fun” legal stuff (termination, confidentiality, indemnification, dispute resolution, etc.)

7. Creating Urgency

Marketers incorporate an inflated sense of urgency into marketing and sales every day. You hear things like: Operators are standing by, this is a limited-time offer, quantities are limited, you have until midnight before this deal disappears forever.

Many of those tactics are disingenuous. After all, even a trillion widgets is still technically a limited supply.

However, using authentic urgency can help move a prospect to a closed deal faster.

When your prospective nears a sale but hesitates to pull the trigger, there are a few ways you can create a sense of urgency, and move them into action:

  • The cost of inaction: Are they losing money or leaving money on the table by not hiring you? Delaying a result they said they wanted? Project those costs out by weeks and months. For instance, if your services can reduce turnover by 10%, ask them how much turnover costs them, and then show them how much they are losing each month by not solving this issue.
  • Limited time: Tell them your available work window is limited. If you have more than one prospect vying for your next available project slot, let them know. Be honest and tactful: “I’d be happy to work on this starting June 1st. However, I am currently negotiating with two other prospective clients eyeing the same start date.” Remind them of your limited resources, because your resources are limited.
  • Offer an incentive: If you’re trying to book out the next quarter, you can offer a discount or other incentive if they decide to move forward now.

Urgency at the End of a Fiscal Year

In the case of B2B clients who have a budget to spend before the end of their fiscal year, apply any of the tactics above as needed to heighten the built-in urgency and enhance your appeal.


8. Leveraging Technology for Sales Process Improvement

Technology has improved or replaced many business functions that used to be performed by people. For instance, you will be hard pressed to find any accounting department still using pencils and hardbound journals. To stay competitive, leverage technology to make you more effective.

Types of Software You Need in Your Sales Process

While software and technology needs vary depending on your business, the three core technology pieces you need in a consulting business are a CRM database, a marketing funnel tool, and lead generation help.

Start Phase: 0 – 10 Clients and/or 0 – 50 Leads

  • CRM: a simple Google Sheet or Excel Spreadsheet will work just fine to track and manage leads and clients mostly manually. Others have had success using an add-on tool to their email inbox like Streak for Gmail.
  • Marketing Funnel: In the early stages, a LinkedIn profile and a one-page website with a contact form or a lead generator for an email list will suffice (the latter not 100% essential in the early stages).
  • Lead Generation: Sweat. That’s not an app. In the beginning, you are putting 100% of your effort into making connections and telling as many people as possible what you’re doing. Pitching, networking, and building relationships are your core efforts.

Grow and Scale Phase: 11+ clients and/or 50+ leads

  • CRM: Time to upgrade to a CRM-specific software. Many companies have free versions that scale seamlessly to paid versions when your needs grow. Check out HubSpot, Zoho, and Salesforce, among dozens of other contenders.
  • Marketing Funnel: At the very least, you will need an opt-in page on your site that captures lead information and engages them with a nurture campaign. This can be a WordPress theme site, or many of the robust platforms that grow with your business, such as GoHighLevel, ClickFunnels, Keap, or several others that incorporate many core functions.
  • Lead Generation: At this stage, consider upgrading to LinkedIn Premium, if you haven’t already, and using some of its lead generation and outreach services such as Sales Navigator. Other options include ZoomInfo and Alignable.

10% Technology, 90% People and Processes

Streamlining the sales process is about more than technology; it’s about the investment in understanding, managing, and optimizing that technology.

Consider Avinash Kaushik’s 10/90 rule. For simplicity, I call it the 1:9 principle: for every dollar you invest in software, invest $9 in developing the people and processes to run that software.


9. Incorporating Customer Feedback into Your Sales Process

Feedback is the only way you ever improve.

You’ve probably heard of the 10,000-hour rule Malcom Gladwell mentioned in his classic Outliers: The Story of Success. He portrayed this sum as the number of hours a person needs to invest to achieve mastery in their craft, whether that craft is blacksmithing, public speaking, or violin.

But Malcolm missed an important detail. The original researcher, Anders Ericsson, pointed out that it’s not just the mythical number of hours invested, but the quality of that time. Specifically, Ericsson was talking about deliberate practice – practicing your craft with feedback so you can improve.

Customer input is priceless in improving your sales process. Feedback from clients and even lost leads can help improve your positioning, objection handling, and highlighting the best part of your services while correcting pricing or communication issues.

Now, I wasn’t always brazen about asking for feedback. I felt like I was bothering people and was afraid of negative responses. But over time, I incorporated asking for feedback as part of my system.

Questions to Use When Asking Clients for Feedback to Improve Sales

Here are some questions you can ask past and present clients:

  • How did our pricing compare to other proposals you received?
  • How was our overall service?
  • Who else were you speaking with when you chose us?
  • What other proposals did you receive, and would you be willing to share them?
  • What other solutions were you considering?
  • What made you choose us over our competitors?
  • Did you receive any benefits from working with us you were not expecting?
  • If anything was less than a five-star level of service, what was it, and what would you like to see improved?

Whether asked on a call, through an email, or via a survey, not everyone has the time or inclination to respond to your questions. But even one response for every ten attempts can provide a key insight that makes the effort worthwhile.

Ready. Set. Streamline!

Whether you are just launching or you’ve been working in your business for a few years, the sooner you set up sales systems and processes, the sooner you will free up time, improve critical metrics, and reap the rewards that come from working smarter instead of harder.

My challenge to you is to take one of the nine strategies that most resonated with you – the one that had you saying, “I really need to work on that!” – and start working on it today. Take one small action to build or maintain these systems daily and then block some time once a week (Freedom Friday?) to improve the engines that run your business.

Key Takeaways

Understanding Your Current Sales Process:

  • Assess what’s working efficiently and identify gaps hindering progress.
  • Classify leads using simple spreadsheets like Google Sheets for prioritization.
  • Create templates for proposals to reduce time and increase efficiency.
  • Establish a process for collecting client references to avoid overusing the same clients.

Key Metrics to Measure Sales Process Effectiveness:

  • Track metrics like incoming leads, qualified leads, conversion rate, and time to close.
  • Use spreadsheet tables for tracking or consider CRM software for more advanced needs.
  • Choose to track intervals based on business needs for faster feedback and response.

Streamlining Your Sales Process – 9 Proven Strategies:

  • Preparation and Expertise: Become the subject expert in your industry.
  • Trust Building: Establish rapport with clients and show credibility.
  • Key Decision Maker Engagement: Connect with key stakeholders to expedite decisions.
  • Effective Communication: Improve clarity and responsiveness to avoid miscommunication.
  • Negotiation Skills: Negotiate flexibly while leveraging trust and relationships.
  • Detailed Proposals: Address all client pain points and desired outcomes thoroughly.
  • Create Urgency: Use authentic urgency to move prospects towards closing deals faster.
  • Leveraging Technology for Sales Process Improvement:
    • Start Phase (0 – 10 Clients): Use simple tools like Google Sheets and email for tracking and communication.
    • Grow and Scale Phase (11+ Clients): Upgrade to CRM software, marketing funnel tools, and lead generation services.
  • Incorporating Customer Feedback into Your Sales Process:
    • Ask clients questions about pricing, overall service, and decision-making factors.
    • Use feedback to improve positioning, objection handling, and service offerings.

Ready. Set. Streamline!:

  • Take action on one strategy to improve sales systems and processes.
  • Dedicate time weekly to enhance sales operations and drive growth.
Feras Alhlou

Feras Alhlou

Feras has founded, grown, and sold businesses in Silicon Valley and abroad, scaling them from zero revenue to 7 and 8 figures. In 2019, he sold e-Nor, a digital marketing consulting company, to dentsu (a top-5 global media company). Feras has served as an advisor to 150+ other new startup businesses, and in his current venture, Start Up With Feras, he's on a mission to help entrepreneurs in the consulting and services space start and grow their businesses smarter and stronger.

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