The Importance of “Next Step” Planning in the Sales Process

The big question in sales is, should be … “What’s next?”. This applies to all aspects of selling and it is grounded in planning and in process. Do this and then do that. These are your next steps and it is important to plan those.

What is Process? 

Let’s first talk about processes in general. Simply put, a process is the steps that are taken, generally in order, which will successfully complete a task or a project. Your next step has been laid out for you.

The most critical part of a process is that it should be a proven process. In other words, if I consistently follow these steps, I will have the highest likelihood of completing whatever task successfully. This is sometimes referred to as a workflow and you should be able to look at the workflow, graphically, and know where you are now and where you are going to go next.

The other benefit of having a proven process is with onboarding a new person who will be taking on the duties that are associated with this task. What better way to train them than to provide them with a proven roadmap to success! 

Let’s look at some common applications in selling …

How About Tasks?

The basic rules for managing tasks, let’s say with a client, would be to …

  1. Schedule the task.
  2. Complete the task.
  3. Schedule your next task.

As you can see, there are three steps to this process and you are planning and scheduling your next step with this client. Think about what your next step should be.

Is There a Process for Leads?

Certainly! Your process for handling new sales leads may differ, but generally a lead process might look something like this …

  1. Assign the lead.
  2. Research the inquiring person and company.
  3. Contact the inquirer.
  4. Qualify for budget, need, and authority.
  5. Close the lead as either not qualified or qualified and assigned to an account executive or, if that is you, convert it to a valid opportunity (deal).

Simply put, this process is designed to ensure that you are not chasing opportunities which have little to no chance of closing successfully.

Last, But Not Least … Sales Pipelines

A sales, or deal, pipeline should closely reflect the stages of your sales process. It will also include three pieces of data that are not generally included in a lead workflow …

  1. Projected dollar value of this deal.
  2. An expected closing date.
  3. The percentage probability of this deal closing successfully.

These three pieces are integral to creating a sales forecast. The lead workflow includes the steps, or stages, necessary before that lead can be converted to a potential opportunity.

Your pipeline will have stages and each stage represents the next critical step in the sales process. You can also look at any deal and see where it is in the process, how long it has been in that stage, and whether or not this deal is going to close, or not, within the specified timeframe. 

As you evaluate your pipeline, be sure to ask yourself the following questions …

  1. Is the projected value still accurate? 
  2. How about the close date? 
  3. Has your percentage probability of closing this deal gone up or down?

What Happens If You Skip a Step (or two)?

Well, that depends. For example, if I have 7 stages in my sales pipeline, and the customer wants to sign when we have only completed the first 4 stages … I’m going to take that order!! This is similar to the old sales joke … Customer – “I’m ready to buy!” Salesperson – “Not yet! I still need to finish my presentation!”

Other than this example, skipping a stage of a proven process will be flirting with disaster. Look at the lead process above. If we skipped step #4, Qualifying, and went ahead and converted this lead to an opportunity … your chances of securing this deal have gone down DRAMATICALLY! We made it a part of the process for good reason! Are you feeling lucky?

In conclusion … define your process, your next steps, and always be planning how you will execute that step. A good CRM is helpful with these tasks. If you would like to learn more about Nimble CRM, and whether or not it might be right for your business, please book a free 30 minute consultation with me.

Craig M. Jamieson

Craig M. Jamieson is a lifelong B2B salesperson, manager, owner, and a networking enthusiast. Adaptive Business Services provides solutions related to the sales professional including Boise’s best B2B leads group, NetWorks! Boise Valley. We are a Nimble SCRM Solution Partner and a Value Added Associate for TTI Performance Systems. Craig also conducts training and workshops primarily in social selling and communication skills. Craig is also the author of “The Small Business’ Guide to Social CRM”, now available on Amazon!

Craig M. Jamieson

Craig M. Jamieson

Craig M. Jamieson

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