5 steps to build a sales process that mirrors the buyer journey


This is part 2 of a sales process series based on conversations with Insightly VP of Sales, Mark Ripley.

The first part of this series covered the benefits of improving your sales process: richer data, better coaching, improved scalability, and revenue optimization.

Successful companies recognize that continuous improvement is not a matter of if. Rather, it’s a matter of how.

So, how do you go about improving your sales process?

According to Mark Ripley, VP of Sales at Insightly, the best way to improve your sales process is by focusing on the buyer. Here are five steps for building a sales process that mirrors your buyer journey.

1. Get buy-in from leadership

Before you make any major changes to your sales process, it’s important to communicate your vision and gain leadership’s buy-in.

“For something as mission critical as your sales process, it needs to start at the top,” says Mark Ripley, Vice President of Sales at Insightly. “Getting managers and leaders to buy-in to what you’re doing will increase your chances of gaining adoption.”

Getting buy-in from leadership may not be an easy task, especially when your sales and marketing teams are not aligned. After all, spending time to refine the sales process can seem counterproductive compared to other, more pressing matters—such as strategic product launches, time-sensitive advertising campaigns, or quarter-end reporting.

Your next move: Arm yourself with data from your CRM that supports the case for enhancing your sales process. Identify specific pain points, such as customer churn or waning customer satisfaction, that could be alleviated with a reimagined sales process. Revisit the tangible benefits of continuous improvement and be prepared to share them with leadership. Be ready to make your best sales pitch!

2. Understand your customer’s buying process

If you’ve already studied your ideal customer journey and built an accurate customer journey map, you’re ahead of the game. However, now might be a good time to revisit your assumptions and gain a fresh perspective about the customer’s buying process.

As Mark points out, “Fundamentally, all buyers go through three phases leading up to a decision.” The phases are:

Problem Awareness: The customer realizes that he or she has a problem.

Solution Identification: The customer considers his or her problem and creates a list of products or services that could provide a solution.

Cold Feet: The customer decides whether or not the problem is actually worth solving.

According to Mark, the “cold feet” stage is easy for sales teams to overlook, but it’s one that must be carefully considered.

“When buying anything of significant value, everyone goes through a cold feet stage—even after doing all of the research to find a solution,” says Mark.

Your next move: Dust off any customer journey maps that you’ve already created. Reevaluate your assumptions in the context of the three fundamental buying phases: problem awareness, solution identification, cold feet. Did you miss anything?

3. Think like a customer

Understanding your customer’s buying phases is a good start, but it’s not enough.

“You need to go a level deeper by looking at the world through the customer lens—not the sales lens,” says Mark.

Ask yourself these questions to begin thinking more like your customer:

  • How does your customer decide that a problem actually exists?
  • What mysteries must be solved before a purchase can be made?
  • What information is necessary to make an informed decision?
  • Which questions and concerns does your customer have?
  • What is your customer’s process for gaining information?
  • Is the customer more likely to watch an embedded video or read a technical whitepaper?
  • Is there any information that might accelerate the decision-making process?

Avoid the temptation to jump to conclusions. If you don’t have enough historical data to answer these questions, send out a survey or invite customers to participate in brief, 20-minute interviews. Ask open-ended questions that help you understand their perspectives and the steps they went through to buy your product.

Your next move: Slow down and dive into what makes customers tick. Set aside your existing sales process for the moment and seek to understand customers on a whole new level. Get creative and use data to build a more complete picture of your typical customer.

4. Map your sales process to the customer’s buying process

With a data-driven understanding of your customer’s buying process and perspectives, it’s time to boil everything down into a simple diagram.

Map the customer buying process

Using diagramming software, a mutual action plan, a whiteboard, or even pen and paper, capture each stage of the customer buying process (step two) and related psychographic information (step three). Since you’re putting the customer first, this section should be documented at the top of the page.

Layer in your existing sales process

With your customer buying process clearly defined, use the space below to document the specific actions and workflows in your sales process. For starters, it may be wise to simply list out your existing process as it stands today (in the context of the buying process). You may be surprised how much sales effort fits into one stage—at the expense of another stage.

Begin developing an enhanced sales process

Examining your existing sales process next to the customer buying process is sure to identify gaps and bottlenecks. For example, you may realize that you need more resources in the “cold feet” buying stage. Brainstorm ways to create balance in your sales process and help the customer make an informed decision.

Your next move: Create your diagram and share it with key stakeholders. Start an internal discussion, look for misalignment between the customer’s needs and your existing process, and develop a list of opportunities for improvement.

5. Work with sales ops to implement your sales process

As you move toward a sales process that better aligns with the customer buying process, be sure to keep sales operations fully engaged in the conversation.

“Sales ops is usually the team that implements the process by adapting your CRM, setting up the measurement framework, and reporting the data,” says Mark. “It’s therefore really important to have a strong relationship between sales ops and the sales team.”

After collaborating with sales ops, you may realize that your current sales stack does not align with your optimal sales process. The good news is that there are plenty of systems on the market to help you accomplish your goal. Insightly’s intuitive UI and customizability make it a great option for adapting technology to your sales process—rather than force-fitting your vision into a subpar system.

“At Insightly, we’re very well known for having a high adoption rate,” says Mark. “It’s easy to use, which generates higher adoption and helps end users adhere to the sales process to maximize revenue.”

Your next move: Work with sales ops to adapt your tech stack for your ideal sales process. If that’s not easily done, consider evaluating other tools that meet your needs.

Future-proofing your sales process

Stay tuned for part three in this series about sales processes. We’ll be sharing tips for future-proofing your sales process in an era when most teams are still working remotely.

In the meantime, if you are ready to try or switch to a new CRM, reach out to the Insightly team to schedule a demo.


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