Improving the Sales Process: The Ultimate Guide

Even before the cultural and professional reset COVID-19 brought on, many in business were beginning to adopt a different attitude toward effective sales methods. The past year accelerated this even further, making processes even more nimble, more remote, and more digitally driven.

As we (hopefully) come out of the pandemic, businesses are reestablishing and reinvigorating their sales processes. It’s no secret that the pandemic ate into sales numbers and made doing business more complicated than ever before.

For instance, in a survey from sales performance training company Richardson, over 80 percent of respondents indicated that at least some of their prospects or customers had delayed or canceled purchase decisions as a result of the pandemic.

To further complicate things, the past two years left many businesses scrambling to adjust to more remote, digital-forward formats. In a study by McKinsey, the consulting firm noted that 90 percent of businesses had either partially or fully moved their field sales to be conducted over videoconferencing, on the phone, or online.

This significant shift in methodology requires you to be more consistent and thorough in your sales process. Implementing a well-constructed strategy will be a huge step in keeping you ahead in a marketplace on the verge of returning to pre-COVID levels of activity.

This gets us to the good news following these two dark years: We seem to be finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Though the in-person aspect of sales may be sluggish to return, we’ve still seen a brisk yet enormous opportunity for sales to bounce back. People are hungry to get their organizations up and running and eager to get their supply chains moving.

It’s shaping up to be an excellent and competitive time to put yourself and your business back out there. Putting together and following a great sales process should be a key priority in growing your business at this critical time. As overwhelming as that sounds, there are some clear steps you can take to solidify and even modernize your sales process.

In this guide, we’ll go through these essential steps to put your best foot forward in sales:

  1. Breaking down the sales process
  2. Improving sales prospecting
  3. Qualifying the best sales leads
  4. Assessing your potential clients’ needs
  5. Putting together a sales presentation/demo and a professional sales proposal
  6. Finalizing, approving, and closing a sale
  7. Learning the process and etiquette of following up on sales

If it looks like a lot, don’t worry — this guide will break down each step and provide valuable, tangible tools to make each phase easy to deploy.

Over the next few chapters, we’ll dig into how Jotform can help streamline your overarching sales process through its customer relationship management and form functionality. You can customize these easy-to-use tools to tailor-fit your needs, positioning you to quickly master the skills it takes to ensure a well-functioning sales process. For example, Jotform’s sales CRM table template allows you to manage various prospects throughout the sales funnel.

Now, let’s dive into our first section, which covers the sales process as a whole.

What is a sales process?

What is a sales process? The question may seem simple, but it has a pretty complex answer.

A sales process is a series of steps a business takes to move a prospect from a lead to a customer. When successful, it’s a repeatable but adaptable pattern that can keep up with a growing business while providing valuable insight into your sales, teams, and company performance.

It’s critical for a business to follow a sales process for a number of reasons. If executed well, it streamlines how sales are collected, tracked, and finalized while helping a company identify what works — as well as areas for improvement. Plus, a sales process also showcases professionalism, which makes prospective leads more comfortable doing business with you.

Benefits of the sales process

To get a better idea why a sales process is important, let’s break down the benefits and explore what a great sales process looks like when it’s working.

Makes the sales process more efficient

A consistent, repeatable system sets up your sales team for steady progress by creating a stable workflow that saves time and energy. It also streamlines the onboarding of new sales team members, as you’ll already have the necessary process in place to get your latest hires started with confidence and ease.

Identifies higher-potential prospects

The sales process is lengthy and involved — a 2019 study by CSO Insights showed that nearly half of B2B sales take at least seven months to close. This could be attributed to several factors, including high numbers of decision-makers on either side of the transaction. Unfortunately, this means that sales representatives may spend valuable time on prospects that end up never fully qualifying as leads and resulting in a sale.

Closing a sale takes a significant amount of work and commitment. Being able to separate prospects with a higher chance of reaching the end of the sales funnel is imperative. A well-formed sales process aids this goal by keeping you in the loop on individual leads, so you can better understand their level of commitment while learning at what point in the process sales tend to stall.

Increases forecasting with sales data

When your system prioritizes good communication, transparency, and detail, you have a much better chance of gathering great data. This goes especially for a sales process. With the right tools in place and a well-managed sales team, you’ll be able to leverage sales and outreach activities to gather data on the marketplace that you can use to your advantage.

This analytic understanding of the environment also allows you to more accurately forecast potential future sales and identify how your team works best. With a better eye for data, you can set more accurate quotas and focus efforts on worthwhile leads and markets.

Improves the customer experience

When you think holistically about your sales process, it’s probably often from the perspective of your business and your sales team. However, a customer-forward sales process is pivotal not only to maintain a client base but also to create the most adaptable process for your market.

Thinking about the customer’s journey and their relationship to your product is incredibly helpful. This clarifies which customers are more likely to move readily along the sales funnel and turn from prospect to lead to final sale. Thinking from their perspective also means gathering the kind of data that sets up your sales team for multiple closings. When your team has the tools to identify the right customers and their needs, they’ll be able to do their jobs more effectively.

In addition, it’s just good business sense to provide as seamless and as pleasant a customer experience as possible. By designing a sales process around the needs of the customer, you’re already doing a lot of work to prevent damaged relationships, unnecessary friction, and a poor overall experience. This will serve you well in the future.

Calls out pain points for internal teams

A great sales process not only identifies promising trends and a fruitful sales team but also points out what isn’t working. Transparency and open communication are not only key to collecting data and sharing best practices across the sales team — these intangibles also create an environment committed to constantly building a better process.

A sales process has to be adaptable. Those who use your tools should feel comfortable calling out pain points so everyone can learn what’s getting in the way. This can only benefit growth.

Sales process steps

These are just some of the reasons why a sales process is important. As you dig into the steps of the sales process, you’ll get an even clearer picture of what building a long-lasting process looks like. You’ll also learn how doing that hard work in advance benefits your sales team and your business in the long run.

To start, familiarize yourself with the following stages:

  • Sales prospecting: kicking off the sales process, including the different marketing methods a salesperson can use to find leads
  • Sales qualification: learning how a lead is qualified to move through the sales funnel
  • Needs assessment: identifying key needs and gaps with your potential clients
  • Sales presentation and demo: demonstrating the value of your product/service
  • Sales proposal: putting together the final details of a sale and drafting sales proposals
  • Sale approval: identifying when approval is needed within the sales process and finalizing the deal 
  • Sales closing: reviewing and finalizing the sale
  • Sales follow-up: maintaining the customer relationship post-sale and emphasizing the importance of this kind of sales upkeep to your team

You’ll also learn tips and tricks for improving your process at each step, such as using Jotform to make work easier. Let’s look at the first phase of the sales process — prospecting.

Sales prospecting

As you can imagine, the most labor-intensive work within the sales process is sales prospecting — the sourcing and collection of prospective leads to move them through the sales funnel toward becoming qualified leads and eventually, if all goes well, a final sale.

If that sounds like a big prospect (no pun intended), know that you’re not alone. In fact, according to a survey conducted by sales training firm RAIN Group, 66 percent of sellers said they didn’t dedicate enough time or energy to prospecting — a lack of motivation that may be attributed to the scale of the task.

But prospecting doesn’t have to be so daunting. If you approach this stage well equipped and with the right mindset, you’ll come out of it not only confident in your overall process but also stocked with an arsenal of prospective clients to boot.

Tips for sales prospecting

Let’s start by going over some advice that’ll give you a leg up as you approach sales prospecting.

Get into your customer’s head

As mentioned in the previous chapter, understanding your customer thoroughly is key to ensuring that the leads you generate are worthwhile and that you’re not chasing dead ends.

By taking the time to build a customer profile, and getting an idea of how and when your customers shop, you’ll understand their needs and behaviors. This kind of confidence in your lead process will serve you well in the long run and cut wasted time on lower potential prospects.

Focus on expanding your roster

You can’t identify the right leads and potential customers if you don’t have people to reach out to. In this early phase, focus on consistently growing your sales roster.

With a large enough pool, you can identify the best possible clients and make sure you leave no stone unturned. Activities that boost your roster include building call lists, making frequent contact, and requesting additional referrals whenever appropriate.

Get active on social media

Within that initial quantity-centric mindset, use social media early and often to get the conversation going with your prospects. As customers are becoming more self-determined and seeking out companies to purchase from on their own, it’s essential to set yourself up as a thought leader in your space.

Establishing a level of expertise on social platforms shows the capabilities you’d bring to a prospective client. Social media platforms are also an accessible place to start communicating with prospects to further build your roster.

Using Jotform for sales prospecting

Because prospecting involves a lot of information and data gathering, you need the right set of tools to input and monitor all the details you’ll be collecting. Here are some of the forms you can use to set yourself up for success.

Generating leads

The first thing you’ll need is a lead generation form to collect information on prospects. Jotform offers more than 100 lead generation form templates, ranging from simple email entry to more complex forms made for specific customer experiences such as home buying. This level of customization assures that you engage with the types of leads that will yield positive sales results.

Additionally, all of these forms can integrate into customer resource management platforms, such as Salesforce and HubSpot.

Building contacts

Beyond seeking leads through outside input, building contacts in person at networking events, trade shows, or other live events is a vital component of expanding your roster — as well as staying on top of potential clients who have shown interest in your business.

Even face to face, online forms are the best way to immediately capture contact information — and a step up from exchanging business cards or writing down phone numbers. For these situations, Jotform has nearly 1,000 contact form templates that sales representatives and their contacts can complete on mobile devices through the Jotform Mobile Forms app.

Collecting referrals

Requesting referrals from existing contacts and active clients is a great way to build your contact base. Jotform’s referral form template can jump-start your referral process and help you keep track of who you’re contacting and in what setting you’re making those connections.

Capturing website inquiries

Another way for your company to show attentiveness to prospects is by taking inquiries through your website. You can add a handy, customer-forward contact form, like the forms mentioned above, to your site.

For example, Jotform’s inquiry template provides a straightforward way to interact with anyone curious about doing business or even just generally communicating with your company.

A wide variety of design options and additional features like CAPTCHA verification allow you to tailor an interaction with your potential customers that’s unobtrusive and feels like a natural part of your website’s experience. Jotform’s templates also all integrate easily with many site-building platforms like WordPress and Squarespace.

Organizing contact information

The sales prospecting phase brings a ton of raw information to your doorstep, which creates the problem of managing and tracking all these details. It’s important to build a streamlined client database that will ease the process of maintaining your data and help your sales team easily access the info so nothing falls through the cracks.

That’s where Jotform Tables, a platform that combines database and spreadsheet capabilities, can help. With Jotform’s client database table template, you can effectively oversee all incoming form data in one place. You can also arrange and customize your database as you see fit and easily transfer it into Excel or PDF files.

Tracking the outreach process

On top of managing a wealth of contact information, you should make the best use of both your team’s and your prospect’s time. This is where a sales call log comes in handy. Jotform’s call log template provides a clear view of where all these varying leads stand in the prospecting process.

The tables connected to the forms your sales representatives fill out show how often representatives have contacted prospects and the context of the call/outreach. With this knowledge, you can lay out clear next steps based on prospect interest level. This is critical to moving open-ended leads further down the sales funnel.

With prospecting tools like Jotform, you can build a healthy roster of contacts and start to move those potential clients closer to the final sale. This is where sales qualification comes into play. 

Sales qualification

You’ve created several tools and forms, and you’ve established a well-oiled sales prospecting machine to source high-quality potential sales. Now, it’s time to dig through that information to home in on the leads with the highest probability of becoming closed sales. This is the sales qualification phase.

What is sales qualification?

Sales qualification is the stage of the sales process where you analyze the feasibility of your leads to determine which are worth prioritizing and moving along the sales funnel. This should coincide with the internal effort to efficiently distribute resources among your team so they can work toward closing sales based on what you learn through qualification.

In the sales qualification phase, you directly engage with your prospects to see if they fit a customer profile you’re confident your business can serve. Think of the conversations and questions you ask like a sand sieve you used on a beach as a kid. You sift through that mass of sand (your prospects) to pull out the rocks and shells (qualified leads) that you want to add to your collection (close the sale).

Sales qualification is a pivotal point in the sales process because it’s when you separate what will give you and your business the most long-term value. Chasing the wrong deals can cost a company up to $218,000 for every $1 million in deals closed. This figure shows why it’s so important to focus on qualifying your sales and setting yourself up for success.

Questions to ask during sales qualification

Here are several sales qualification questions you should ask your clients and the key bits of information you should take away when qualifying your prospects.

Get to the decision-makers

If you want to increase the likelihood of making a customer connection — and eventually, a sale — you need to speak to a key decision-maker within the organization. The sales process can often stall if you spend too much time following up on leads or contacts who don’t have a say in a business’s purchasing.

In addition to asking the direct question of “who,” try asking more pointed questions like these:

  • What are the top priorities for your decision-makers?
  • What are the different channels for decision-making within your organization?
  • How often are sales decisions made within your organization?

Identify central problems

You can’t be an effective asset to your buyers if you don’t help them solve problems within their business. So ask them questions about what’s causing friction in their day-to-day operations. Doing this will give you an idea of how well they compare to your ideal customer profile.

Though you’ll dig into some of this information even further during the next phase (needs assessment), it’s critical to get an upfront idea about where those internal problems lie. Start by asking questions like these:

  • What are the business problems you deal with regularly?
  • What solutions have you already explored to address these problems?
  • What led you to our product/service?
  • How do you think we can be an asset to you in solving this problem?

In addition to these surface-level questions, it’s also worthwhile to ask about the resources the company is willing to commit to its issues:

  • How much of your budget are you able to commit to solving X problem?
  • How much of a priority is solving this problem for your organization and stakeholders?

Plan for success

Another major discussion point is your potential for success with your prospective customer. This has nothing to do with overconfidence — rather, you want to take hard figures into account as you consider whether your product/service is something that can help your customers achieve their goals.

Demand Gen Report found that 77 percent of B2B buyers conduct return-on-investment analyses of their own before making purchases. It’s important to be conscious of this during qualification and mirror this behavior with your own research and questions.

Dig into how these prospective buyers envision success by asking questions like these:

  • What does success look like for your business?
  • What are your key performance indicators?
  • In what time frame would you expect to see results?
  • How does your business react and/or pivot when it doesn’t achieve its goals?

In the qualification phase, put together a set of questions sales representatives can use for all prospective leads. One way to do this is to customize Jotform’s presales questionnaire template, which includes much of the material mentioned above, to streamline the qualifying process for your team. From here, you can easily and regularly engage your leads and move the best prospects through the funnel more consistently.

When you get a clearer idea of who’s drawing your sales team’s attention, you can begin to have more in-depth conversations with these qualified leads about your product or service. This leads us into the needs assessment phase of the sales process.

Needs assessment

You’ve come out the other side of qualification with a list of potential leads. It’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of how your product or service can benefit future customers. It’s time to conduct a needs assessment.

What is a needs assessment?

As we hinted in the previous chapter, a needs assessment is a formal evaluation of prospective buyers used to identify the gaps and/or insufficiencies in their business and how your product or service can address them. This goes beyond the probing conversations of the last phase of sales qualification and focuses specifically on providing businesses with an effective asset.

A good needs assessment should operate similarly to an attentive doctor. Ideally, your doctor will ask you questions that aren’t boilerplate and show that they’re interested in solving the issues unique to you.

A customer wants the same thing — someone who will effectively diagnose them for their specific “condition” — in this case, their business dilemmas and what’s causing them internal friction. A lack of nuance in your assessment will make your customer feel like you’re going through the motions rather than trying to provide the best solution.

These characteristics make needs assessment the linchpin of the whole sales process. This is where you demonstrate to both yourself and your buyers where your product or service can make a tangible impact in their business.

How to conduct a needs assessment

There are a few different ways to conduct a needs assessment. Sometimes, you’ll ask more pointed questions of individual businesses in a one-on-one dialogue. Other times, you’ll speak to a larger group of buyers to gauge trends among your prospects and discover significant needs in the market.

In either instance, think a few steps down the line in your process. The questions you ask in this phase should reflect what you’ll eventually address in your sales pitch and proposal. Your clients should see that you’re following a strategic line of thinking to address their problems. Try asking questions such as

  • What makes implementing our product/service a priority for your business?
  • What obstacles or opportunities do you see arising from implementing our product/service?
  • What similar products/services have you used, and why do you think they weren’t effective? What are you looking for us to do differently?

Putting together a needs assessment questionnaire

Most often, you’ll talk with your leads about the gaps in their business. You can tailor a set of questions for the client that will reveal this information. A needs assessment questionnaire also showcases how you and your company can meet the client’s needs and help improve their business.

Depending on what you gathered during sales qualification, emphasize topics that relate to the problems you identified. Make sure you do the extra homework of reviewing the company’s social presence and web presence to understand the competitive landscape and see what customers are saying about the organization.

Ultimately, your questions should revolve around how your product/service fills the gaps in your clients’ business. To help you put together these questionnaires, try using a tool like one of Jotform’s questionnaire templates, which will help you build both standard and individualized forms for clients so you can better personalize this experience for each prospect.

Building a needs assessment survey

In some instances, you’ll need to cast a wider net in assessing the needs of your potential clients. Think of it like a microcosm of market analysis — instead of big swaths of data, you’re narrowing in on your niche clientele and what makes sense for them.

For example, a needs assessment survey of small businesses within a specific sector could give you an understanding of the typical organizational structure or the pace at which companies adopt new technologies. This will help you pick up on recurring trends among your leads roster and prepare you to address those issues head-on.

Since a needs assessment survey is less specialized to distinct clients, your questions should reflect the ones above but for a broader audience. The key here is to gather the information that will become the focus of future individual needs assessments and even sales proposals, so you can develop expertise on what customers are looking for.

A well-developed, organized survey form helps you create a set of questions that can get you the information you’ll need in the later phases of your sales process.

Assessing your buyers’ needs pulls them through the sales funnel while getting them comfortable enough to move you into what we’ll see in our next chapter — sales presentations and demos.

Sales presentation and demo

If you’ve gotten a buyer this far in the sales process, you’ve demonstrated a great deal of worth to them, and you’ve made them feel that you can address their specific issues. It’s time to showcase your product, which brings us to the pitch and demo phase.

A sales pitch, or sales presentation, is when a sales representative details the value that your product or service can provide to a customer. In tandem with this, you’ll usually also give your customer a sales demo. The demo is the actual exhibition of your product or service in action, which can include physical demonstrations of what you’re selling and how it would look in practice for your customer.

Much of the sales process builds to this moment, and it can make or break a sale. Though you’ve gotten your prospective buyer this far, a poor sales pitch and demo can tank the sale in one fell swoop. That’s why it’s indispensable to ensure you build an appealing, effective sales pitch and enlightening demo that holds the customer’s interest.

Here are a few key elements of the pitch and demo phase that’ll help you put your best foot forward during a sales presentation.

Sales pitch

When you visualize the sales process, you’re likely picturing the sales pitch first. Though one of the most central elements of the sales process, it has evolved significantly over the decades. Let’s go over some essential pitching knowledge.

How to do a sales pitch

Ideally, you’ll already have a lot of the building blocks of a sales pitch by the time you start putting it together.

In the qualifying and needs assessment phases, you’ll identify the client’s problems and research their long-term goals. Assembling the pitch is just polishing those pieces into a clear, concise, and engaging presentation.

  • Clear. When you’re doing the actual pitching, have your thoughts nailed down to a fine point. You know your product inside and out, so in all parts of the discussion, maintain the goal of talking about where you and your product fit into your customer’s success. Ensuring your audience is along for this journey is critical to getting them on board and closing the sale.
  • Concise. A sales pitch doesn’t have to be overly long or go into too many fine details of implementation and performance. Stick to the main points — identify the problem, explain how your product/service solves it, and define success for your customer. Following too many tangential particulars will only water down the central ideas and product features your buyer wants to focus on.
  • Engaging. The above two points shouldn’t prevent you from putting on a bit of a show. While you should avoid pyrotechnics and strobe lights, keep your prospective buyer engaged throughout the conversation. Ask questions from their perspective, and guide them to the point with as much enthusiasm as you can.

It doesn’t hurt to make the pitch personal and include an anecdote or story. It will serve you better than a deluge of facts. In a well-known passage from Chip and Dan Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, the authors recall that after a particular presentation, they found 63 percent of an audience remembered stories — but only 5 percent remembered statistics. This isn’t to say you should throw out the numbers, but remember that an engaging pitch shouldn’t be bogged down by minutiae.

Throughout the pitch, don’t forget your potential customers are also meeting someone they could be working with for the foreseeable future. This is a chance to show you’re someone they’d want to work with regularly and are open-minded and enjoyable to communicate with.

Staying on top of your pitching schedule

It may seem like a no-brainer, but scheduling your pitch is something you can’t mess up. Show that you’re organized, punctual, and on top of your business by using a scheduling and appointment coordinating tool that’ll keep you aligned on all fronts.

With Jotform’s appointment form template, you can coordinate meeting times with your customer regardless of their mail platform. In addition, Jotform also offers a Zoom scheduler for pitching remotely.

Appointment Form Template
Appointment Form Template

Sales demo

The sales demo will likely go hand in hand with the sales pitch, or even happen in the same meeting. The demo puts your product or service on the line for your customer to gauge firsthand. Let’s dive into some tips to make sure you nail it.

Why is a sales demo important?

As pivotal as it can be to nail a sales pitch, the demo is just as vital. It’s at this point that you put your product or service to the test by demonstrating how it’ll improve your buyer’s life or business.

It goes without saying, but make sure to test and even dry run your product or service before showing it to outside eyes. As strong as your pitch will have to be, your words are moot if the product itself fails to deliver. 

Here are a few ways you can set yourself up for success during the sales demo:

  • Personalize the experience. Highlight the specific portions of your product/service that are particularly essential in solving the customer’s problems.
  • Be adaptable. If your customer asks questions during the demonstration, be prepared to switch gears or even showcase features you hadn’t planned to show.
  • Be able to give the reasoning behind each function. Your product was designed thoughtfully and carefully, and you should be able to speak to that within your demo. This doesn’t mean explaining every iota, but having the background and an understanding of each function shows the consideration you put into the product/service — and, assumingly, you’ll put into the sale as well.

Managing demo requests

If enough prospects have made it through the sales funnel, you’ll find yourself juggling multiple demo requests at a time. You can organize your clientele by implementing a platform to track the request pipeline.

To help with this process, Jotform offers a few demo request form templates you can connect to your sales and scheduling platforms. These forms give you the ability to invite your buyers to this phase of the sales process, and you can customize them to each client if needed.

Tracking a high-volume calendar

The pitching and demoing phase can clog up your days quickly, especially if you’ve generated a lot of interest and qualified leads. To stay on top of everything, keep an organized calendar of your week’s events that’ll prevent clients from falling through the cracks. Jotform Tables offers a handful of template options you can tailor to use in your personalized CRM.

After all the intense work that’s led to the sales pitch, it can feel like you’re over the hump in the sales process. But it’s crucial to keep the momentum up with your customers and push on into the next phase — the sales proposal.

Sales proposal

A successful pitch and demo mean you’ve already made enormous strides with your customers, and you’re within striking distance of closing the sale. The following phases are all about emphasizing the major details of the sale and confirming the wishes of both parties are accounted for.

As you push to get the terms of a deal on paper, remember the decisions and thought processes that got you here and always lead conversations with what can optimize results for your customer. With that in mind, let’s break down an essential document in closing a sale — the sales proposal.

What is a sales proposal?

A sales proposal outlines the products or services you’re offering to your prospective clients, along with a description of what a sale of a different magnitude would look like. Some standard features of a proposal include the following:

  • A brief description of you and your company
  • Your customer’s immediate needs
  • The solutions your product/service provides
  • An action plan to implement the solutions
  • A time frame for results
  • Different options/tiers for customers, where applicable

Keep in mind that getting a sales proposal in front of your buyer doesn’t ensure a sale. A survey from the RAIN group identified an average win rate of sales at the proposal stage to be 47 percent.

With no guarantee of closing a sale, don’t rest on the laurels of your product or service. Make sure your proposals are clear and that they follow the customer-centric, solutions-oriented mentality you’ve showcased thus far. Being prepared to write the proposal will help you beat that 47 percent average and strengthen your success rate.

Putting together your sales proposal

The final sales proposal you share should reflect much of what you’ve already discussed with your customer in needs assessment and your pitch/demo. The proposal shouldn’t share anything new or eye-catching for your buyer — rather, it collates the many conversations you’ve had into a document that spells out the solutions you can offer your client and the goals you want to help them accomplish.

A good proposal can trigger a push toward closure. A great proposal can push you toward an even bigger sale if the client sees the possibility for great results.

How to write a sales proposal

Your proposal should be thematically similar to your pitch, with the same clear, concise, and engaging language. Here are a few tips on how to write a sales proposal.

Focus on goals and solutions

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve managed to get your customer excited about what you and your product/service can do for them. Don’t let up once you get to the sales proposal phase.

The proposal should outline what you’re helping prospective buyers address so they understand you’re the right vendor for their problem. Also explain how you plan to be a partner to them and what the success of your product/service will look like. Take another look at the information you collected from them during your needs assessment, and use solution-oriented language to directly answer these concerns.

Keep your language approachable

A proposal shouldn’t be intimidating to read, and like your pitch, it shouldn’t be bogged down with technical jargon. Give customers a clear understanding of the particulars of your potential agreement. Your tone and vocabulary should make them feel that you’re up to meeting their needs.

An important characteristic of your sales proposal is the way you write your product/service specifications and usage. Transparency instills confidence in the buyer about what they’re paying for. For instance, a manufacturing company could use the sales proposal as a chance to give some background on their designs, equipment, and quality control as well as summarize how their product works. But they’ll only include what’s necessary for the client to know.

Handing over a technical manual isn’t the answer — just present the product elements that answer why your client needs your business.

Provide options

Up to this point, you’ve spoken plainly about the range of your product. The proposal is a way to inspire your customer to think bigger.

Think of photography companies that provide options for school picture day. Oftentimes, parents expect to pay for the standard image and a shot of the class, but the company always pushes (and is often successful) in selling more options — multiple shots, wallet sizes, and portrait sizes.

This is a much more informal execution of a sales proposal, yet the principle is the same — considering how your customer is set to grow, there’s a window to expand their affinity for your product, within reason. If you execute this opportunity well, you can entice your client with a greater offering.

Tools to improve your sales proposals

The technical aspects of writing and sending a sales proposal may seem secondary to getting the customer on board with the terms themselves. But considering the amount of information you and the buyer are exchanging, mismanagement becomes all too easy. Letting any details fall through the cracks could be a death knell for your sale, so you have to use the right tools.

Using an easily customizable document, like the PDF proposal templates Jotform offers, makes proposal tracking much more manageable.

You can customize industry-specific forms to highlight the level of professionalism you offer your clients. Using Jotform’s PDF Editor, you can instantly build PDFs from submitted form information. You and your client can then sign digitally, keeping the process entirely online — the perfect recipe in the current remote-driven sales environment.

Understanding how to write a sales proposal gets you closer to closing the sale. In the next few chapters, we’ll explore how to put the finishing touches on a deal that keeps your clients happy and engaged.

Sales approval

If you’ve put together a great sales proposal that has your prospective buyers feeling optimistic, you’re just about ready to close. Here, it’s essential to use a sales approval process to nail down the specific details of what your customer is looking for and align on final terms.

Sales approval is any point later in the sales process, or even after close, in which a client makes a final decision about one or several elements of the sale. This differs from sales closing in that it can refer to many individual points in the transaction, like discounts or warranties.

It’s especially important in this phase to determine who the key decision-makers are within your client’s organization, as well as your own, as they will drive the conversations that lead to approval.

This has become increasingly tricky — a 2020 survey from DemandGen indicates about 71 percent of businesses make buying decisions by committee, a growing trend.

Narrowing in on these key decision-makers for your sale is essential to approval. Good relationships with these colleagues are instrumental to keeping the approval process simple and avoiding the unnecessary burden of constant and inconsistent back-and-forth communication.

When sales approval is needed

Let’s take a look at a few examples when you’d need to implement sales approval.

Contract changes

Approving updates to your contract with your prospective client demands keen attention to detail and a clear line of contact with the correct decision-makers. The approval also expands beyond pre-closing contract changes. As you build on your success with your clients, it’s possible either you or the customer will want to discuss changes to your contract in the future.

For example, a marketing and advertising company would use a contract to determine the scope of work — the amount of media or content they will provide for a client. But if a client wants more material beyond the original contract, going “out of scope,” the marketing/advertising company would update the contract to reflect the additional work.

Using the sales approval process, you can quickly and effectively identify the specific points of the contract you need to adjust.

Discounts

Depending on your relationship with your customer, you can expect to negotiate discounts based on the details of your contract or the needs of the buyer. Boston Consulting Group calls discounts a company’s largest marketing investment as they can sometimes make up to 30 percent of sales in B2B industries.

As you finalize the sale, and as you continue to work with these clients beyond close, you’ll need to establish a sales approval process to discuss potential discounts and price changes. Approvals help major decision-makers stay on the same page to ensure a smooth sales relationship and to better determine when discounts are appropriate.

Additional orders

Hopefully, customers will return to your business for repeat purchases. In this case, order approval becomes a staple of your process with this client.

Providing your buyers with an easy sales approval process for future orders helps your business. Such an approval process strengthens your relationships by clearly prioritizing your customers’ loyalty. If you have a specific sales approval process for repeat buyers, they get the benefit of your attention, which demonstrates their value to you.

Refunds or cancellations

Though it’s never ideal, approval is also essential to either delivering refunds or confirming order cancellations with your customers. This doesn’t mean the relationship is completely over, though.

For example, if you offer a subscription model or software as a service, you can maintain communication or potentially get a customer to resubscribe, even after they request a cancellation and/or refund. However, that’s only if the approval process for their initial cancellation is an easy experience.

A smooth approval process results in a less burdensome cancellation experience, keeping you from souring a relationship too much. Ensuring your approval process is properly set up to handle these less-than-ideal situations maintains your reputation among customers, even those who choose another company.

Automating sales approval

The life cycle of a sales relationship keeps you in contact with your customers beyond the initial necessary approvals. Automating sales approvals streamlines the communication of these decisions and makes additional approvals a breeze.

Automation also increases your opportunities for success with repeat customers. The Harvard Business Review noted that 43 percent of B2B customers in IT were “highly likely” to buy from their current suppliers.

Though this is a reflection of just one industry, it speaks to the level of customer loyalty that companies can cultivate in the B2B space. An automated order approval process is easily replicable, which makes your customers feel comfortable and happy coming back time after time. These repeat customers are a huge boon for your business.

Whether you’re updating warranties, providing refunds, or making contract updates, you can create an effective, automated sales approval process with a tool like Jotform Approvals.

The platform even offers a sales approval process template to give you a head start in speeding up internal communications — meaning you’ll get back to your customers quickly. You can customize your approval process with conditional logic and automated notifications, so decision-makers are always in the loop and the sale doesn’t fall behind schedule.

By putting together an approval process, you unlock direct access to your prospective clients and set yourself up for a final sale. With all the pieces now in place, and your customer nearing the end of the sales funnel, you’re ready to close the sale.

Sales closing

It’s all led to this. You’ve hunted for prospects, targeted the most qualified leads, assessed the needs of your potential clients, shown off your product, and handed over a winning proposal. All that’s left is for your new client to sign on the dotted line.

At this point, you’ve likely had an enormous amount of contact thus far with this customer. A survey from Forrester noted that, as of 2021, salespeople averaged 10 more interactions between themselves and buyers before closing than they did in 2019. Take stock of the work you’ve put in, as it’s a milestone to approach the closing stage.

Put plainly, sales closing is when you and your customer agree to the details outlined in your proposal, and your customer commits to a deal. However, this pivotal phase isn’t just the moment you get a signature. While it’s the culmination of the sales process, you should treat it as a natural progression of the work you’ve put into getting your prospective customer to this point.

Let’s break down this moment in the sales process to unpack the best practices to keep clients focused and satisfied.

What happens during a sales closing?

Sales closing is, in many ways, an extension of the proposal and approval phases. The goal in closing is to ensure the details of the final proposal align with your buyer’s needs and goals.

This is also the phase in which you and your customer put the final contract and agreement into place. The contract differs from the proposal in that it reflects the agreed-upon details that you’ve since negotiated, confirming your approval of any changes from the proposal, such as discounts or order size.

For example, a final contract between a customer and a video production company would lay out the agreed prices for services, a breakdown of the number of deliverables and their formats, and the equipment the company will use (and potentially, a line item budget of said equipment). It would also include the timeline for delivery as well as special client or returning customer discounts.

Sales closing tips

Something can always go wrong, especially this late in the process when so much is at stake. These sales closing techniques will help you avoid errors and conduct a seamless sales closing.

  1. Confirm you have your customer’s buy-in. In a sense, you’ve been doing this throughout the sales process. In what’s sometimes referred to as a “trial close,” you should get the answers to the questions you’ve been asking your client from needs assessment through the pitch and proposal phases. During closing, these questions can confirm some level of commitment from your customer’s end. Some of these include
    • If we can demonstrate achieving X results, would that be a reason for you to use our product/service?
    • If we can find a solution that’s in your budget, would you be able to commit to purchasing?
  1. Guide your customer through the final agreement. Ideally, nothing in the final agreement should surprise either party. Having a face-to-face (or remote) conversation about the ultimate stipulations of your contract makes your customer feel cared for and reduces the chance of a detail or price surprising them. Give them a sense of security in what they’re signing onto, and allow them the chance to review it on their time.
  1. Be prepared to step backward. Reaching this final phase can mean a lot of jitters for your customer, considering they’re the ones putting the money down. If at any point, the customer wants to revisit elements of the proposal, be as accommodating as possible in your response. Especially when it comes to new sales, an open-minded and sympathetic ear are the best things you can offer a new customer.

Getting the final signature

A document as sacred in B2B sales as a final contract requires cutting-edge and convenient tools to cover your bases. You can build a well-structured sales contract or sales agreement with templates from Jotform that you can quickly convert to PDFs. A customizable online form gives you the ability to individualize the document for each client and include as much or as little information as needed.

These templates give you room to expand on legalese and encompass finer details of the transaction. Plus, you can collect e-signatures and connect the forms to your other software. Remember — the more information you can set in stone with your client, the more comfortable they’ll feel signing off and closing the deal.

By getting through this closing phase, you’ve already made a financial transaction and incrementally grown your business. But sales don’t end here — maintaining and expanding your business happens by nurturing the sales you’ve made. In the next chapter, we’ll explore this crucial continuation of a closed sale when we discuss sales follow-up.

Sales follow-up

After closing your sale, it can feel like the hard work you put into building a relationship with your customer is over. It’s time to move onto the next one, right? Not so fast.

After you sign the papers and onboard the client, the sales process isn’t complete. It’s important to never forget the final step in sales — the follow-up.

During the sales follow-up stage, you reach out to clients after the closing of the official sale — whether it’s to say thank you, confirm customer satisfaction, or see if further discussion is needed. This simple act can seem like a formality, but it’s a huge part of building loyalty and trust with your new customer.

In sales, customers continue to be helpful even after you close. According to a customer acquisition study from HubSpot, 93 percent of customers are likely to make another purchase from companies with high-quality customer service. On top of that, a study from Texas Tech University shows that 83 percent of happy customers are willing to refer a company’s products and services to others.

These eye-popping statistics point to how critical customer satisfaction is to growing your business. And it all starts with a sales follow-up. Let’s dive into what it takes to keep customers happy, loyal, and coming back for more.

Maintain customer satisfaction

As the aforementioned stats show, a satisfied customer is a loyal customer. Following a sale, ask your new clients to not only stay in contact but also give their honest feedback on the experience. Start by reaching out with a thank you, then build to regular check-ins and updates through several lines of communication.

Let’s say you’re a software as a service company (SaaS). Even after you help a new client implement your service, you want to ensure they’re up to speed on your product line and software updates and that they feel like a valued part of your business. You want them to know that they can use you as a resource if they have any questions in the future.

Jotform’s customer service form templates give you a customizable approach to getting that post-sale conversation going, which doesn’t have to start too long after the sale closes. These templates are tailored to specific industries, from catering to real estate, to help put you in the driver’s seat for these ongoing conversations.

Maintaining customer satisfaction isn’t just a good idea and the right thing to do — it also prevents a major loss in potential income. A report by the speech analytics company CallMiner found that companies lose $35.3 billion a year due to avoidable consumer switching. Don’t let your business become a part of that statistic.

Streamline customer requests

The conversations in the sales follow-up should be a smooth two-way street. Don’t just build good personal rapport; have a clear and easy-to-use pipeline for requests and questions. This will add structure to a strong relationship with your customer.

Jotform offers more than 1,400 different request form templates. These allow your customers to reach out to you about topics that range from additional orders to supplemental requests for specific follow-up tasks.

To get even more specific — if your product requires a level of technical expertise, you’ll want forms that can make those questions easy to ask. One of Jotform’s IT form templates can open up a direct line of communication to your technical department, increasing your customers’ comfort with the product.

To return to the SaaS business example, if a company implements your service and you have software updates or if they experience an outage, these IT forms could be an essential lifeline for your customers to reach out to you. Having these tools at the ready for your clients builds the kind of loyalty that turns into repeat orders.

Open up to customer referrals

Customer referrals are an enormous asset to sellers. They’re not just about getting a few more numbers for your prospect list. Sales referrals from existing customers represent peers in your industry that are far more ready to become qualified leads than the typical cold call or email. In fact, referrals generate 65 percent of new business opportunities for companies.

This further emphasizes why it’s so valuable to put serious time and effort into your sales referral methodology. Be open to leaning on your existing customers — especially those you have good relationships with — for names and contacts of potential prospects, and remind them often to keep you in mind while they’re networking. Selling is a hustle, but you can find ways to build on your own achievements and expedite your success.

To that end, make sure you have a simple way for your customers to refer their peers to you. For instance, you can easily implement a referral form template from Jotform into your sales platform, a frictionless way for your existing clients to throw you a bone. The more undemanding the sales referral process is, the more likely your customers will use it.

By now, you should have a well-honed tool belt to take you into the sales process with confidence. You can replicate the ideas discussed in this guide, but don’t be afraid to learn as you go through your own processes and adjust them as you see fit. The sales order process is incredibly malleable, and one size does not fit all industries or businesses. Use what you read here as a foundation your business can build on.

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

This article is originally published on Feb 14, 2022, and updated on Jun 09, 2022.

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