Structured or Unstructured Process?

Some businesses need a highly structured sales process that dictates specific activities sales reps need to execute.  These might include things like a discover call, a demo, a pricing meeting, proposal, signature meeting, etc. Often a structured process is needed for more junior sales reps and where the volume of sales activity is high and the dollar value of the sale is low.

For complex sales cycles and when selling professional services, sales teams do not need a highly structured process. For these teams, a stage-based marketing and sales process works better.  In each stage, there are a range of activities, strategies and tactics teams will use to engage the buyer and DMU (decision making unit) across the buyer’s lifecycle.

Buyers Don’t Care if it is Marketing or Sales

The buyer wants a simple and clean buying process. They don’t care if they are engaging with your marketing a sales team. They are simply following their buying process – often in an unstructured and unpredictable way.  The typical stages of the buyer process are:

  • Aware
  • Consider
  • Decide
  • Implement

Buyers are empowered and more self-directed in their process. They rely less on sales education and more on available resources on the web. During the Aware and Consider stages, they may search for and research solutions, watch videos, read content, download assets review marketplaces. As they move into the Consider and Decide stage, they may engage more with sales teams. But sales and marketing is active end-to-end across the full funnel.

According to research from DemandGen , 71% of B2B buyers say that a company’s website is the most influential touchpoint when making a business decision.  When looking for a new product, 87% of shoppers begin their search in digital channels, according to data in a Salesforce report. For those involved in the B2B buying process, 71% of researchers start with a generic search, as noted in a Google survey.

10-Stage Full Funnel Marketing and Sales Process

To deliver effective buyer experiences, companies need to adapt to the buyer process and provide multiple pathways across marketing and sales to deliver engagement experiences at each stage of the buyer process or journey. When constructing a modern marketing and sales methodology, some design principles you should consider include:

  • Design around the buyer to engage across the channels the buyer prefers
  • Integrate end-to-end and create a closed loop across marketing and sales
  • Enable collaborative engagement across marketing and sales with clear roles and responsibilities
  • Build a 360-degree view of the customer/prospect and build their profiles over time

Demand Funnel

The Demand Funnel is NOT a marketing only funnel. Buyer engagement for most complex sales involves both sales and marketing activities from the very top of the funnel.

  • Prospect is in a selected market and segment (total addressable market)
  • We can measure the size and value of the TAM (e.g. numbers of prospects / suspects (accounts, account contacts), size of the market opportunity (revenue) and our current market share
  • We have identified ways to access and engage buyers / personas
Active TAM
  • We can estimate the % of TAM that are in an active buying cycle
  • We can determine buyer intent
  • We are executing awareness programs (e.g. PR and Media Placement, Email Marketing, SEO / Search, Paid Media, Events, Analysts, Marketplaces)
  • We are making marketing / sales “touch” (or touches)
  • We can measure a response (e.g. a sales call response, download, email open, form conversion, etc.)
Qualified Lead
  • Marketing Lead Score meets a pre-determined threshold
  • The buyer opted in to “talk to sales”
  • Sales determines the lead is “sales ready”

Sales Pipeline

The Sales Pipeline is where you track and manage forecastable revenue.

Working Lead
  • We have entered the Opportunity in the Sales Pipeline (including stage, amount and close date)
  • We are having a sales-led conversation
  • We have shared an Opportunity Brief with the sales team
  • We are meeting the members of the DMU, discovering buyer needs, qualifying, crafting sales strategies
  • We can persuasively communicate our value proposition
Qualified Prospect
  • We use qualification models like FACT to align around qualification
    • Fit: The buyer and our team view this opportunity as a mutual fit
    • Aligned: We are engaging with this buyer in a collaborative buy-sell process
    • Competition: We perceive that we can differentiate and win.
    • Timeline: The timeline for the sales process and implementation are realistic and achievable.
  • We are executing our competitive strategy (if any competitors).
  • We have jointly agreed the value proposition with the buyer
  • We are co-creating a proposal
  • Decision maker and influencer issues have been identified and addressed
  • Buyer recognizes we have a compelling business advantage.
  • We know and are managing the decision process and timeline
  • We have a political strategy. We understand the informal influences which may impact the client decision. We can convert them to favorable or mitigate the threat.
  • We have put forward a strawman proposal
(Added Stage for Complex Sales) Highly Likely
  • Our active selling is complete, and the client views our solution as superior to all other alternatives and they are processing the final agreements.
  • We have verbal commitment from key decision makers.
  • We are finalizing the proposal and getting the necessary paperwork signed by the client.
  • Our coach has pressure-tested it within the client decision chain (that is positive).
  • We have date for a final presentation (if needed).
  • Terms are agreed / open issues identified with plans to address.
  • We have a signed contract
  • We a plan for follow-on work
  • Account management practices are active
  • We tier customer based on factors like CLTV / Strategic and Referral Value / Fit
  • We are delighting customer and converting them to advocates and referral partners.


Enable with the Technology Stack

If you are building an integrated marketing and sales process, you should consider an integrated technology stack. With the need for front office integration and a greater focus account-based marketing (ABM), more companies are recognizing the need to execute an integrated revenue process supported by a single view of the customer.  A single view of the customer requires centralized customer data with insights drawn from across touchpoints.

Among the challenges of using separate technology for marketing and sales is the difficulty maintaining, augmenting, cleaning and analyzing customer data.  If you need to maintain separate CRM and Marketing Automation, it is important to consider the degree to which the different systems can be integrated and how data flows between them.

Small and medium sized businesses can take advantage of more integrated systems that combine marketing and sales functionality on a single database architecture. For some of our mid market clients, we deploy SharpSpring, an integrated solution with a single centralized prospect and customer database.

If we can help you consider your end-to-end process design and underlying technology stack, schedule a consultation.