What is a Sales Process?
Giving your sales teams the tools they need is essential to finding success. A big part of that is the sales process.
Not only does it allow your agents a map they can follow to ensure success and continuity, but it’s a safety net to ensure no contact is overlooked, no one falls between the cracks, and you’re talking to each and every person in your funnel.
That’s what we’re covering: how to put a process behind your sales initiatives to help you reach your goals and become the agency you’ve envisioned.
This blog will discuss what a sales process is and how to set one up in your agency. We’ll discuss the sales process, sales cycle, and more to help your agency best prepare to use sales management software and know what your team needs.
SuperOffice defines a sales process as “a set of repeatable steps that a salesperson takes to take a prospective buyer from the early stage of awareness to a closed sale.”
Skyword defines a sales cycle as “the process that companies undergo when selling a product to a customer. It encompasses all activities associated with closing the sale.”
The sales process and sales cycle go hand-in-hand, but for the purposes of this blog, this is how they’ll differ:
- A sales cycle is the time it takes for someone to go from a lead to a client. It can be broken down into stages (i.e., Qualified to Quoting, Quoting to Proposal Presented), or represent the entire cycle. For example, a Medicare client may have a sales cycle (Opportunity to Closed) of 25 days, but the stages of Qualified to Quoted is only 6 days.
- A sales process is the steps you take or the “map” you follow for the journey to adding a new client. It's what happens within the sales cycle that helps you stay on track to reach your overall sales cycle goal—for example, 25 days for a Medicare client.
Crafting Your Sales Process
"Building a sales process is absolutely necessary to your company’s success, and is perhaps the most important thing you can do as a sales manager to impact your team’s ability to sell.”
Your agency should have a few processes in place to fit your different types of business. Each group has its own set of needs and will require different steps and lengths of time to nurture and convert.
For example, your new business sales process should look different than your cross-selling sales process.
It’s important to note that no sales process example you find online will fit your agency perfectly. Take the ideas from this blog to create your agency's unique sales processes. Just remember what makes a sales process successful:
- It’s all-encompassing
- It’s repeatable
- It’s sustainable
A sales process includes every action that happens during the sales experience. It includes follow-ups, the reconnects, qualifying, and presentations.
If there are holes in your process, your sales team will be less likely to stick to it. Plus, it will make training new agents more difficult.
Take into account the different products you sell and the different groups you sell to. Those different products and groups of people will require different processes. For example, individual business vs. group business or ACA vs. Medicare.
“A sales process is a clear, repeatable process that enables your reps to understand exactly what they need to do to succeed.”
If you cannot consistently repeat your sales process or easily teach it to a new employee, then your sales process is unlikely to be followed.
To make it repeatable, your sales process should run seamlessly from one step to the next. Yes, of course, there will be outliers that go from step 1 to step 2 to step 3 to step 2 to step 4—there will always be those circumstances. Just like you’ll have outliers that jump straight to step 4. However, it’s important to have processes that represent the vast majority of the sales you have.
Your process must account for the majority to create the map everyone can follow; then, each agent can deal with the outliers as they come.
The steps are there to ensure nothing is missed, everything is checked off your list, and your opportunity is fully taken care of throughout the process. Not having those steps that lay out expectations for your agents and producers means that sales cycles could vastly differ, things will go undone, and prospects and clients may not be as happy—which can affect both conversion and client retention rates.
Similar to being repeatable, your process must be sustainable. This means that it’s something your team can maintain for the long term.
If your process is too laborious, has too many steps, or requires your agents to check off too many things, they will start to gravitate away from it. Keep it simple and keep it relevant.
Your process should be a living process—something you improve on as you grow and learn. It actually should not stay stagnant because the industry does not stay stagnant, and your clients' and prospects' needs do not stay stagnant.
Make sure your process encompasses everything, but does so in a simple, straightforward, and easy to follow way.
How to Start Building Your Sales Process
Typically, any sales process will have at least 5 steps; however, your process's complexity and how “into the weeds” each step gets will ultimately determine this number.
A step (or stage) is like a milestone. Each step is a place for the agent to check off that they completed the task, or, like in AgencyBloc, move the person, group, or product to the next stage in the pipeline.
When creating your process, start by asking yourself this question from Nutshell: What is the first thing that your sales reps do to connect with a potential buyer, and what is the last thing they do to finish the sale?
Answering this question will help you decide which steps your process needs and the map your agents usually follow for a sale. As Nutshell states: “align [your steps] with the key phases in your customer’s typical decision-making process.”
Start with what you have, then refine to create a process that is all-encompassing, repeatable, and sustainable.
The 5 Steps Every Health & Life Insurance Sales Process Has
After researching and consulting many different sales processes, these are the five steps usually present:
Let’s dive into each of these steps and terms in-depth.
Lead: An individual or organization that might be interested in the product or service that you are selling
Prospect: A type of lead; usually one that’s already interested in your products/services and wants to/is talking with someone in sales
You cannot start a sales process if you don’t have a lead or prospect to reach out to. Step one is bringing in the lead or prospect. This can be done through a few different ways:
- They fill out a lead form
- You purchase the lead from a lead vendor
- A referral
- Other prospecting methods
Regardless of how you acquire the new lead or prospect, you must connect with them immediately. Why? Because:
- 50% of leads go to the first salesperson to reach out
- Your odds of conversion fall by 400% when your response time increases from 5 minutes to just 10 minutes
- 30% of leads are never contacted at all
Therefore, the faster you make contact, the better your chances of winning and converting that prospect. Speed-to-contact can be your differentiator. Using an agency management system (AMS) with built-in lead automation helps you be aware of leads sooner, connect with them quicker, and improve your chances of converting them.
Connect & Qualify
Opportunity (Opp): A potential sale; created when the agent meets with the lead or prospect and qualifies them
Qualified: Sometimes the first stage in the sales process, Qualified means that the opp has been vetted and is ready for the next step in the sales process
The qualification step is a crucial one. It’s when you turn a lead or a prospect into an opportunity. After the initial meeting and discussion, your agent can decide if the person or group will remain a lead or if they’re interested now and should be qualified as an opportunity.
The term “opportunity” is pretty standard throughout the industry, but it can also be referred to as a “deal” or “sale.”
The qualification step is your chance to connect with the person or group, decide what they need/how you can help, then determine the next steps.
Needs Analysis Started: Where the agent/producer is researching and discovering the individual’s/group’s needs
Proposal Presented: When an agent/producer has presented a proposal of options to the opportunity and is waiting for feedback
Proposal Accepted: When the individual or group has accepted the proposal and the agent/producer is gathering paperwork for submission
These steps are the decision-making ones. You’ve met the individual/group, learned their needs, and are now showing them how you specifically can fill their needs. You may want to expand this step for some types of coverage, like life insurance.
Proposal Presented is an area where you can add more steps. It’s the presentation of plans and products you think would fit your opportunity the best. If they accept, they could be moved into another step, like Proposal Accepted.
Another option for the step is Needs Analysis Started to show that the next step for the opportunity’s journey is well underway. The Needs Analysis Started step is when the agent/producer researches and pulls together ideas to service the individual’s/group’s needs.
Depending on your process, you may include all of these steps, a couple, or just stick to one. Regardless, it’s good to have a step like this in your process to show there is work being done, and the opportunity is not just sitting idly in Qualified.
The other benefit of having a step here is for better documentation and analysis of your processes. If you run a report and see you have 50 opportunities sitting in Qualified, that may be troublesome. But, digging deeper, you may learn:
- 15 just moved there
- 20 are waiting for the agent/producer to put together a plan
- 10 have the plans in their hands and are making a decision
- 5 have accepted the plan and are waiting on paperwork
That is valuable information to know because it informs your sales cycle and gives you better visibility on what’s happening within your book of business.
Paperwork Submitted: When the paperwork has been completed and submitted to a carrier(s) for approval
Sometimes called "App Submitted" or "Sold Case Paperwork Submitted," this step is the logical last step before an opportunity closes.
So far you've:
- Met with & qualified the opportunity
- Learned what they need
- Presented options to them
- Received confirmation from the opportunity on which policy they'd like to move forward
Now it's time to submit the policy for approval.
During this time, a few things can happen:
- Underwriting may occur
- Multiple backs and forths with the carriers may happen
- A census is taken for group coverage
You may have the application sent back requiring additional analysis or information, so make sure you put that time into your sales cycle to ensure you’ve given yourself the space you need to move through this step in the right amount of time.
Closely monitor your entire app submission process by utilizing workflow automation to inform you when an app is submitted, rejected, and approved. Learn more about how Automated Workflow in AgencyBloc can help you better manage your policies.
Closed Lost: When you lose an opportunity or a new policy is not written and enrolled
Closed Won: When you’ve won an opportunity
Closed is the final and most important step. Closed is when you define who you've won, who you've lost, and the reasons behind those losses.
Using this insight, you can better understand your entire sales process and cycle to make meaningful changes and know how to proceed in the future.
For example, here at AgencyBloc, we may list an opportunity as a Closed Lost — X Integration. This means the opportunity needed X Integration to be completely successful with their efforts. If we lose their business because of this gap, we mark them as Closed Lost — X Integration.
Then, in the future, when we launch a partnership with X Integration, we can circle back with those opportunities to convey the exciting news and see if we are now a good fit for their needs.
You can do something similar if it’s a product you don’t offer or a specific carrier you’re not certified for currently. Marking them Closed Lost with a reason gives you the insight you need to move forward. Then, in the future, when you’re looking at potential new verticals, carriers, or locations, you can refer back to your Closed Losts and determine how viable each option is.
AgencyBloc is client-funded and client-directed. We take input directly from our clients to determine where we go, how we proceed, and what enhancements we make. We receive much of that feedback from our Closed Lost opportunities to help us remain focused on our audience and their needs.
Regardless of your specific business, you can use Closed Lost to improve your business and aim to fulfill your target audience's needs.
Managing Your Sales Process in AgencyBloc
AgencyBloc’s Sales Pipeline gives you the power to build your sales processes and sales cycles from the ground up.
You can build different Pipelines for different products, carriers, lines, etc. Just choose the following:
- What type of products/services the Pipeline will track (group sales, Medicare, ancillary, etc.)
- Who you want to have access to the Pipeline (which sales team you associate)
- How many stages/steps you want and what each one will be called
- How long it takes to progress through each specific stage (i.e., 5 days for Qualified to Paperwork Submitted)
Using the Sales Pipeline in AgencyBloc, you can better manage your sales team’s initiatives, move prospects and products more seamlessly through your funnel, and put more processes behind your sales efforts.
Integrate the steps we discussed throughout this blog to determine which Pipelines you need in AgencyBloc, which stages you want to include, and your sales cycle length.
Just remember the three key parts of a successful sales process:
- It’s all-encompassing
- It’s repeatable
- It’s sustainable