Back to basics: how financial institutions can effectively optimize their corporate sales process

What the sales process means for your financial institution

A true sales process is an internal methodology that contains steps from lead qualification to lead closure. A common definition of sales process is pretty obvious and not a novelty. It is a set of steps and activities from receiving a lead to deal closure. The majority of banking institutions in the
industry today have sales process in place. Nevertheless, there is a huge gap between having one and acting on it. Not that many institutions use
their own sales process as an internal sales methodology. Even less monitor and measure it on a regular basis or provide feedback to sales  managers and have it automated in the CRM.

Re-defining the term helps institutions to evaluate and ensure the success of a sales process installation. It has to become an internal sales blueprint that contains a set of well-thought actions from lead qualification to deal closure which are fully integrated into financial institution’s ecosystem and drive sales
behavior that create value by providing a big impact on sales results. When implemented correctly, the sales process is accepted by sales managers as the tool that improves their productivity and performance. Once defined, sales managers commit to act on the efficient, scalable sales process, which entails much more than following steps and sequences,  and includes a complete transformation to a customercentric, value-based sales model.

Pipeline for corporate sales

sales pipeline

Refined view on the eight stages of the sales pipeline. Before going into further investigations on what the pipeline for corporate-level sales should look like, let’s define core for the sales process. It definitely should be based on the pipeline stages and actions, which takes place inside every sequence.

There is a lot of buzz around seller vs customer pipeline approaches, but we consider sales as a proactive act, believing that an ideal sales process should be based on the sales pipeline. Despite the fact that the sales pipeline is not a new topic, it is still quite difficult to find the appropriate model that could be applicable for corporate level sales. While outlining an effective and methodically followed sales process, driven by the specific business needs and workflow pain points, as well as strategic corporate objectives related to business development, the first step should be a careful process mapping the stages in the sales pipeline. This mapping helps institutions to identify the source of bottlenecks and waste, and to
help determine how inefficient processes can be improved to add more value.

Steps definition

opportunity sales

Sales process has to be connected to a customer journey through the funnel. After the processes and stages are fully understood, we can explore every step of the funnel and define the benefits of the model. Each stage in the process has its own objective and set of activities combined in the subprocess. Ultimately, the sales process has to connect with the lead generation pipeline, account management and service delivery stages ideally powered with automation software. A CRM system would help to
determine the probability of closing, measuring the progress of a prospect through stages of the sales pipeline; allow sales managers to monitor “the feeling” of how a deal might progress through the set of emoticons. As well as provide tips and raise flags to ensure that no step or information has been missed throughout the entire customer journey – from lead generation to cross sales and loyal customers. Now let’s have a closer look at each stage.

1. Qualification

sales process automation

On this stage, it’s very important to assign an owner to the lead while focusing on the key indicator of qualification which is an arranged meeting. When a qualified lead rates high on both attractiveness and engagement, it becomes a sales qualified lead. Typically, four main questions need to be answered on the lead generation/BANT (Budget, Authority, Needs, Timing) qualification step:

  • Does a customer have a sufficient budget?
  • Are the decision makers engaged in selection or at least identified?
  • Does a client have an identified need for your product or services?
  • Is the timeframe for the deal identified?

If there are answers to all of the questions, BANT qualified – it’s time to tap the client and create an opportunity in the CRM. Some financial organizations are assigning a sales manager even though only three of the questions are answered (BANT-1). If a lead was not qualified as an opportunity it should be passed back in the funnel for the lead nurturing process to be reapplied.

Key actions during this step are the arrangement of an initial  meeting, the opportunity creation in CRM, owner assignment and determination of the exact date and time for the first meeting.

2. Needs Analysis

sales bpm

The main purpose of the stage is to collect all initial information on a client, realize client’s requirements, needs and pain points. Proposing the solution is a mirror of the Needs Analysis – all received information should be used for customization of the presentation and proposal, and become a basis for the sales play, or tactical moves in the sales process. The information gleaned from a needs analysis includes initial research on potential decision makers through company website, industry portals, professional social networks and other sources, checking whether sales rep or his/her colleagues have contacts inside the organization or know somebody from that company. All that data should be entered or linked into CRM. The Next step is a discovery call or meeting that provides sales rep with an understanding of client’s requirements, expectations etc.

We recommend the use of formalized questionnaires which touch different areas of the client’s business and needs.

3. Presentation

sales automation

The goal for this step is to prepare a killer presentation or product demonstration. From a process standpoint a company should ensure that all sales reps use relevant and not outdated templates or content. As practice confirms, reinventing the wheel by of creating separate presentation for every client does not prove to be effective. At the same time, the presentation should contain all the necessary information to  address identified requirements.

Actions here can be divided into three main categories:
preparation, presentation and debriefing. Process approach and automation should help sales reps to tap the right template and use all existing knowledge and relevant experience inside an organization to move closer to winning the deal. In that perspective, the data collected for the presentation and debriefing including competitive analysis and the observation of the history of the deal, helps to develop the most effective sales play. Finally, the result of the presentation should be debriefed and saved as a SWOT analysis, with the information on key participants and their attitude clearly identified. The use of emoticons to express sales managers feelings about the meeting provides better apprehension of how to proceed in the following stages.

On this stage, it’s very important for the sales reps to double check whether all key influencers will attend a meeting or at least acknowledged the invite and there is no schedule conflicts with other vital activities in their agendas.

4. Proposal Development

The main purpose of this stage is to coordinate all activities around proposal preparation in order to submit it on time, addressing all identified needs, requirements and expectations. It’s fair to state that a lot of financial organizations get stuck on this stage having to go through a lot of silos and approvals. However, this doesn’t mean that approvals should be ignored. Moreover, the lack of appropriate reviews can potentially lead to a lot of damage to the organization. The solution lays in the streamlined and automated process that orchestrates all stages of proposal development including calculation, content preparation and approvals. Engagement and collaboration is very important on this stage so a traditional process should be empowered by the enterprise social network (ESN) or even gamification.

sales busines process management

5. Proposal Submission

In order to succeed on this stage it’s important to ensure that the  document was submitted or presented on time. A poorly executed proposal can diminish months of excellent sales effort. It is also imperative to remember that sales proposal is a critical customer communication and as such may contain a series of feedbacks/checks and confirmations. As a  work in progress type of document, the proposal can be amended if  necessary with information reflecting the most recent discoveries from the previous stages. Based on the proposed terms and conditions outlined in the documents, a sales play might undergo further adjustments.

6. Negotiations

The key challenge here is to ensure that sales rep tapped the right negotiation strategy. The negotiation can be an art, or a science. Or all of them in the single interaction. Sales negotiations might take place over a series of meetings, conversations and phone calls, or can begin and end within minutes. It’s crucial to provide an ability to counter promptly, speed up and manage all communications during this step. This should be a very dynamic part of the process with close supervision. The ability to set up the right tempo of activities and contact in order to speed up the path and be able to react immediately on all additional request and other feedback is crucial. If the negotiations drag on for too long, this indicates that an error occurred, and the lead has to bounce back to the needs analysis. A good advice here would be to create a detailed plan for follow-ups and additional contacts, which adds versatility to the process.

During negotiation it is also useful to add content for sharing, which might be an additional presentation or other piece of content.

7. Contracting

For each step in the contract management process, the right approach prevents clogs and speed up sales cycles. Automating this process saves time and adds value to each step of the contract’s lifecycle. The right process should help to manage all interactions inside an organization and plan of activities with a client in order to sign the contract quickly and not get stuck. Full-featured contracting management systems should afford the complete visibility and control over any given contract from its inception to its renewal.

Organizing the contracting stage allows to focus on closing sales, while spending less effort on jumping the hurdles in the process.

8. Closing

sales process

When its time to close the sale, the opportunity is either a win, a loss, a rerouted opportunity or a rejected deal. The most important action on this stage is to evaluate the results. Winning is celebrated through analyzing the reasons for success by sifting through the information on why the company was selected, what sales play was successful and so for. The next
step is to ensure the transition of the deal to the back office.

When a sales manager loses a deal, its imperative to know why. A sales team can learn from the mistakes by looking into the data that is accurately record in the CRM. It should be mandatory for every manager to record a lost reason for every lost opportunity. This feedback is vital for other departments such as marketing or business development to quickly fix possible issues or review marketing messages.

Finally, opportunities could be either rerouted or rejected. In case of the rejection the analysis of the things that went wrong helps to keep the record straight and make better grounds for the future successes. The rerouted coding marks a path to bouncing back to the lead generation process and the next BANT
check. Either/or – the process has to be clear, solid and workable as we drift down to the conclusions.

On this stage, it’s imperative to evaluate the performance identifying ups and downs of the sales play in sets of recorded entries.


Having established the stages of an enterprise level sales pipeline, organizations can implement a number of the recommendations outlined to ensure your process remains effective through a continuous improvement approach. A few rules of thumb to ensure proper enactment of the corporate sales process:
• Regularly inspect processes and look for potential failure points, such as deal handoff or special pricing approval. Set up appropriate metrics to measure process efficiency.
• Identify best practices inside the organization and distribute them among the entire organization.
• Process should be part of the training courses. Managers and supervisors need to be coached on how to provide feedback to stuff based on the processes, which should be reviewed at least once a year.

Delivering a process-centric approach to the sales process is what breaks down the traditionally dysfunctional boundaries of a failing process. Treating it as a sales methodology helps to set a comprehensive, end-to-end process that is driven by customer behaviour changes requirements. This approach provides the highest value to the organization, which in turn gives an ability to deliver superior customer experience. A process approach can help financial institutions to sell more dynamically, collaborate more efficiently and get better results.


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