8 min read  | Sales

Designing a Sales Process: The Buyer’s Journey, Deal Stages and the Sales Playbook

You have a complex product to sell, but you need a scalable sales process that effectively helps your salespeople articulate the benefits and capabilities that your product provides.

Big challenges arise when trying to sell smart, interconnected products. Smart products usually mean increased complexity, and your solution will not sell itself as they’re novel and a big unknown for most decision-makers.

The value of smart, interconnected products derives from integrating with other systems, both digital and physical.

This means that a salesperson needs to be included in the salesperson early on, or you risk potentially having to redesign, adding more costs and complexity, and risking making your product no longer meeting the requirements of the buyer.

If your sales department does not have an effective sales process, this can mean the difference between getting a high-value contract or missing out. An effective salesperson needs to know the buyer’s challenges, what the buyer’s journey looks like, buyer roles, responsibilities, how they are measured, and success factors.

To make this even more complicated, sales have to be included in the customer's planning process and involve multiple stakeholders.

This is why you need a way to define, document, implement, and evaluate your industry 4.0 sales process so that you can connect with more prospective buyers and close them.


Aligning with the buyer's journey

A sales process is the clearly defined steps a company takes from they are aware of the prospect until the prospect is a paying customer. The sales process also describes the methods of communication (the sales methodology, outreach tactics etc.) between the company’s sales department and the buyer.

The sales process is meant to give the salesperson some structure around the way they sell, but at the same time give them the freedom to personalize their approach to each individual buyer.

By defining the sales process and implementing it in your CRM, you have a way of tracking your potential deals. Usually, these steps will be tracked in columns that represent each stage of your sales process where you can move each individual deals as they progress towards a closed won or closed lost.

Most CRM systems come with default stages, but you will always need to customize the stages to represent your own process. Before you start to define the steps in your sales process, you need to have a clear understanding of who you are selling to.

Remember, selling is about helping the prospect to buy and you need to consider everything that has to happen from the buyer’s point of view to become your customer.

You win by personalizing the pitch to the buyer, and any sales playbook codification requires understanding the buyer better than your competitor. The buyer’s journey is the active research process a prospective buyer goes through before making a purchasing decision.

To align your sales process with the buyer’s journey, you need to map the most important touch points in a chronological order from both perspectives, then lay them out like a timeline.

It might look something like this:


Now, the next step is to translate these steps into deal stages that give your salespeople a clear understanding of what exit criteria each stage has, and what tasks they need to perform for each stage.


Defining the deal stages 

Now that you have identified the steps where the buyer can’t move ahead without a salesperson, you have clear exit criteria that describe what has to happen for a sale to move from one stage to another.

Here you can use one of many great available tools to manage your pipeline:


Source: Databox - 8 Best Tools & Tips for Managing Your Sales Pipeline Effectively


This is a framework that gives your salesforce some guardrails they can follow that still gives them enough freedom to adapt, be themselves, and adapt to the needs of each individual prospect.

After documenting the buyer's journey, you need to make your CRM the single source of truth in your company. This will help you to streamline your sales process, verify that each salesperson has gathered all the information they need, give you more accurate sales forecasting, and you can make sure that there is a next step planned.

The sales-process should be represented from a buyer-centric perspective, and not on the seller’s steps. This is why you should simplify the buyer’s steps and rename the deal stages according to what the salesperson thinks the buyer needs to accomplish to get to the purchase.

Let’s convert the buyer’s steps from the previous example above and turn them into short and easy to remember deal stages:

This is a subtle difference between a seller-centric and buyer-centric sales-process, but an important one. The number of stages is less important, but there needs to be enough stages to uphold engagement all the way through.

Now you can look at the sellers steps and turn these actions into tasks, email templates, outreach attempts, voicemail scripts and other ways to engage with prospective buyers:


Documenting your sales playbook

You have now aligned the steps in the sales process with the buyer’s journey, defined which deal stages to put into your CRM systems, and made a plan of the sequence of actions the salesperson needs to do to progress the deal.

The next step is to pick a sales methodology to follow and document it.

According to Pipedrive, the difference between a sales process and a sales methodology is that a sales process is a map over each deal stage, a sales methodology is a set of guiding principles that describes how the salesperson should behave in each stage.

A sales methodology will clarify your process, give salespeople an understanding of the type of objections and questions they need to handle in each step, and also create training material for new salespeople.

There are many sales methodologies out there such as solution-based or needs-based selling, but which one you should choose depends on which methodology works best for your target market.

No single sales methodology works for everyone, and there is nothing stopping you from mixing multiple sales methodologies. The best salespeople react to the individual needs of the buyer. The most important thing is to choose a methodology that helps your team execute a sales process that turns buyers into happy customers.

Sales methodology is outside of the scope of this article, but here is a list of some of the most popular ones B2B companies all over the world use today:

  • SPIN selling
  • Challenger Sales
  • Value Based Selling
  • Solution Selling
  • Inbound Selling


After going with a sales methodology, you need to document your sales playbook and make it easily accessible to your whole sales department so that they have knowledge about how to execute the sales process. Here you can use your CRM or a simple online wiki tool like You Need a Wiki.

A sales playbook will help your salespeople understand what they need to know about the product, your personas, target market, deal stages. The playbook should also contain what to say, such as product messaging, questions and talking points, and templates for emails, videos and voicemails.

For example, a sales playbook can give a quick overview of what pain points, features, KPIs and content that can be relevant to share when talking to a customer.


Implementing the sales process in your CRM

In your CRM, each stage of the sales process gets its own name and a weighted percentage associated with it based on the likelihood of the deal closing. You will also register an estimated close date based on the typical length of your sales cycle. This will help you to create a sales forecast in your sales dashboard that can be shared with your sales team, leadership or potential investors.

If we use the previous example in this article, the deal stages and their likelihood to close might look something like this:


These percentages are arbitrary values, making the forecasts best guesses to start with. However, over time you will refine your forecasts and get more data that will help you make them more accurate.


The sales forecast report will calculate future sales by multiplying the deal amount with the probability of the deal closing in the deal stage it is in. Let’s say you have a deal worth EUR 100.000, it will be presented as EUR 30.000 if the deal is in the “Intent” stage.

This is a simple, but effective report that indicates how you are doing. However, this assumes that you have set accurate probabilities for each stage. The truth is that your sales process will never be perfect, and will require iteration and refinement over time.

After all, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. After creating and documenting your sales playbook, you need to continually evaluate how things are working. Your sales process is never perfect and requires improvement and iteration.

By using a CRM like HubSpot, you can track important key performance indicators such as sales activity metrics, pipeline metrics, lead generation metrics, outreach metrics and much more.



So, to review. To create an effective sales process for your industry 4.0 company, you need to complete the following steps:

1) Align the your sales process with the buyer's journey
2) Define the deal stages in a buyer-centric way
3) Pick a sales methodology and document it in a wiki
4) Implement the sales process and methodology in your CRM
5) Use your CRM to evaluate, refine and forecast.

Does your industry 4.0 have a solid sales process? If not, now you have a simple way to make a great one.