How Many Steps Should Your Sales Process Have?

01 December 2021

How often are you making contact with the prospects that have expressed interest in your business? At what point do you give up and decide you have wasted enough time on them?

You lose more business from prospects who fail to decide than from those who say no.

Businesses with an optimal number of sales process steps have stronger sales pipelines and generate more revenue. The metaphor of a ‘pipe’ is apt: if you do not have enough brackets holding it up, then the pipe cracks and the water leaks out. So no matter how many leads you pour in from your excellent marketing strategies, they do not make it to the final destination if the conversion funnel is weak. Equally, too many brackets are not only an unnecessary waste of your resources but could also work against you and end up limiting your pipeline.

Take a look at our advice on building a successful lead funnel here.

So, how do you build a sales pipeline that has the optimal number of sales process steps for your business?

Here, I revisit the results of an analysis of 50,000 sales leads and the conclusion on what the optimal number of stages in your sales process should be, depending on the size of your targets.

First things first

Go back to the sales funnel in your business and analyse how many sales attempt steps are built into it. How many are truly being implemented? Could you be making this conversion process even better?

Don’t have a formal sales process? Start by reading this article on the customer journey and perfecting the sales process.

I recently got asked a question – how many sales attempts need to be made to work a lead effectively?

A very pertinent question, because commonly, when there is a lack of sales process, without the optimum number of contacts built-in, it results in a weaker pipeline and a huge amount of wastage of both money and time.

Now, to have a sustainable pipeline with proper growth occurring, this is what you need to think through:

What is my sales process?

How many sales attempts or contact points do I need to make with my prospects to improve the conversion?

How can I maximise the profitability of marketing and other efforts?

You may have heard me share this with you before but I wanted to revisit the result of a study into sales touchpoints. The analysis was conducted on 50,000 sales leads and covered all sizes of business, so it is a very interesting analysis and it should give you a very clear indicator to assess your current sales process.

More than you think

If you are dealing with small business markets, it has been found that 5 sales attempts are optimum, if done effectively. If you are targeting the mid-market, then the number that you need to focus on is 8 – so, you need to make 8 sales attempts, before you can think of maximising the profit.

At the corporates and enterprise-level, as you can imagine, the lead time is significantly greater. More contact is required because of gatekeepers and the difficulty of reaching out to the decision-maker. This leads to a higher number of ideal attempts at a sale and what has been found is that 12 is the sweet spot.

So much about sales is down to emotion but there are other important factors too. Read more about building confidence and rapport in sales here.

Never give up too soon

If you ever find yourself giving up, after just 3 calls or a couple of emails back and forth, wondering why you aren’t getting anywhere then consider what else needs to be done. Try to ensure you are making the number of contact points count and spread them across different methods. Email them, call them or send them something in the post.

You may find that poor salespeople complain about it being too hard a sale or putting it down to bad luck but if you own an SME and the optimum number of sales attempts should be 5, then you are potentially missing out on a lot of revenue by moving on so quickly.

You can read more about why your salespeople may be failing here.

I thought this was an important finding to share with you again and a chance for you to go back to the drawing board for your sales process if you need to. Have a look at it, and see what attempts are being built in, what touchpoints are being built in before you decide on giving up on a lead, or making your conversion even better – so that you can have more profitability.

If you would like to hear more about this or any other issue you may be facing in your business right now, please feel free to get in touch with our expert business coaches below.


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