Introducing the Essential Sales Process

Having a good sales process helps the sales team qualify, plan and track their opportunities, supports accurate and consistent forecasting, and ultimately helps drive up win rates and revenues. However, many traditional sales processes remain unpopular with sales people as they are seen as too heavyweight, don’t match the way that teams actually sell, and lack the inherent agility to truly support them in their endeavours.

In a previous blog post I introduced a number of ideas to help improve sales processes, namely: separation of concerns, the power of checklists, and focusing on outcomes. In this post I’ll introduce the Essential Sales Process, which embodies these ideas.

Essential Sales Process is a complete B2B solution sales process, originally conceived as a pack of cards, and now available in digital form, as a browser-based app. The card format was chosen due to the popularity of cards and Kanban boards within the lean and agile communities, and because they encourage a highly visual and collaborative approach.

Our intent with the Essential Sales Process was to create an approach that is:

  • Generic: will apply to any B2B solution selling situation
  • Holistic: covers all aspects of the solution selling process
  • Flexible: will work with most/any opportunity lifecycles
  • Agile: empowers the sales team and fosters responsiveness and collaboration
  • Accurate: supports solid qualification, forecasting and reporting.

The complete Essential Sales Process is 48 cards in total:

  • 1 context card, which introduces the various aspects of the sales process
  • 7 aspect cards, which describe the aspects and introduce their states (or maturity levels)
  • 40 state cards, which describe the states in terms of outcome-based checklists.

The aspects are defined as follows:

Opportunity: a potential business transaction or relationship that provides mutual value to us and the customer. This aspect is focused on the customer’s pain, and the value of fixing that pain.

Customer: the organisation who we plan to do business with, including all business units, teams and individuals who are within the scope of the opportunity. They may be an existing customer, a new group within an existing customer, or a brand new prospect. This aspect focuses on the customer relationship.

Requirements: the complete set of needs of the various stakeholders within the customer organisation, within the context of the current opportunity.

Solution: the combined products and/or services we will offer to the customer to solve their pain or problem and realise the business value.

Contract: the formal commercial agreement by which we will do business with the customer, and the people and processes involved in making that happen. A contract may be in the form of a purchase order, statement of work, master agreement, or some other form dependent on the context of the opportunity and the customer relationship.

Strategy: the over-arching plan for how the team will work together to win the opportunity. The strategy will also include tactical plays which the team executes.

Team: the team of people who will work with the customer to understand the requirements, build the solution, and execute the strategy to win the opportunity. A team may be well-established, or formed specifically to work on an individual opportunity.


Each of the aspects is further described as 5 or 6 states, which represent increasing maturity levels, e.g. the Customer aspect progresses like this: Connected > Communicating > Engaged > Committed > On-board > Satisfied.


Each state or maturity level is defined by a checklist based on verifiable outcomes. This allows each aspect to be independently tracked as the opportunity is developed and progresses towards closure.

The way the process works is simple: if we have achieved all the outcomes defined in the checklists, then we have achieved that state, or maturity level, for that aspect of the process, and we can move onto the next one.

The checklists are based on several decades of solution selling experience, which has included using many different sales processes within a diverse range of large and small companies.

There a number of usage scenarios where the cards work really well: qualification, planning, forecasting, and pipeline governance. I’ll talk more about these scenarios in future blog posts.

In the meantime, you can learn more about the Essential Sales Process app here and sign up for a free trial.