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What are Standard Operating Procedures?

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You’ve heard the terms ‘standard operating procedures’ or SOPs, but what are they really?

They may be a tool that can take your business from treading water, or perhaps sinking a bit, to swimming in the fast lane. 

If your operations lack consistency in quality work, it could be that you do not have clearly defined operating standards. With no standard procedure in place, workers perform their tasks in the manner and method they individually select. Often, this leads to disappointing results in operational efficiency, quality of service or products, and ultimately, customer satisfaction. In addition, if the customer cannot depend on a consistent service or product delivered by your team, they are likely to choose another business partner. 

If you have experienced opportunities in the areas mentioned above, developing or improving your standard operating procedures may be your answer. 

What are Standard Operating Procedures?

Standard operating procedures or more commonly known as SOPs, are documented, specific procedures for your business, organization, or activities. The standard operating procedures outline a set of step-by-step instructions or guidelines to help the employees or associates carry out their routine operations. By including the essential steps of a procedure, you equip your employees to perform their work efficiently with the quality of the work or product delivered with uniform standards.


Additional benefits of creating and maintaining Standard Operating Procedures are:

  • Clear communication of what to do
  • Reduction in waste, both material and time
  • Consistent compliance adherence
  • Improved profitability

Well-written Standard Operating Procedures consider safety standards, industry regulations, governmental laws, and your business or organization’s policies and mission statement.

Most businesses and organizations have a competitor. However, each has its unique approach to the industry in which it operates. You and your organization undoubtedly have the niche that makes you stand out from the competition. That difference, that unique method or way of doing business, should stand out in how you and your team accomplish tasks, even small ones. The consistency of your employee’s ability to deliver that unique, memorable way or thing is having the ‘how to do it well’ documented and available to them. 

Deeper View

What does the Standard Operating Procedure look like in the real world? Let’s consider an example. After reviewing recent performance, you determine that your new client list is an opportunity for improvement. Without new clients, the potential for meeting your goals or margins will be very challenging. You have assembled a talented team of employees who are hard at work, but all use their own individual methods with immensely varied results. 

With this careful analysis of the opportunity, you determine that your business needs a standard operating procedure for how to acquire new clients.

The first element of your new client’s Standing Operating Procedure is to define its purpose. 

Purpose: This Standard Operating Procedure guides business and sales development professionals as they acquire new clients over the phone and via email.

Next, include detailed steps for how you want the process to work. The result will be a process that becomes the standard to duplicate and document.

Procedural Steps:

  • Develop a list of potential clients (Utilize former client list and other appropriate methods)
  • Locate potential clients’ email addresses and phone numbers
  • Send an email using our company template, to each potential client to explain how each product can benefit them. (Template is in the e-folder labeled: New Client Email)
  • If the potential client responds, schedule a phone call at their earliest convenience, use the phone conversation guide. (Phone conversation guide is in the e-folder labeled: New Client Phone Guide)
  • Complete the phone conversation and send any interested clients’ information to the sales manager via email.
  • Sales Manager enters Potential New Client into Sales Database and assigns to the employee for client management.


Consider how a standard process of prospecting new clients will benefit the current workforce. Another great benefit to standardizing the process is onboarding new team members. The new team member will quickly adapt to your culture and strategy. This reduced learning curve will enhance performance and improve productivity and profitability.

The subsequent steps will build on that foundation and create a united effort with the same methods and purpose in clear sight.

Does your company or organization need improvement in unity? Consider your current process and whether it is building the future you want.

The above-listed six steps bring continuity and accountability. Continuity, in that all employees will be working the same methods. Each email will be written in the same style and contain product information benefits. Following up with clients in the same manner will keep the flow of communication with clients consistent should change occur within your organization’s sales team assignments. Finally, the Sales manager with an activity record will be better equipped to coach and train the sales team more effectively. The benefit to you is having a clear vision of all activities taking place with new clients. Knowing what your future client base looks like will impact other business decisions.

The Standard Operating Procedure is a simple yet effective tool to bring your opportunity to a straightforward, focused improvement method.

Business Needs

Your business needs may have little to do with new client sourcing; it may be one of the following needs.

Lack of Consistency in Quality of Product Production 

Repeat business depends on delivering the same quality product every day, so a detailed ‘how to’ in production is needed.

Customer Interactions

Reviews or observations not indicating your customers are receiving consistent interactions and responses in communication from your team of employees. Standardize the expectation to reduce or eliminate undesired results.

Safety in the workplace

Nothing can derail the culture and profitability of a business faster than an unsafe work environment. 

Standard Operating Procedures with safety as a priority is essential to protecting your employees and customers.

Tracking Employee Expenses

The approval process for employee expenses, such as:

  • The amount and purpose
  • Documented receipts retention method
  • Disciplinary actions for abusing the process


As you can see, regardless of what type of business you are leading, there is a process involved, and outlining standard operating procedures are necessary. They should be well-documented and accessible to your team.

Check out the following links for more information on how you can use standard operating procedures for your business.

7 Best Practices for Standard Operating Procedures

How to Write Standard Operating Procedures

Top 10 Tools for Standard Operating Procedures

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To overcome challenges, SOP Hero professionals go beyond traditional attitudes to SOP development by taking a holistic, hands-on approach to discovering and documenting your Standard Operating Procedures. 

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