Sales Strategy: 7 Essential Steps to Building a Successful Process
When working within a business, it’s easy to get into the mindset of just wanting to get things done. However, much like warfare, if you charge into battle without a proper sales strategy, you’re running blind.
This means anything that jumps out to try and get you is more than likely going to succeed.
However, if you take a step back and take the time to plan and organise yourself and your team, you’re greatly increasing your chances of success.
With a well-organised and properly implemented sales strategy, not only will you and your team be striving for gold, but you’ll also be able to identify risks, tie up loose ends and address problems before they become too much to deal with.
What is a sales strategy
A sales strategy is plan that outlines how a business is going to sell its products or services. It’s a planned approach to identifying and qualifying prospects, sales presentation, policy formation, and order generation.
It answers the following three questions:
- What are we going to sell?
- Who will we sell to?
- What methods are we going to use to sell our offering?
A sales strategy enables a company to position itself and its offering in a meaningful way. It will usually include detailed processes and best practices that a company’s sales team can use to have an easier time selling the company’s products or services.
Creating a sales strategy will involve identifying a target market, performing competitive research, analyzing trends, and deciding on sales and promotion methods.
Types of sales strategies
Sales strategies can be divided into inbound and outbound strategies.
Inbound sales strategy
An inbound sales strategy relies on catering the sales process to buyer actions. It prioritizes customers’ interests, pain points, needs, and goals.
Sales reps that use an inbound sales strategy don’t try to push prospects to make a decision to purchase. Instead, they focus on creating a personalized sales approach that’s tailored to each specific prospect.
This usually involves informing, educating, and nurturing prospects through the decision-making process.
Companies that take an inbound approach to sales have automated ways of capturing buyer and seller data and monitoring their pipeline, and strive to integrate their marketing and sales teams to create a seamless buying experience.
These companies have a sales process that supports prospects throughout their customer journey. They participate in online conversations with potential buyers and offer personalized advice.
Outbound sales strategy
An outbound sales strategy is based on seller actions. It takes advantage of tactics such as cold calling and cold emailing to spread the message about a company’s product or service to a large number of people.
If you’re using an outbound sales strategy, you’re contacting leads instead of having them come to you. This is the main difference between inbound and outbound sales.
Companies that use an outbound sales strategy usually rely on manual data entry to keep track of their pipeline, and have sales and marketing teams that work independently.
The main advantage of an outbound sales strategy is that it provides immediate feedback and results. It’s also easier to scale compared to an inbound strategy – once you find what’s working, you just reach out to more prospects.
Successful B2B companies understand that both inbound and outbound sales strategies have their pros and cons. That’s why as much as 84% of them use a mix of both to reach their business goals.
Looking to know where to start when it comes to setting up your own effective sales strategy? Today, we’re going to explore seven key steps you need to understand to learn how to write a sales strategy, so you can plan, aim and fire to propel yourself to success.
The importance of your sales strategy
How much revenue your business can generate depends largely on the efficiency of your sales strategy. Having a defined sales strategy allows you to:
Address all your customers’ needs — Customers have different needs depending on where they are in their sales journey. While new customers might need to be educated on your products and its features, existing customers will need technical support and other forms of assistance. Creating a proper sales strategy allows you to address your customers’ needs at every stage of the sales journey.
Improve your sales team’s ROI — Creating a sales strategy forces you to take a closer look at what you’re already doing, which gives you the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of which sales tactics are working for you, and which tactics you should abandon. This, in turn, will allow you to maximize your results and improve your sales team’s ROI.
Hire the right people — Having the right people on your sales team is crucial if you want your business to grow. Defining a sales strategy will allow you to choose exactly the right people that can help you achieve your sales goals.
Creating a sales strategy will allow you to understand your target market better, as well as the reasons why your target audience should be buying from you. A good sales strategy should also address your unique selling points and all the ways you can communicate value.
Sales strategy vs. marketing strategy
While sales strategy and marketing strategy work in unison, it’s important to understand the differences between these two strategies. Your marketing strategy outlines the how you’re going to reach your target audience, including all the ways you’re going to promote your offering, as well as how you’ll achieve an advantage over your competition.
Your sales strategy, on the other hand, describes how you’re going to sell your product or service to your target audience. The purpose of your sales strategy should be to outline the most effective way of converting prospects into customers, as well as describe ways of converting one-time buyers into repeat customers.
Setting Up Your Sales Strategy and Starting from a Milestone
It’s completely impossible to set up an effective strategy without stepping back and taking note of where you and your business is sat currently.
Imagine you were trying to run a 100m sprint. Without looking around to see whether you’re on the starting line, 50m in or 200m behind, how are you going to know what you need to do to win?
Start by referring to your existing sales reports.
- How many sales did you make last year?
- What revenue you did you take and how much profit was that?
- Were most of your sales one-off purchases or did you attract a collection of long-term clients?
- What was the longest, and the shortest, sales cycle that your clients had with your business?
- Which members of your team made the most sales? To whom did you sell the most?
- Which of your clients brought in the most revenue?
- Where should you look for growth?
- What will your team need to achieve your new goals?
This stage includes looking at crucial sales metrics such as:
Opportunity win rate — The percentage of sales opportunities that your sales team converts into customers. Having an idea of your average opportunity win rate will allow you to produce more accurate sales forecasts, as well as set challenging sales targets to motivate your team.
Sales pipeline coverage (SPC) — A metric that shows if your team has enough opportunities to meet sales quota for a given period. Knowing your SPC allows you to understand how many opportunities your sales team needs to have at any given point.
Sales velocity — Shows how quickly leads are moving through your sales pipeline (i.e. how fast you’re making money).
Conduct meetings with your team to access where your business is sat currently, so you have a solid foundation on which to build your strategy.
Creating Detailed Target Customer Profiles
Statistically speaking, the majority of customers will get 80% of their revenue from 20% of their client base. Hand in hand with the consideration above, referring to your client reports so you can build up an accurate representation of your ‘dream’ customer.
You can do this by seeing which customers spent the most money in your business. This shows you clearly which customers are top and what they are looking for in your business.
“If you’re able to see exactly what your customers and clients want, you’ll be able to give it to them.” – James Gough, Sales Strategist at UK Top Writers
Creating a profile of your ideal customer will allow you to:
- Focus on high-quality leads — By having a clear idea of who your ideal customer is, you’ll be able to improve your sales and marketing efforts and have an easier time attracting and focusing on high-quality leads.
- Have an easier time meeting sales goals — Having a detailed ideal customer profile will allow you to gain a greater understanding of the best ways to reach your potential customers, as well as how to sell to them. This, in turn, will help you make more sales and have an easier time meeting your sales goals.
- Increase retention rate and customer lifetime value — An ideal customer profile can also help you improve your onboarding process and reduce customer churn, which will result in improving retention rate and customer lifetime value.
- Generate more referrals — Your ideal customers derive the most value out of your offering and will be happy to refer you to others.
How to create target customer profiles
To develop a target customer profile, start by analyzing your best customers. Consider their industry and location, as well as company size and budget. Think about their immediate and long-term goals, as well as the ways in which your product or service helps them reach these goals.
Interview your customers and ask them about the experience they’ve had with using your solution. Ask how they discovered your offering, why they decided to make a purchase, and let them tell you about all the ways they’ve benefited from your solution.
Here are a few questions you can use during your interview:
- What do you consider to be your biggest pain points?
- What sources did you use for researching potential solutions for your pain points?
- Do you rely on referrals to find solutions?
- Who makes purchasing decisions at your company?
Once you’ve conducted a few interviews, gather all the data and try to find what your customers have in common. Look for recurring patterns and characteristics that you can use to build your target customer profile.
Implementing SWOT Analysis
SWOT analysis is an important tool to implement into your business.
This is because it gives the ability to see if you’re able to expand your accounts and your business and how much by. The analysis will be able to tell you a tonne of information like this. Other factors include the likelihood of finding new and similar accounts and clients. It will also tell you your ability to handle new customers.
The main result that a SWOT analysis is able to see how you can use the strengths that your business has. You can then use these to make the most of the opportunities that you have in the future.
Additionally, you’ll also have the opportunity to become aware of and address some of the weaknesses and threats that your business has or may face.
There are always going to be both internal and external threats to your business that could set you back but identifying them now can help you address them early. This minimises the risk of problems in the future.
When conducting your SWOT analysis, try to be as specific and as detailed as possible.
The more detailed and the more accurate your SWOT analysis is, the more effective and precise the results will be, therefore becoming dramatically more beneficial.
When creating a SWOT analysis, you can try using tools like Mind Tools to help you create one that’s understandable and highly flexible.
The SWOT analysis considers your company’s:
- Strengths — This includes everything your company does well (e.g., your unique selling proposition, brand values, or team). Here are a few questions to help you identify your company’s strengths:
- What are the things customers love the most about your company or offering?
- What do you better than your competitors?
- What is your unique selling proposition?
- Weaknesses — Does your company have any specific weaknesses such as budget limitations or a lack of skilled employees? Use the following questions to determine your weaknesses:
- What do customers dislike about your company or offering?
- What issues do customers often mention in negative reviews of your product or service?
- What are the most common reasons customers decide to stop using your product or services?
- Opportunities — Includes any opportunities you might have available such as a rising need for your products or services, very little competition, etc. Consider the following questions to determine the opportunities that are available to you:
- How can you improve your sales process?
- How can you engage your brand advocates more effectively?
- Are there any tools you’re not leveraging to their full capacity?
- Threats — Anything that poses a risk to your company goes here. Examples include competitors, financial risks, and anything else that might potentially jeopardize your company. It’s best that you list as many threats as possible when doing a SWOT analysis. This will make sure that you’re keeping an eye on everything that might endanger your company.
The above elements can be further grouped into internal and external. Strengths and weaknesses are considered to be internal factors since they’re a result of decisions that are under your control. Threats and opportunities, on the other hand, are usually considered external factors since they’re not under your direct control.
Categorizing these four elements into internal and external can help you choose what to focus on, as well as decide on your next move.
Defining Your Market Strategy
Now that you’ve carried out the above steps to define exactly where your business is currently and gathered all the information you need to set up your sales strategy, it’s time to start building it.
This will be the foundation of your plan while moving into the future.
“Here, there are a collection of questions you’ll need to ask yourself in order to perfect this strategy building process. Try asking yourself things like ‘how much are you able to expand and grow your existing accounts?’ After all, it’s easier to target existing customers than it is to attract new ones” – explains Margaret Stribling, an editor at Boomessays.
Then, you’ll need to consider how much you can grow your business using your existing products to new and old customers and clients.
Additionally, consider how you can grow these target markets using new and innovative products that might be released over the course of the strategy.
When designing the basic areas of your sales strategy, try and customize your strategy to match the need of your top ten clients. This is because another ten customers like these in the long-term is the best way to profit as a business.
Setting Up Success-Orientated Revenue Targets
For many businesses, this is considered one of the most difficult areas of creating an effective sales strategy. Set the revenue targets too low, and it won’t be a challenge. Set them too high and it will be impossible to meet them.
However, using the annual information from the reports we’ve spoken about above, setting realistic sales targets should be easy. Like we said before, organizing and gathering the specific data you need is incredibly helpful.
When setting these targets, bring your sales, marketing and production teams together. This is so you can see what they have to say so you can work together to set achievable targets. For more information on how to get clear and realistic targets, head over to Grammarix or My Writing Way.
When setting revenue targets, you need to make sure not to set them so high that your team can never reach them while still making sure that they aren’t too conservative to be reached with ease. If you stray too far in either of these two directions, your sales strategy won’t be very effective.
Sales goals and revenue targets are a crucial part of your sales strategy. They help to:
- Establish expectations — Revenue targets give your sales team an idea of how much they’re expected to sell, as well as allow you to forecast sales more realistically.
- Motivate your sales team — By setting revenue targets, you’re also giving your sales team something to aim for, which, when combined with bonus incentives, can be very motivating.
- Improve your sales process — Having clear revenue targets and being able to compare them with actual results your sales team is generating allows you to improve your sales process by pinpointing any specific issues or bottlenecks that might be making your sales process less effective.
Using Clear Positioning (Communicating Effectively)
The sales strategy that you’ve created above should give you a clear indication of what you now need to do. Whether you’re focusing on sales, marketing or production, or all three, bring this information together to give yourself a clear idea of your ‘company positioning’.
However, this is something you’ll need to do yourself.
All the departments we mentioned above will need to work together on creating actionable plans. This can help you to communicate with new and existing customers that complement each other.
With everybody in your business clear on the position that the company is in, they’ll be minimal room for error. When trying to communicate information with your employees effectively, try using writing services like Big Assignments (as recommended by Best Australian Writers) or Assignment Help. This will be able to help you develop informative guides for your business to use.
Developing an Action Plan
Now it’s time to bring everything together into one complete action plan that your company can follow. Typically, sales reps are sent into work having to organise their own priorities and their own daily targets.
However, if, as a company, you set up a well-organised action plan, sales funnel and complete process that they can follow. They’ll then be able to draw all their focus on completing their jobs to the best of their abilities.
With all the information that we’ve gathered about, you should know how much revenue your business is looking to bring in and which kind of client it’s going to come from.
You should also be able to generate and create a complete sales funnel that your reps can follow. When creating this action plan, try using a professional writing service like Resumention or Ox Essays (as recommended by Best British Essays) to do so in a professional format.
Bringing the Team Onboard
You can bring your sales reps together to formulate this funnel or allow them to set up their own. However, knowing exactly how much revenue they are supposed to bring is enough for them to start creating their own sales ideas and techniques.
Within each sales funnel, you’ll need to ensure that each rep has their own individual revenue target to aim towards. Additionally, they’ll want an idea of the total number of sales this equals and how many client interactions this equals.
You’ll also need to know what time period this needs to be achieved in.
Ask your sales reps these kinds of questions so they can set it up themselves. This way, they won’t miss out any important details in their funnels. Then generate actionable plans and timescales for your reps to work from.
Setting up your action plan can take time, especially when collecting all the information you need from a large volume of employees. If this is the case, you can try outsourcing some of your tasks. This will allow you time to focus on the important aspects of building your plan. This article featured in the HuffingtonPost details some services you can outsource to, such as content marketing.
If your company currently doesn’t have all the people you need to reach your sales goals, make sure to outline the specific types of people you’ll need to hire to reach your goals.
When looking to hire new members for your sales team, you’ll generally want to look for people who have:
- Empathy — A salesperson needs to be able to put themselves into their prospects’ shoes and understand what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling in order to be able to sell to them effectively.
- Great communication skills — Sales reps spend most of their day communicating via phone, email, or in-person so it’s crucial that your new hire has great communication skills.
- Self-awareness — To be an effective sales rep, a person needs to understand themselves, how they think and interact with others, as well as how their actions can influence prospects.
- Assertiveness — A great sales rep needs to be able to take control and lead, as well as debate with prospects if necessary.
Every new member of your sales team should also have a history of making a quantifiable impact in a sales role.
Remember that even if you hire experienced salesmen, you’ll still need to provide them with proper sales training to help them get acquainted with all the intricacies that are involved with selling your product or service.
Be very careful when making a new sales hire. If you hire the wrong person, you can end up losing a lot of time and money, including that involved with onboarding and training the employee, as well as costs associated with severance, missed sales, opportunity cost, and reduced productivity.
Expert sales tactics
In this section, we’re going to go over a number of expert sales tactics you can incorporate into your sales strategy.
Target a smaller market
Targeting a smaller market allows your company to develop a better understanding of your target audience and their specific needs and challenges.
It also makes it easier for you to cater your product or service to suit your target audience perfectly, which, in turn, allows you to have an easier time getting customers and dominating your market.
Storytelling is a great way to both explain and sell your offering to your target audience. Creating a story for your product or service will give it meaning and help to differentiate it from the competition.
Stories engage prospects and customers. They’re a great way to grab attention and elicit an emotional response.
Delivering your sales pitch in the form of a story gives it structure and makes it easier to understand and remember.
Focus on articulating the end result
People aren’t interested in products or services, they’re interested in results. This means that, if you want to sell your offering effectively, you should focus on capturing your prospects’ attention by showing them what your product or service can deliver.
Once you’ve done that, make sure to clearly explain how your offering can deliver the results they want, as well as what they’re going to get after they sign up or make a purchase.
Be a problem-solver
Build your sales strategy around being genuinely helpful to your target audience. By educating your prospects and offering them personalized, creative solutions to their challenges, you’ll win their trust and have an easier time selling to them.
Even if you don’t win their business, you might be able to get referrals from prospects who’ve been impressed with how helpful you’ve been.
Use lead scoring
Lead scoring is a point system designed to rank prospects in regards to the value they represent for your company. It works on a scale of 1 to 10.
With lead scoring, high-authority leads such as company CEOs would be assigned a rank 10 while manager-level leads would be assigned a rank 4 or 5.
Lead scoring allows you to understand which prospects you should focus on at the moment based on how likely they are to convert.
Keep following up
Following up with prospects is a crucial tactic of any good sales strategy. You should be following up with prospects as many times as is necessary to get a response.
If the prospect doesn’t give you a definite “no”, keep following up with them until you close them. If you do get a “no”, however, you should certainly stop following up and focus on other prospects.
Get back to leads as soon as possible
It’s crucial that you reach out to your inbound leads as soon as possible, preferably within the first 24 hours. Since modern buyers are highly informed, your leads are most likely already comparing your solution with your competitors’ offering.
This means that you need to close them as soon as possible to not risk them going over to a competitor.
By reaching out to your leads quickly, you’ll be able to answer their questions and meet their objections, as well as show them why your product or service is the best solution for their specific needs and challenges.
Sales strategy examples
Before we wrap up this guide, I’d like to go over a few sales strategies from successful companies to give you a better idea of how you can use everything we’ve talked about so far.
Shopify is one of the fastest growing SaaS companies of all time. In 2018, it surpassed $1 billion in revenue.
These guys obviously know what they’re doing.
Here are the core tactics of Shopify’s sales strategy:
Taking a science-based approach to sales
Shopify tracks every part of their sales process and pipeline, including average sales cycle length and deal size, lead-to-conversion-rate, number of deals in their pipeline, and the number of calls each rep makes per day.
This allows them to make informed decisions based on hard data, rather than relying on gut instinct and qualitative assessment to make changes to their sales process.
Managing the sales pipeline obsessively
Shopify eliminates most of the leads from their pipeline, focusing only on those leads that have the highest probability of becoming customers.
They ask the following questions to determine a qualified lead:
- Is the lead experiencing a challenge or issue that our product can solve?
- Does our product’s price point fall within the lead’s budget constraints?
- Is the lead directly involved in the decision-making process?
- What does the lead’s buying process look like?
- What stage of the buyer’s journey is the lead currently in and how likely are they to become customers within a reasonable time frame?
Hiring the right people
When it comes to creating a sales team, a lot of companies focus on hiring great salesmen. Shopify, on the other hand, looks to hire great people and then train them to become excellent salesmen.
When hiring people for their sales team, Shopify focuses on people that exhibit high intelligence, creativity, competitiveness, and a strong work ethic. They also look for people who have entrepreneurial tendencies and a history of success.
Salesforce is a SaaS company that’s currently valued at $134 billion. It has exhibited remarkable year-over-year growth ever since it was founded in 1999.
Salesforce does a lot of things right. The two tactics that stand out, however, are the extensive sales training they provide to their employees and their focus on continuous improvement.
Extensive sales training
All Salesforce sales reps go through extensive training which takes as much as three months for entreprise sales reps. They watch tens of hours of instructional videos and take regular exams to test their knowledge.
This makes sure that Salesforce’s sales reps are prepared to handle any situation that comes up during sales calls and meetings, and have the greatest chance of closing leads.
A focus on continuous improvement
Salesforce is obsessed with continuous improvement. They work hard to improve every aspect of their company, from customer service to employee onboarding.
To do this, Salesforce takes advantage of feedbacks, surveys, and internal data to measure their reps’ performance in regards to visibility, productivity, process effectiveness, and lead management.
HubSpot is a CRM solution that currently has more than 50,000 customers worldwide and makes more than $500 million in yearly revenue.
They attribute the success of their sales department to two tactics:
Extensive sales training
Similarly to Salesforce, HubSpot puts a big emphasis on providing proper training for their sales reps. They have a hands-on training program that helps sales reps go through the sales process in a practice setting, as well as allows them to experience customers’ pain points.
HubSpot’s training program also involves exams and certification tests, as well as extensive progress tracking that includes measuring sales reps’ performance in terms of leads worked with and closed, as well as demos delivered.
Sales and marketing alignment
HubSpot takes advantage of smarketing, a sales approach that aims to align sales and marketing teams to work together to generate and close a consistent number of leads every month.
By achieving sales and marketing alignment, HubSpot enables their marketing team to understand what qualities to look for in a lead before handing them over to sales while helping their sales team understand how they should go about contacting leads and interacting with them.
These are the seven steps you need to take to create an actionable and complete marketing and sales strategy.
In the end, everybody should have a complete idea of what they need to do during a certain timescale. This will help you to achieve your goals which come together to help your company complete their goals and targets.
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