To function at their best, all parts of your business need a strategy.
We see that every day in content marketing. Content is the leading way to engage and connect with B2B prospects, but it has to be consistent to yield results. Consistency, in turn, demands people know what they’re supposed to be doing – and why – every day.
In the traditionally quota-driven world of sales, a sales strategy is even more important.
What Is a Sales Strategy?
This is how you approach selling your company's product or service to your ideal customers in an impactful way.
Most businesses have their own plans and processes that a sales manager has developed, but sales reps can often adapt it to their customer engagement style.
Basically, your sales strategy is the template you follow to differentiate yourself from your competition to your prospects and share your value in a meaningful way.
Elements of an Effective Sales Strategy
You can't just create a list of sales actions and call it a sales strategy if you're looking for it to be effective in any way. There are certain elements that your strategy will need in order to be successful.
Every sales strategy needs:
Every strategy needs SMART goals to give it direction and a benchmark to compare itself to. Each goal should be specific and measurable, but not unobtainable.
If you set the bar too high, then you're setting your team up for consistent failure.
Focus on goals and objectives that will push your sales reps to work hard, but not overwhelm them.
Creating a detailed customer profile will help your sales team better understand your target audiences.
They should be fully fleshed out with insights into their:
- Company size
- Industry or vertical
- Geographic location
- B2B or B2C business
- Pain points and challenges
- Where they seek knowledge
If your sales reps don't know how your product or services function and why they're worth purchasing, then your sales team is kind of a moot point.
Make sure that there's a clear understanding of your product's features and benefits. Determine how it can provide value to your target customers and solve their pain points.
A SWOT analysis will help your team understand where your business stands in your industry. Not only will you gain a better understanding of your business and processes, but your reps will also be able to apply it to their own professional lives and develop their careers in line with your company.
Lead Generation Practices
You'll need a plan of action regarding how you're going to target prospects. How will you boost brand awareness and draw attention to your offers?
Your lead generation efforts can (and should) be diverse, ranging from hosting live events to paid social media ads.
This should be pretty self-explanatory. Your sales reps need to have hard numbers to try and aim for.
Once you have the rest of your strategy laid out, you'll need to establish a means to track and measure its effectiveness.
You should track performance on an individual, team, and company level in the form of KPIs, dashboards, and monthly reviews.
4 Steps to Create an Effective Sales Strategy
Let’s look at the steps that will get your sales strategy up and running:
1. Review Key Intelligence, Including Your Ideal Customer Profile.
Both sales and marketing teams have a picture in mind of their ideal client.
Marketing develops this profile early on based on quantitative research and segmentation. On the other hand, sales pros are the ones who get to confirm or update that profile in real time based on what actual prospects say and do.
As the new year approaches, it’s time to reconcile and update the vision.
In a year, there can be a lot of “drift” in buyer profiles.
Industry trends dictate which platforms, publications, and influencers have the most pull. Likewise, the ways people interact with your online properties can reveal niches you aren’t serving yet. These are typically growth areas, so pay close attention and incorporate them.
By huddling with partners throughout the enterprise, you should be able to answer just how things have changed and what exciting opportunities await on the horizon.
This is crucial for allocating your limited resources as you walk through the rest of sales strategy planning.
2. Use Your Updated Intel to Build New Niches and Deepen Existing Ones.
To connect with potential buyers, you need to understand their burning questions and pain points. This is the beating heart of your ability to build rapport with prospects.
In inbound-focused organizations, it also presents the blueprint for coordinating action between sales and marketing. As you dig out a new niche, you have to ask, “Is our content meeting these needs?”
For most B2B enterprises, a fresh niche represents a new “twist” or take on an existing buyer's journey, not a whole new set of questions to answer.
Still, it’s important to make sure that sales efforts in new areas will be supported by the collateral you need. That often means a new set of blog posts, case studies, and whitepapers. Down the line, visual content enters the mix.
The same process comes into play when you want to strengthen penetration in existing niches.
Even if new products and services aren’t forthcoming, your engagement with prospects (and their engagement with you) allows you to refine and re-position your value.
3. Identify Key Accounts for New and Existing Audiences in the New Year.
A market analysis can tell you what existing niches offer you the greatest value as you head into the rest of your year.
Naturally, most enterprises will choose incremental growth over moonshot initiatives, but it depends on your offerings and the company culture.
Either way, you should develop a mix of key accounts across new and existing niches. It’s best to start with a handful of each so you stay focused and concentrate your efforts. After all, you’ll be performing a lot of research to understand the most important client decision makers.
Deepening your existing accounts is a matter of finding ways to upsell and cross-sell, providing new value aligned with what they’ve used and needed in the past.
This is typically an easier process since existing customers are always happy to talk about themselves.
Making your entry into completely untapped accounts is a complex, but rewarding, process.
Start looking at your professional networks to see what you share in common. Bring on the prospect research, looking for trigger events at the target company that you can bond over.
4. Connect With Your Top Priority Accounts Right Away.
While your marketing colleagues help you build long-term relationships with prospects, sales teams take that work and create the spark that kindles a fire.
With new accounts, however, it’s often up to sales to blaze the trail.
Remember, no matter who takes point on your projects, it’s essential to keep the precepts of inbound marketing in mind.
Generate value for your prospects whenever and wherever you can, even before the first sale is in sight. That builds trust and leads to long-term results.
Cold calls are tough and nobody likes to be “sold to,” but luckily, you always have the power to do warm prospecting.
Warm prospecting means that you connect over something you share with your prospect, typically one of these four elements:
- A professional colleague you’ve both worked with and respect
- A trigger event from the prospect, like a new product launch
- Something the prospect did, like a blog or a talk you enjoyed
- Something you share, like a college that you both attended
Having at least one of these commonalities makes it easier for you to gain momentum on your sales goals. Then, you revisit the other steps each quarter to keep your sales strategy vision clear and your purpose sharp.
Sales Strategy Example
Since most businesses have a unique sales strategy built for their teams, you'll be able to find a wide variety of sales plans and approaches. If you're looking for an example to help you build your own strategy, you'll want to look for an organization in your industry.
Still, here's a pretty solid example of a strong sales strategy in action:
Shopify's Sales Strategy: 4 Key Takeaways
Shopify has excelled in a variety of ways as a business. A great deal of that credit can be attributed to their strategy.
1. Hire a Team of Skilled People, Not Just Good Salespeople.
The sales strategy is only as strong as the team executing it.
But it's important to note that just because someone can "sell," that doesn't mean they're going to be a great team member. As much as you want to look for those sales superstars, you'll actually want to prioritize hiring hard workers that will grow in your business and that you can train.
Shopify looks for six key personality traits when hiring salespeople:
- Work ethic
- History of success
2. Don't View Sales As an Art. See It As a Science.
Sales analytics can be measured and broken down to the nth degree for a more comprehensive view of effectiveness nowadays. Shopify believes that you should value those hard numbers rather than rely on qualitative assessments.
Every team should be tracking their average deal size, average sales cycle length, lead-to-deal conversion rate, calls per day per rep, and the number of deals in the pipeline. Hard data will inform companies of their position and help them identify opportunities for growth and optimization.
3. Leverage Sales Tools to Help the Process.
Gone are the days of manually logging every new contact, phone call, and interaction. New software and technology, such as CRMs and automation tools, have made keeping track of everything incredibly easy for sales teams.
Shopify recognized that they could better allocate their time and resources by turning to the HubSpot CRM. They've gained access to over 19 million prospects along with detailed information about them like budget,
4. Remove Unqualified Leads From Your Pipeline to Keep It Healthy.
Shopify puts a high priority on qualifying leads in order to help sales reps focus on prospects who are more likely to convert into customers. They use the 4/5 Threshold to filter out unqualified leads.
Their reps evaluate leads based on:
- Pain point: Does the prospect have a specific business issue or challenge that demands a solution?
- Power: Is the prospect a decision maker? If not, who is?
- Money: Does your product or service fall within their budget?
- Process: What's their buying process?
- Timeline: What stage of the buyer's journey are they in? Do they have a reasonable timeline for a purchase?
A robust sales strategy helps you work in concert with colleagues and adapt to changing market conditions quickly. This planning process will lay the groundwork you need for a prosperous 2020 and beyond.