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.
Sales pros now have tools for managing sales channels and customer relationships that make these tasks easier than ever. Still, all this technology doesn’t hide the fact that prospects’ expectations are changing: They demand speed, responsiveness, quality, and authenticity.
To give it to them, a modern sales strategy needs to incorporate and share insights with cross-functional partners – particularly marketing and product development leaders. At the same time, everyone in the sales team should share best practices even when internal competition is the norm.
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 quantiative 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 use cases – and, ultimately, 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 Web content meeting these needs?”
For most B2B enterprises, a fresh niche represents a new “twist” or take on an existing buyer 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 white papers. 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, on the Web – allows you to refine and re-position your value. That makes your warm email prospecting and customer discovery calls that much more fruitful.
3. Identify Key Accounts for New and Existing Niches in the New Year
A market analysis can tell you what existing niches offer you the greatest value as you head into 2018. 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
Here’s the biggest reason why sales and marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. 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 paper 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.
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 2018.