The ultimate guide to refreshing your sales strategy
What do I mean by "sales strategy"?
Sales strategy is the master plan for how you maintain your business - transact with new and existing customers.
At the heart of strategy are the answers to the vital questions:
- Who do you sell to?
- Why do they value your service more than what they do now? (or what they did before you came along)
- What is the process that your team uses to sell?
These answers must guide everything you do to market and sell your offerings. They act as the guiding principles that your team uses to make sure that you are in business, profitably, to bring value to your unique audience.
A good sales strategy helps keep everyone working as a team for team success.
1. When's the right time review your sales strategy?
The right sales strategy can absolutely transform the way you do business.
If you've been in business for a while, you are often faced with some sort of stagnation - why not let things go on as they are and not look objectively at how it is working?
So, look at your sales strategy in depth yearly and review quickly every quarter.
When looking at trying to improve, I ask myself, "Is this a people, process or technology problem?"
As your company goes through "digital transformation" the technology, and how you're using it, becomes critical.
"The Tech Stack" running your sales team needs ongoing attention to ensure a strong competitive foundation.
2. Do you have a "sales story"
When you are finding it hard to work with the right sort of customers, it helps to be able to work on your sales story - your value proposition and how you present it to prospects.
Are you reaching out to clients directly and engaging them with your solution?
You might be working in an outbound way. Outbound is "cold calling" - getting in touch to push your solution. Probably before you even know your prospect has the problem you solve. An outbound approach may have worked well before, but it is on the way out now. Customers have infinite choice.
Are you using digital content and social channels to show that you're an expert in their challenges and offering value?
When you convince clients that you've got a deep understanding of their issues, they are more likely to reach out to you for a solution, or recognise it when you call in to them for a sales conversation. That's an approach we call inbound.
When you combine research and personalisation, you can also run an outreach program using "inbound" principles.
When you have to convince a client that they have a problem to solve, it can chew up a lot of time and money that can be better spent.
Wouldn't it be better if clients could come to you proactively for a change?
3. Have you set up a sales strategy framework?
Before deciding how best to deliver your customers the solution that they need, it’s important to be completely clear about what you want your work to achieve and the best methods are for achieving it.
Consider who you’re trying to attract, what they want and the barriers to their getting a solution. Come up with some more ideas what they might want from you and how best to overcome any issues which prevent them from engaging in the behaviours you'ld like to see more.
When you analyse each of these points, you're better equipped to come up with concrete plans for sales engagement. Base your approach on up-to-date, accurate information.
4. Is your sales strategy tied to measurable results?
For you to succeed, your sales strategy needs needs to have a written plan.
It has got to be based on SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-based) objectives; these will help you to monitor and evaluate your progress.
When your sellers are involved in their sales engagements, they need to have have a set process to make it easier on themselves and the wider team. Often, sellers can get caught in the trap of allowing negotiations to proceed organically, often drifting away from the main aims of the interaction.
Using more structured plans with measurable outcomes at each stage, you'll find it easier to measure impact to date and also to see what the next steps may be in order to move the sales process forward.
5. Do you know your audience?
Even the best sales strategy for new business is not going to be effective if you aren't targeting the right audience.
You might have set up your sellers to waste valuable time chasing clients that aren’t going to be a good fit for the goods or services on offer.
That’s why good-quality sales strategy frameworks devote time up front in uncovering key details of your the target audience, as well as developing suitable filtering mechanisms so you can clearly know the right customers to pursue and not annoy the wrong ones.
It is critical for your sales strategy to focus on the customer experience of the sales process.
Should the mismatch between what you’re offering and what’s needed become too great, it may be better to terminate the process, rather than push on regardless.
It helps to build a "picture" of the person and their needs (in sales enablement, we'll call that a buyer persona), but also make sure that there's a way of collecting and storing all the data that helps you distinguish between your different personas, too.
6. Can your sales strategy cover all of your ideal solutions (and identify areas to avoid)?
Once you decide on a new framework and start redesigning your sales strategy, you might be tempted to put a lot of variation into it, so that you can capture as many clients as possible.
Stop and think. Are you running the risk of being seen as a specialist or generalist?
How does that relate to the problem you solve for a client - do they want to collaborate on a solution, or outsource it to you entirely? That key factor is important in your sales strategy.
It is also highly likely that you will want to change your sales strategy over time. So keeping it written and documented will help you improve it, or teach new employees.
Although an initial list of the processes needed to facilitate the sale may be fairly brief, these may require more detailed analysis as time goes on.
Once the right clients have been identified and a conversation started, there may be considerable variation in the ways that you explore the possibilities for mutual benefit, get over sales barriers and the eventually close the sale.
By continually focussing on building the relationship and working towards the establishment of mutual goals, it's possible to keep your process on track with the aid of the strategy framework structure. At the same time, you'll allow scope for embracing the uniqueness of each client/customer experience.
7. Is your sales strategy customised to your company?
Although each sales strategy framework includes the same basic parts, there is considerable variation between the processes needed to secure different types of client.
The sales strategy for a software company, for example, may be different to that of a services company. They might want to secure new business across a number of different industry sectors in a way that the software guys just can't.
Many sales professionals find that once they start to differentiate their approach according to the needs of their audience, they need to look for fresh ways of working.
You'll find that you need to deliver more training, take a different tack during the negotiation phase, or put sales process and technology in place.
Actually consigning a sales strategy to paper allows you to clarify what’s needed to ensure that each client gets the most from the experience.
The days of a one-size-fits-all approach to sales is long gone – customised work, based on what has been already identified in the sales strategy framework, is an approach that works well.
8. Does your strategy help you learn and improve?
Not every sales negotiation results in a desirable outcome.
Sometimes, your sales team puts in an enormous amount of work, only for a potential client to decide to go elsewhere - or simply not proceed.
When this happens, look to your sales strategy framework - could it help to determine what went wrong and what you can do differently next time to maximise the chances of success?
Because your strategy is written down with clear, structured milestones and outcomes, it can be easily analysed, issues identified and solutions put in place. With some effort, you can enhance success the next time around.
In some cases, you should revisit that client at a later date, use the lessons learned and look at implementing a revised approach.
9. Can your sales strategy be a powerful driver of success?
It is crucial that your strategy framework is of value and remains a living thing:
- used by sales professionals as a reference guide to working with clients
- a way of charting progress
- a guide to ensuring that no important steps are omitted during the sales experience
If used correctly, it can help to guide sellers toward receptive prospects that will genuinely benefit from what you have to offer.
It will help to retain a structured, logical approach to overcoming barriers and challenges that move the sales process forward towards the desired conclusion.
Taking just a few minutes to revisit and revamp your sales strategy frameworks can make a real difference to the outcome you achieve.
Why risk your clients going elsewhere, when a little work on your sales strategy could have them turning to you to satisfy their needs?