Building Sales Strategies That Actually Work
What happens when your sales team big or small charges forward without a crystal clear written plan? (Sadly, this happens every day.)
Many of us have been in meetings where someone will say, “We can sit here planning until the end of time, or we can just get moving and get something done.” And, rightly so. Strategy without execution is nothing but a big waste of precious time. But, execution without the strategy behind it is like saying “Ready,- Fire,- Aim” or in other words Fire, Look—O…M…G!”
I believe in the process and the subsequent execution of strategy. I have seen what can happen when sales teams of any size jump in blindly; charge ahead without a clear plan. In short- it’s chaotic.
A business strategy, market strategy or sales strategy should deliver these critical results:
- Clear understandable priorities
- Clear measurable outcomes
- Clear easy to follow guidelines
- Clear written goals you can put into action
Without a strategy, sales teams and leaders make decisions based on what is best at the moment. Not because they are selfish or short-sighted, but because they don’t know the big picture.
The best analogy I can come up with is a ship. Imagine the captain hollering “Cast off,” but the entire crew did not know what the plan is. Steering the boat, what is that? Would they uses scissors to trim the sails? Would they know to stay out of the way? A strong crew is dedicated and works efficiently, effectively and with precision when they are trained well, have clear and detailed instructions, and know there role and positioning. If any of those things are not present, then that is a sure recipe for a shipwrecked crew.
Your sales team may not need to know how to swab the deck or trim the sales properly, but likely do need to know the following:
- A Customer Profile that is clear
- A S.W.O.T analysis
- A clear market strategy
- Specific revenue goals
- Clear company positioning
- An Action Plan
Quite often, strategies for the sales team begin with some person in management coming up with a number arbitrarily based on demands by Investors, new products in development, operational capacities, and other non-sales factors. This devised number then gets divided among varying regional offices or stores and sales teams that are equal supposedly. Sadly, these short sighted sales strategies many times result in declining morale among team members, increased attrition rates and lack luster business results.
No matter the orders that come from the top, it is necessary they become a unifying strategy that is able to support the wanted growth.
The secret to sustained growth is creating a powerful sales strategy to support it. Here are the seven steps I recommend to create this type of strategy.
Analyze Where You have Been and Where You Are Today
Before you plan the future, first, go back and look toward the past. Asses the previous year of sales and business success. Take this information and ask questions like these:
- What did you do over this last year? What do your sales numbers reveal to you. Take a look into these key indicators, such as:
- How much was the team able to sell?
- Which reps sold it?
- Who did they sell it to?
- How much repeat business will come from it?
- Which clients were most and least profitable? Make sure to add in supporting time!
- Which of your clients had the shortest sale cycles?
- Which customers had the highest revenue for the company?
- Has anything changed?
- What is your positioning to achieve the revenue targets your sales strategies have pinpointed.
- Search for the most logical places to harness new growth?
- What is available to support the growth we desire?
- Is there additional support your team will need to achieve the wanted increases?
“By understanding where you have been, you can begin to determine where you should go.”
Put Together A Clear Profile of Your Ideal Customer
For a majority of companies, 80% of revenue originates from only 20% of clients. By reviewing the previous year, you are able to identify which of your clients spend the most amount of money, buy numerous products, are easy to work with and have the quickest sales cycle. Analyze and detail what your top clients do; make lists with those criterion. This list will be your Ideal Customer Criteria, and a key piece in your sales strategy. Research the demographics as well as the psychographics based on your ideal customer criteria to create a complete profile for your sales teams.
By putting together an ideal customer profile provides guidelines for your sales teams that will help them manage their time more efficiently on prospects who are likely to become new customers and deliver repeat business sales quickly.
S.W.O.T. Analysis Time
To what extent is your company positioned for growth with existing accounts, find profitable new accounts similar to the ones you currently manage, and find new “ideal” clientele? Pull your marketing, product and sales, teams together to do a S.W.O.T. Analysis.
A S.W.O.T. is not a work in arena of imagination. It must be as based in reality to the best of your ability. Your will need to decide how to leverage your strengths in order to capitalize on available opportunities. Analyze your weaknesses as well as internal and external threats. These internal and external obstacles that will challenge your ability to get those goals you set, accomplished. Try and ask yourself and as well as your team, what can we do to eliminate these weaknesses and isolate or remove these threats. Be very specific in your actions and your efforts. Figure out the reasons you are not able to sell more to existing customers, and why reps are having a tough time closing on the business available. Understand which of your products do sell well and what is the customers motivation to by that product. This information is critical to build your sales success strategy.
Find That Clear Market Strategy
Once you have assessed your past performance and which things that have worked in the past it is time to start thinking about the future and where you are going.
This is the precise time to start thinking about your market strategy. Consider these questions based on your work thus far:
- Can you leverage existing accounts and gain new referrals?
- How much can you increase revenue in existing regions or territories with existing product lines?
- How much can you increase revenue outside existing territories with existing products?
- How can you increase the revenue outside existing territories with new or improved products?
- How much growth can we get from existing accounts in total?
- How much can you grow revenue inside existing territories with new products?
It is quite probable that the least expensive, fastest revenues will come from existing accounts, followed by referrals, and so on down the line. The slowest and likely most expensive new-revenue sources will result from growing sales for new products, in new regions and territories. A good place to start this process is with large account plans for your top 10 clients.
Clarify Your Revenue Goals
By combining your revenue targets and market strategy you have created based on an assessment of your past and current situations. Now you can generate realistic revenue goals for all individuals through the sales team in all regions and territories.
Now you will need to think about what support your sales force may need to reach these newly set goals. Get your product team, marketing team, and of course your sales team together to develop a unified working plan.
Delivering your sales reps new quotas to hit without being based in reality will leave all parties frustrated and deflated.
Create Clear Communication and Positioning
The market strategy you have just cultivated will aid in determining how you will need to position the company including the products to achieve the sales growth you desire. Remember, you will have varying market segments, each needing a clear plan for positioning in the marketplace.
- Large and Profitable Accounts.
- Finding opportunities inside pre-existing accounts with differing product mixes.
- Locating new opportunities inside existing markets.
- What companies meet your ideal customer profile?
- How do you identify these companies?
- How do you introduce them and bring awareness of your products?
- How will marketing department and sales teams coordinate together to prospect and sell.
- New Products, New Markets.
It is not good enough for you to ask sales reps to figure out the positioning by themselves. The sales reps, marketing group, and product gurus need to work as a single unit, to create the dream buyer personas and/or product positioning statements and value added propositions that meet each varying need. If you can get these pieces in play it will go a long way in helping you reach your sales strategies.
A Clear Plan of Action
We very often find ourselves sending sales reps out to prioritize their work alone. If you want your individual sales person to be successful, it is the right time to put into place a well-functioning sales funnel and opportunity planning processes.
Now that you identified how much revenue you must get, and where it should be sourced from, each sales rep will need to create a funnel that shows how they intend to generate that revenue. They may be more successful working with marketing and including existing leads that support specific goals.
When your sales team create their sales funnel, instruct them to ask these questions of themselves:
- Which of each type of revenue do I need to make?
- How many new and repeat sales would that represent?
- How many calls in total would that represent?
- What is the time commitment does that represent?
- If I am calling existing clients, how many calls would I need to make to close 10 existing clients on new products?
- How many calls will I need to make to new ideal customers to get the close rate we want?
Record these questions on each sales rep’s funnel as part of the marketing and sales strategy, along with next action steps and assigned timelines. Worry more about actions and efforts, worry less about close dates.
The seven steps listed here are the basis of a well thought out executable strategy for sales. At the end of the process you have laid out, your sales reps will have clear written priorities that everyone can understand, clear outcomes that can be measured, clear guidelines every sales team member can follow as well as clearly stated goals toward which everyone can work to achieve.
You will have the ship righted, and be ready to embark on a successful voyage. What Shipwreck? None here!
For a deeper understanding of sales leadership strategy, feel free to reach out!
Article by: Liz Heiman
Chief Strategy Officer and Sales Leadership Coach at Alice Heiman, LLC
A strategic thinker, sales strategist, Japanist, and Rotarian, Liz is a coach, trainer, and prolific speaker on the topics of sales and sales leadership. Liz loves sales, and enjoys working with sales leaders to create strategies and processes that make sense AND bring in results.
Alice Heiman, LLC is a professional sales training coaching business. Together the teach practical sales management tools to increase your day over day sales.
Founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC
Alice Heiman has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. Her innovative sales leadership programs, coupled with her top-down approach to creating long-term change, set up sales leaders and sales-managing business owners to get consistent and sustainable growth.