How to Develop a Sales Strategy
Sales strategy development is one of the most important functions for sales leaders. After all, your sales strategy is the framework on which your sales team bases their approach to engaging customers and closing deals; therefore, it has a pretty heavy influence on your company’s culture and your brand identity, at least in the minds of your customers.
As a leader of your sales organization, it’s on you to set the tone for the coming month, quarter, or year with a long-term strategic vision and a road map for reaching your goals. Following the right steps to develop your sales strategy results in a clear, structured plan to guide your sales team while allowing flexibility to pivot should your strategy prove ineffective.
1. Analyze historical trends. It’s a good idea to analyze your sales metrics from the previous year, quarter, or month – or all three, depending on how far ahead you’re planning your vision for the future. An in-depth analysis of your sales strategy for historical time frames can provide valuable insights on areas that aren’t working, allowing you to refocus your efforts on the strategies that have proven most effective in the past.
You might want to consider metrics such as what leads are more likely to convert and the most effective lead sources to adjust your lead scoring mechanism or collaborate with marketing to better target content to the needs of prospective buyers exhibiting certain pre-purchase behaviors.
2. Examine product lines. If your company sells a single product or service, your sales strategy will be cohesive across the board. But if you offer multiple product lines or service packages, you’re probably targeting different users or customers for each, and thus your sales approach may differ between product lines.
Examining your product lines is particularly important if you’ve recently added new products or services to your portfolio. Should you divide your sales team, dedicating sales professionals to specific product lines or enable your whole team to sell products or services across any of your offerings?
3. Examine sales regions at a granular level. Selling Power provides an easy-to-digest framework for projecting growth opportunities for various market segments and product lines:
- Formulate a granular segmentation across all existing accounts.
- Map your product or service offerings to each segment.
- Estimate projected revenue for each product or service (or packages consisting of related products or services) by segment.
- Estimate projected revenue in terms of up-selling and cross-selling opportunities, integrated solutions, potential new customer acquisition, and customer retention.
This process provides a clear picture of potential opportunities, allowing you to allocate resources appropriately – designating more sales reps to product lines or segments that have the most potential for growth, ramping up up-selling and cross-selling strategies, and further collaboration with marketing to align marketing initiatives with key areas of focus for growth in the coming month, quarter, or year.
4. Refine your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) and key customer pain points. Another step that may be segmented by target customers, regions, or product lines, revisiting and refining (if necessary) your USP and key customer pain points is a process that should be completed every time you develop a new sales strategy.
Market shifts and emerging competition can cause disruption to the usual status quo, and you might discover that your target customers’ biggest challenges aren’t what they used to be or that competitors are leeching into your areas of differentiation, necessitating a new approach to conveying your USP to create distinction in the minds of your prospects.
5. Plan your sales strategy roadmap. Now that you’ve identified growth opportunities, regions, and product lines with the most potential, you can allocate your sales team accordingly, dedicating the most resources to high-growth areas to boost results. This knowledge also arms you with the ability to set realistic – ambitious, but achievable – goals for your sales reps, regions, teams, product lines, or customer segments.
Goals should be both specific and measurable and when possible broken down into manageable parts. The Small Business Administration offers a clear example: Instead of setting broad goals such as selling one million units, set goals along the lines of “sell 50 units to end-users in 30 days and sell 100 units to local independent retailers in six months.” Build out your timeline with checkpoints at which you can measure progress and adapt your strategy, and possibly your goals, if progress isn’t on track with expectations.
6. Develop a plan for measurement. How will you measure progress? What metrics will be evaluated to determine individual sales rep performance, ROI, and overall success? It’s important to not only define precisely how you’ll measure success but also convey specific target metrics to key stakeholders, including your sales team.
Developing and communicating your plan for measuring success gives your team a clear vision for expected outcomes, allowing them to focus not only on meeting their own targets but planning their activities in line with the company’s larger vision.
Developing an effective sales strategy takes both time and thoughtful analysis, but working through the appropriate steps will leave you with a more targeted, cohesive sales strategy in line with the needs of your customers and your company’s broader vision while equipping your sales reps with the framework to achieve their goals.
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